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Alice in Plummerland

alice's_wonderland_gift_book_jacketSummer 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.

Self Portraits

Sketched with paint

A portrait of an old man

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.’

An artistic collaboration

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.

Mixed Media Artwork photographed in sepia

Mixed Media Self Portrait ala Alice's Humpty Dumpty

Illustrated Wonderlands: The Beauty of Books

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.

To start with, Edward Lear loved cats.

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.

Ralph Steadman's Alice illustration

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.

Illustration by Mervyn Peake

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!

Isobel’s egg

Alice acquires an egg

Original Mixed Media Alice inspired painting

Thanks to a comment from Isobel, I got very bold and painted over a significant chunk of the Alice painting on the right, so that I may insert an egg. I know that Isobel was demonstrating her sound knowledge of Alice and Wonderland with her suggestion of a rattle or an egg. While humpty dumpty was clearly what she had in mind, an appropriated image from Dali was what immediately leapt into my head. It’s still bothering me though because I feel like the painting is divided in two by the addition of the egg. It is competition with Alice for your attention rather than a complement for Alice. I’m not sure the egg will survive for too long. I’ll sleep on it though. The thought. Not the egg. I don’t fancy a pillow full of eggshell.

Alice in Limboland

Mixed media

While I’ve been racing to the end of the year, Alice has been patiently waiting in my living room. Every now and then I pay her some attention before she returns to being in limboland. I’m hoping that over this Christmas break, Alice will get some of the attention she deserves.

Of course, the answers to a few key questions need to materialise; namely what should I do with that floating owl’s head? I don’t suppose I could claim it was a Cheshire owl?

The ‘blocks’ between the owl and Alice also bother me; as does the fact the cream block lines up with her skirt. I can hear John Salminen from one of my creative catalyst DVDs saying: ‘if they line up, that would be predictable, and predictable would be boring.’ Tedious is hardly a quality I would normally link to Alice; precocious more like.

Perhaps I should swipe out most of those shapes on the right hand side (beneath the owl but above the dragon) and replace them with…?  A racoon? Panda? Porcupine? Snow Leopard or, if I want to be particularly dark, an unkindness of ravens? Then again, maybe abandoning animals in favour of food is a better idea. A toffee apple, some bullseyes, a Brandy Alexander or a beetroot?

If you are thinking I have no idea, you would be quite right. This is probably why Alice has lived in limboland for so long. She has reached the 80% stage. I have filled behind the couch with canvasses nearly all of which have reached the 80% stage. There’s something about that final 20% that is so difficult. Actually, now that I think about it, many things in my life are at the 80% stage. There’s a number of sewing projects; the knitted scarf, the preparations for my February road trip, the de-clutter the filing project and, the most recent effort, the clean my desk at work project! I wonder whether I have an aversion to 85% or 90% and most certainly 100. Why are these numbers so difficult to achieve? I think it’s a lack of goal setting on my behalf. When I have a deadline at work, more often than not, I reach it. Despite the realisation goal setting helps, I fail to apply it to my personal life. Maybe I need a few of those 80% projects to rally together; to form a mob with pitchforks in hand, demanding I reconcile my differences with mister 90%. If the knitting needles decided to propel themselves across the room in a last ditch effort to get my attention, I daresay I’d take notice (or question whether someone spiked my apple juice).

Before I leave off this Christmas day post, it would not be complete without including a brief cat reference. Andrew was particularly clever and managed to combine cats and art into my Christmas present. He got me this fantastic little ‘art mannequin’ – cat style! I love the way I can tilt his head to give him that quizzical look cats so often employ. Thank you 4, a perfect gift for me!

Alice collage


Top left top row: iassen ghiuselev’s Alice in Wonderland and Mervyn Peake’s Wonderland fish messenger. Top left bottom row: Lela Dowling’s comical alice and on the right, one of the paintings from Charles Blackman’s Alice series.

Left bottom – Robert Ingpen’s interpretation of Alice in the pool of tears.

Right bottom – Arthur Rackham’s Queen and King of hearts.

Top right – this quirky creature could only be the work of Ralph Steadman! It’s one of the lesser known Alice books… you come across Rackham, Tenniel and Oxenbury editions far more frequently than a Steadman set. I love that he manages – like Tenniel – to create such a character in black and white pen drawings. I am sure that Ralph Steadman’s Alice drawings might be considered by some parents as downright scary, but I love them!

Alice minus directions

Alice updated
Who knew that a ‘Hare’ and ‘Hatter’ street sign would be so difficult. I can’t decide whether to have a second go or remove it altogether. One thing’s for sure… mum will be please the dark shape that used to sit above the dragon’s head is gone.

Chalk and cheese

This blog came about thanks to my brother. While we are oft chalk and cheese, this is an example of where our quirkiness combined. He knows that I love both Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear and located a suitable Lear ‘doodle’ for my banner page of his own accord. I instantly loved it. Thank you.

but back to being chalk and cheese… (can I be epicure, port salut or a fine blue? I don’t want to be a bland processed cheese slice)… my brother possesses technical flair. I possess logic. It takes me a while to be brave enough to enter new arenas and catch on to new concepts. I am like the tortoise who gets there in the end though… So while he would have lit up the front page with fireworks by now, I’m still figuring out the categories menu. Categories, of course, I can do… because that is English! Blogroll, slugs, plugins, feeds, chomps, hyperextending cats… it’s worse than Carrollian nonsense because the words do actually mean something… just not to me!

So please be patient whilst I make friends with slugs. I know that you will, like my good friend 21st century Alice, be crying out “What is the use of a blog without pictures?” If it is all too new too quick, I’ll call chalk again and hope his patience with the crumbly cheese persists.