Category Archives: Alice in Wonderland
A friend of mine is having a baby; a baby which will no doubt be read many, many books during its childhood as its mother is an Auditory-Verbal Therapist. I was discussing my favourite children’s books with her today (the mother, not the baby). I took in my old and fox-marked copy of The Scroobious Pip by Edward Lear. ‘Can you still get it?’ she asked me. I envisage some searching of ebay ahead.
It got me thinking about some of my favourite nonsense books. I decided to write her a list and here it is.
- The Scroobious Pip, Edward Lear, Completed by Ogden Nash. Illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert, 1968. A delightfully nonsensical tale of The Scroobious Pip and the only book I know to feature the word ‘buzztilential’ – a cracker of a word if ever I heard one.
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll, 1865. (I’m sure none of you guessed this one would be on my list!)
- The Pobble Who Has No Toes, Edward Lear, Illustrated by Kevin W Maddison. First published in 1877, my copy is from 1978 and it’s showing it’s age with the dust jacket stickytaped back together in places. I think they should stop calling them dust jackets. Rip jacks would be far more accurate!
- The Quangle Wangle’s Hat, Edward Lear, 1876.
- The Jumblies, Edward Lear, 1863
- The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits, Lewis Carroll, 1874
and just in case you thought all my favourites were written in the 19th century:
- The Tin Forest, Helen Ward (Author) and Wayne Anderson (Illustrator), 2001. Not really nonsense but a children’s book just the same. I just love Wayne Anderson’s illustrations.
- The Little Prince, Antoine De Saint-Exupery, 1945. A true classic that continues to delightful many well into adulthood.
- The Tale of Custard the Dragon, Ogden Nash, 1936. Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger 1995. The story of Belinda and her realio, trulio but cowardly dragon called Custard. Personally I think any animal named after food has got to be good!
- Jeepers Creepers: A monstrous ABC, Laura Leuck and David Parkins (Illustrator), 2003. A delightfully dark take on the traditional A is for Apple. Of these 26 monsters, it’s hard to pick a favourite, so I give you E through H: “Ed’s hair smells like Sauerkraut, Freddy’s two front fangs fell out, Gert wears crawdads in her ears, Hal’s head often disappears.” The illustrations are wonderfully wacky.
- Where the Sidewalk Ends, Shel Silverstein, 1974
- It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, Jack Prelutsky, 1993
- My Dog May Be A Genius, Jack Prelutsky, 2008
- The Sticky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith, 1992. It’s odd and quirky. There’s nothing else to say on the subject.
- Grimericks, Susan Pearson, Illustrated by Gris Grimly (of Boris and Bella fame), 1992.
- Revolting Rhymes, Roald Dahl, 1982. No nonsense book list would be complete without a little Dahl!
What’s your favourite nonsense book?
Marketing is odd, is it not? You have a band that you wear on your wrist and it helps you monitor your sleep – of course you are going to call that band “UP”. Methinks that whoever was working on the project was playing a frustrating game of scrabble with his or her family, and with the remaining two plastic tiles, named the product.
Name aside, I do like my UP band.
It records how much deep sleep I get a night, how many hours and the best part – it has a smart alarm that gently wakes me up at the optimum time leading up to my normal alarms. (For example, if I want to get up at 6am, it may wake me at 5:45am if I have in light sleep). The smart alarms seemed cool but I had to experience ignoring the alarm before I truly appreciated them. It woke me about 20 minutes before I was due to get up. I felt really good. So what did I do? Hit a snooze on my regular alarm clock. Twenty minutes later it woke me… and I felt far more sleepy than I had when the UP band first woke me up. Lesson learnt. Smart alarms really are smart.
The Power Nap alarm works in a similar fashion and I must confess to being a fan of the nana nap on a Sunday afternoon so it too will get some use!
I have also discovered that what your mother always told you was a lie – you don’t need 8 hours sleep a night. Pick 7.5 or Pick 9. Don’t pick 8. This is because the typical light/sleep cycle is about 90 minutes long, so sleeping in a multiple of 90 is a good thing. Initially I was aiming for 8 hours sleep. Now I’ve changed to either 7.5 or 9 and my sleep patterns recorded in UP look much better and I actually felt better too.
Andrew tells me that this is all my inner data geek just coming out.
I have bought myself 2 others ‘gifts’. (Can you call them gifts when they are to yourself?).
The first is an Alice in Wonderland laptop bag. I saw one on Etsy a while ago but I couldn’t justify it. But last week, it was on special. SOLD!
I would have preferred the one I first saw that had the black trim but I don’t mind the taupe. I hope when it does arrive that it isn’t disappointing.
The last gift, was a direct response to Andrew’s plea for me to be less ‘beige’. (Billy Connolly’s ultimate insult word).
I must clarify here. He says I am not beige, I am not dull, I just sometimes dress too beige and he’d like to see more colour! Specifically, a brighter lipstick. So, acquire a brighter lipstick I did. I was sceptical. I thought it was a bit too red. Andrew was right, I can get away with red. I hate it when he’s right.
After about 6 months in the making, today I finally finished my first – and possibly last – quilt. This quilt was born out of an idea from Andrew: that we should make a quilt together.
He had his own ideas. A sea of aqua, turquoise, teal, blue and violet. A multitude of bright large format squares. I on the other hand wanted my usual earthy and autumnal tones. On the colour front, I’d say he got the lion’s share.
The construction didn’t quite take the format Andrew had expected. The pieces grew organically after the selection of the tree as the centre piece. We stencilled it with lumiere bronze paint together and I think at that point, he probably realised this wasn’t going to be a quick project. It was also not going to be without damage – at that particular stage, little flecks of bronze paint in his bathroom where I had washed out the stencil.
While he may have won on colour, I triumphed when it came to whimsy: the lizard in a teacup with a licorice allsort my favourite of the added amusements.
All cats feature: Saffron as a colour (poor Saff, it was the best I could do), Licorice as the aforementioned sweet, Pickle as his ginger self and Gesso as a purple squirrel. (The last act of the quilt was gluing on his eye today).
The black cat in the tree is the one Andrew wants that we don’t have.
Lizards also abound – some with functioning legs and some without. It is these unique references which make this truly one of a kind. A quilt that could only ever be the story of the two of us.
For those who have see my art over the years, this probably comes as no surprise. Anything I create is made for the purposes of self-expression rather than for it’s aesthetic qualities.
The idea of buying a quilting ‘kit’ holds no attraction at all – unless there’s someone out there selling Alice in Wonderland tribute meshed with wheels, cats, curly-ques and lizards?
As this is my first quilt I could hardly draw on any quilting skills as reference, so I instead returned to my mixed media toolkit.
On the white rabbit – which went purple – I had to turn to my long suffering sewing teacher for advice.
I stuffed him with toy fill, only he kept springing a leak. With some cajoling, he finally agreed to keep his innards, well… within.
I managed the white backstitch outline but the point of his umbrella had a distinct wonkiness. The umbrella you see in the finished product had some expert intervention to correct it’s trajectory!
I discovered that I had insufficient patience for large areas of hand-quilting – although I must admit it does have a strangely meditative quality. The small area of pink spiral patterned fabric on the top left is one of the few spots where I did try out the old fashioned way. While I could claim this was out of wanting to be traditional, in truth, it was just testament to my lack of free motion sewing skills. In the end the only area I was happy to free motion were the tree roots, for it mattered not how bumpy and gnarled they became as I covered up each of my mistakes.
This free motion incompetence meant that I completed around each branch of the tree using a walking foot and turning the fabric. It was slow work which at times had me cursing Stencil Kingdom for not selling the tree stencil in a smaller size!
Other features are tiny in comparison – like a small trio of playing cards, or a teapot in the bottom right hand corner. Still I think they add something to the quilt and when you view it in black and white, it only serves to emphasise that together with the tree it’s these little areas of ‘light’ that pop out from all that purple.
Andrew still protests that it wasn’t bright enough – he wanted more pink and more yellow and red gingham (yes, can you believe it?). I on the otherhand wanted something a little less vibrant. That neither of us felt the colour is quite right, just goes to show that we did achieve a representation of us. It is neither his bright bold cheeky self, or my more muted tones, but somewhere in the middle. Today I looked at the quilt with more than a dash of pride. I’m not quite sure how I got to this point… how those ideas tumbled out… but I do know that we’ve created something we will both cherish for a long time. I have to say that I thought Andrew was a little nuts when he suggested we make a quilt. I’m glad he did.
This quilt would not have been possible without the help of a special few and some amazing art suppliers out there.
I have to include a special thanks to The Stencil Kingdom, as without their business, that beautiful tree focal piece would not exist. Whoever was nutty enough to make a stencil with that many little twigs, I thank you. I’ve been buying stencils from this company in the UK for a number of years to use in my work. I don’t get them that often as postage from the UK is expensive however whenever I do, I add another tool to my art stash that’s definitely a keeper!
Fabric & Threads: Most of the fabrics have been sourced from Busy Bee Sewing, with just a couple of the Batiks from The Quilters’ Store. The stranded cottons and embroidery threads also came from Busy Bee and I just supplemented with a few special pieces from The Thread Studio in Western Australia (that gorgeous thick swirl at the bottom) and some I picked up from Room For Threads at the recent quilting show. (To the lady from this stall with the funky red glasses and clear passion for quilts, I assure you that both my and Andrew’s name and the date and the location are going on the quilt. Who knows where this quilt will end up after we are dead – hopefully not in the trash – but I agree it’s a lovely habit to get into signing and dating quilts just the same as we do other art forms).
Applique & Applicuts: To Kim Barter of Applicuts – a huge thank you. When I asked for a 3 inch squirrel as a special order, you obliged… the same with those doves! I know you weren’t sure what the hell I was going to do with them, or that they would become stencils in their own right, but I thank you for humouring me! (For anyone interested in the mileage I got out of a tool intended for applique: check out my earlier post).
Painting & Art Supplies: Thankfully, I really didn’t have to shop much – all the things I’ve accrued over the years came in handy. My old faithfuls – caran d’ache wax oil pastels – got a workout as well as the Golden Fluid Acrylics. Apart from some print paste, I really didn’t have to buy anything to paint that fabric. If anyone does need supplies, I get my Golden Fluid Acrylics from Alex at The Sydney Art Store. Actually, Andrew and I get almost everything art-wise there because it’s accessible (a rare thing for an art store) and Alex is just so helpful. I’ve even had times when Andrew has sent me in to buy a paintbrush and Alex has been happy for me to pluck a few out and go back out to the car so Andrew could choose for himself and then run back in to buy them.
To Bev Barter – dressmaking teacher extraordinaire. I’m not going to say that you are amazing woman, or a brilliant teacher, or an absolute hoot for company as I don’t want ANYONE else to want your teaching services for fear I will have to make way for new students! I want you to be stuck with me.
Seriously, thank you for fixing the licorice allsort, the rabbit’s umbrella, for teaching me french knots… oh… and how to quilt enough to get by on this project. Not that many people would have let a student do this as their first project. Which just goes to show you truly are one of a kind.
To Licorice, Saffron, Pickle and Gesso, thank you for all your assistance during the project. Sitting on the quilt was so helpful. Really.
Lastly, to Andrew for having the idea in the first place. For drawing that bloody woman, the white rabbit, helping to paint the tree, and all those little helpful comments along the way. Sorry about the pins I left in your couch, or all the threads that went into your vacuum cleaner! I know that you will forget all about these once you get to sleep under it and you are toasty and warm. You are a delight and a bugger at the same time. On this project I can truly say the idea was not mine alone, but mine.
Summer has taken a detour for a few days while the country is battered with rain. Last week it was fires, this week floods. What better to do on a rainy day than lock oneself inside sewing a quilt and herding 2 cats while listening to a recently acquired audiobook version of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, unabridged of course.
The ‘cover picture’ of the audio book is a version of Alice I do not own – that illustrated by Camille Rose Garcia (pictured left). The narrator is Christopher Plummer. Actually, it doesn’t say ‘narrator’. It says ‘performed by’ Christopher Plummer. And perform he does.
Plummer does an outstanding job at bringing the text to life. While I may not always like his choice of accent for certain characters, I can only applaud and admire his energy and consistency of delivery. The Mad Hatter has a voice which reminds me of someone from the young ones although with an even further reduced intelligence. He doesn’t fit with my notion of mad.
In contrast, the dodo – a character who appears ever so briefly in the caucus race – is inspired. He has an air of an elderly gent consistent with Tenniel’s original interpretation of a well dressed bird with walking stick in hand. The inspired part is that he stutters. I have no idea whether Lewis Carroll himself had a stammer or not. I do know that the Dodo bird represents Carroll, drawing from his real name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Even if Carroll did not stutter, I can imagine him as a man with a less than perfect speaking voice.
As for the Queen of Hearts, Plummer performs this giant of fiction with a parodied German accent similar to Herr Flick in ‘Allo Allo’. When Plummer launches into part of the Queen’s dialogue at the trial of the knave of hearts, I found myself laughing openly as he yelled in an over-the-top German accent:
Collar that Dormouse! Behead that Dormouse! Turn that Dormouse out of court! Suppress him! Pinch him! Off with his whiskers!
This audiobook acquisition comes as I join the gaggle of people with an iPad. At $395 for a basic model, they have now become affordable and with most people at work sporting them and notetaking on them, I was starting to feel ridiculously old fashioned with my pen and notebook. It is somewhat stupid to be handwriting notes in a meeting, only to go back to your desk and type up an email of the actions.
This leads me to wonder what is the best app for notetaking? There are so many available and each with their pros and cons. For the moment, I’ve given up trying to figure it out until my more experienced iPad-ster colleagues give me their lists of ‘duds’ to strike off the list.
In the meantime I’m alternating between listening to Plummer’s Alice in Wonderland and Miriam Margolyes in Dicken’s Women, both of who use accent and voice alone to create intricate and colourful characters.
It’s been a week of dealing with Saffron having cystitis again combined with the first full week back at week and very hot weather that leaves you drained of energy. When I let Saffron out of the bathroom I was watching her like a hawk to ensure there weren’t any accidents outside the tray. The shower recess became a favoured spot but, quite frankly, I was happy with anywhere in the bathroom. That’s what mops are for! She is improved but still not back to normal.
Needless to say with a full week of work and sick cat, there has been little ‘art-ing’ or quilting going on. So I’m uploading photos of what I did in between Christmas and New Year. I tried to take a photo of a larger area and encountered cat assistance. I think it won’t be until I have some humans to help hold it up that I can get a wider shot… so I’ve gone for the detail instead!
I, like many others, have trouble keeping the stitches even. When it came to tree roots I figured that even wasn’t important. I went over them quite a bit as I didn’t want them to appear too delicate – it’s a bloody big tree they are holding up! Also doing this, unpicking was not an option. Perhaps when you just have to go for it, the result is better?
The chequerboard floor
I needed an quilting pattern which would fill that expanse of purple around the bottom of the tree. I also needed something matching my level of quilting yet still in keeping with the quilt being about Andrew and I.
A chequerboard pattern seemed a great option at the time – I only had to sew straight lines! It was pretty easy, just length with all the tying off. The chequerboard pattern also fit with me. I have been known to throw the odd chequerboard into a painting:
I supposed it’s related to Alice in Wonderland and the chess pieces. It could also be because I’ve seen them used so beautifully in the work of artist James Christensen, one of my first art book acquisitions and still a favourite. He often puts a fish in his paintings. (If your not familiar with Christensen’s work, the link I’ve included is to a slideshow of his art). I’ve just realised looking at the above painting of mine, that perhaps I’m getting a thing for teacups! The one above has a hippo in it. The one in the quilt has a lizard… and a licorice allsort…
Lastly, a photograph of my French knots. I’ve never done these before I think they look a little more like French grubs than knots, but never mind! They are a little added texture. Most of them are 1 strand of brown silk and 1 of reddish-brown cotton. (I was told not to mix n match but it seemed to work ok). There are a few which are just two strands of cotton. I really can’t see any difference in ‘grub’ quality between the silk-cotton mix and just the cotton. So mix n match it will be!
Most of my artwork uses waterproof materials as otherwise half of what I had placed down would ‘melt away’ each glaze. Despite this, I’m finding I am still on a learning curve regarding what materials are waterproof enough to withstand machine washing.
I had some failures. I had some victories.
Faber Castell PItt Pens
A stalwart of my painting to date, these have never bled ink on me in subsequent glazes. Still, I wanted to test the ‘permanence’ of this permanent marker before I got very excited with my quilt drawing. The Pitt Pen didn’t say to heat seat it prior to washing. I decided to iron one test piece anyway and discovered it fared slightly better than it’s non-ironed counterpart.
Caran D’ache Neocolor I
Another art supply I use frequently, Caran D’ache’s wax oil pastels are fantastic in glazed artwork (neocolor I, that is… I do wish one day the colour range you can get in the water-soluable neocolor IIs would be extended to the non-watersoluable variety). To test it out for the sewing machine, I used a Cedar Canyon rubbing plate (designed for use with Shiva Paintstiks). I then went over part of the design with Golden Medium GAC 900 and left part as is. I ironed all of it prior to washing.
Here is the result. The piece unprotected by the GAC 900 has all but vanished! The GAC 900 does leave the fabric with a ‘wet patch’ look about it but I figure if I paint the entire panel, no one would notice. The alternative is to put the medium straight into paint (unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to use a rubbing plate with paint yet!)
Golden Fluid Acrylics
The word Alice has been painted using a mix of Golden Fluid Acrylic and Jo Sonja Textile Medium. I’m sure Golden’s GAC 900 medium would work just as well, I just couldn’t find it at the time!
I’m not going to show you a picture of the piece with Shiva Paintstiks post-wash. I ironed it. I let it dry for days. I didn’t iron it a second time. Some of it decided to leave during the washing process. I’ve since read an excellent tutorial on using Shiva Paintstiks from This is My Brain On Quilts. I plan to have another go!
Lastly, I couldn’t have a piece on paint on fabric without mentioning Lumieres. If I didn’t already own so many other paints, I think I’d just use Lumiere and Neopaque. I washed the pieces and I cannot tell the difference from the pre-wash photographs. Good news really, given the entire tree is painted in Lumiere Bronze metallic.
An Updated Photo
Please forgive the photo quality.
Thanks to a long weekend, I’ve managed to make significant progress on piecing together the quilt. At the expense of housework of course!
PS: If you are wondering what that yellow line is near the bottom it’s the start of a swirl. It’s handstitched in thick silk. The photograph below shows a much smaller spiral which has been stitched in that lower right hand corner. The thick silk is hand dyed from The Thread Studio. I’ve already run out of the purple so will have to get some more!
Here’s the piece I started working on these last few days. I was having great fun with it too until I added the dodo bird. Unfortunately at that point I started to think too hard – what colour is a dodo bird? Given it’s Tenniel’s drawing of the bird and it is in wonderland, perhaps it could be purple? In wonderland do things really have to be their true ‘local colour?’
I know what you’re thinking – how can a girl who put a rhino on a tightrope be worried whether she is painting a bird the appropriate colour? Well, perhaps my left brain kicked in at that point.
So, I’m having a vote…
My father asked me whether one of my portraits I posted recently was a self portrait. It made me question how bad my wrinkles were getting as it was a portrait inspired by a photograph of a man of about 102 years.
Dad says that my self portraits are quite unflattering. I know that they are indeed not always life-like! I actually never worry about them being life like. I’m sure in some circles that’s an oxymoron: surely a self-portrait should bear some resemblance to the person? Well, I think that depends on what the ‘likeness’ is. I think one can paint an entirely abstract painting and it could still be a self-portrait if it suitably capture one’s mood or personality.
Below is probably the most life like portrait of me: it was drawn by Andrew on a canvas that I had painted. I then continued to paint after Andrew had ‘sketched me in.’
As for a self-portrait, here’s my latest effort. It’s mixed media with the face mainly in pen and the other areas in acrylic, pen and caran d’ache neocolor I’s (fancy crayons). The original is actually rectangular and reasonably brightly coloured. As it wasn’t quite working for me, I photographed it and then played around with that. I like the end result – reminiscent of humpty dumpty in Alice in Wonderland – and we all know that I can’t but fall in love with something which reminds me of Alice.
Tonight, the blogging community is adrift. Many souls are pacing floors around the world waiting for the Daily Post to upload the weekly photo challenge theme. Someone’s tardiness seems to have caused quite a stir. I bet there’s someone running around the daily post office this very minute in a panic ‘white rabbit style’.
[I’ll be] executed, as sure as ferrets are ferrets.
To avoid any untimely deaths, I propose the theme should be ‘late’.
This would allow everyone to spend the week trying to find rabbits in waistcoats with pocket watches. I looked briefly for one; failed; and decided I’d upload a cat photo instead.
After a couple of lousy days, I had 30 minutes of unexpected joy, courtesy of TiVO. In its infinite wisdom, TiVO decided to record Illustrated Wonderlands: The Beauty of Books. Whoever at the BBC chose to make this short program, I thank you for a delightful experience. I even took notes! (Yes, I know I’m a little odd).
It was a double delight featuring the works of not one, but two, of my nonsense heros: Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. I wonder, whether you can get any higher in the nonsense world than the works of these two wondrous men? Actually, no, you can’t.
He wrote about pobbles with no toes, ‘people’ who went to sea in a sieve, quangle wangles and, of course, my personal favourite, the scroobious pip. Yet as much as I adore the work of the bearded man with the little round glasses, I cannot go past Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
I completely agree with The Beauty of Books assessment that while many illustrators have tried their hand at bringing Alice to life, the original fine drawings of John Tenniel are the ultimate compliment to Lewis Carroll’s masterpiece. When I reflect on it, they are right: it is the partnership of the two which makes it the treasured classic that it is.
That said, I love to see how others have interpreted Alice. I’m delighted that the BBC program mentioned Ralph Steadman‘s illustrations; certainly one of my favourites, not to mention those of Mervyn Peake of Gormenghast fame from 1946. I think both are ‘up there’ among the best Alice illustrators as each used only black and white. In my humble opinion, when a picture ‘sings’ in black and white; it’s a mighty fine picture indeed.
To my surprise, the program didn’t mention Arthur Rackham as he is one I frequently come across when looking for Alice illustrations. They did feature the work of a gentleman I had not heard of: John Lord Vernon. As the program is from 2011 it seems that he is a relatively recent Alice illustrator. As the show mentioned, he has taken the very unusual step of not including Alice in any of his illustrations. From what I saw on the TV program, I’m curious to see more of his work.
If I was at home, I think I’d continue this wonderful Alice indulgence by pulling some of my Alice volumes off the shelf and losing myself in the drawings and paintings of Anne Bachelier, Rodney Matthews and Iassen Ghiuselev among others. As my books are not nearby, I’ve settled for a little internet surfing for Alice illustrations instead. A bloody good way to spend a Saturday night if you ask me!