Remember that fantasy storybook “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll when we were kids? Little One has just began reading it! So immersed with the story that she decided to dress up as Alice and get her cute furry friends to play the White Rabbit and the Cheshire Cat. How sweet is that! They are enjoying the playing the roles so much that they want to do more as the story progresses. And how can I not paint about it?
Introducing Adolfo Serra
Some time ago during the COVID lockdown, I began signing up for a variety of on-line art classes to keep myself going. One of them was “Introduction to Children’s Illustrations” by Spanish illustrator Adolfo Serra which I came across whilst browsing on Instagram. Looked interesting but like other classes, I hadn’t gotten around to starting it as time went by. Once the lockdown was lifted and we returned to normality, I got busy and forgot about it till I came across it again. Must start it! Although the classes are in Spanish, the English-language subtitles were most helpful. I had no idea it was about taking a children’s storybook and creating our own interpretation of the characters. In the classes, Adolfo refers to “Alice in Wonderland”. Sounds interesting so I decided to continue not knowing what to expect.
To cut a long story short, Adolfo mentions that our interpretations of characters are based from the storybooks we read as children. For instance, the familiar Disney version of the story paints Alice as blonde wearing a blue dress. But in the actual book by Lewis Carroll, we don’t see such a description. The illustrator of the original book has another impression of Alice. As such, we need to dissociate ourselves from the “bias” and create our own interpretation. Researching further would help. Once we are happy with it, we then brainstorm and sketch a variety of thumbnails of different scenes and scenario of the story. At this point, I decided to simply make up my own version. Thumbnails will follow once I skim through the book and have a better clue.
Pencil sketch was done on a page from Strathmore’s Visual Journal for Watercolor. As you can see it’s quite rough. Little One being her usual cute self but thought I’d enhance the cuteness by adding a Hello Kitty inspired bow on her left side. The White Rabbit is supposed to be a wise one with words of wisdom so I incorporated a pair of glasses. And the Cheshire Cat. Appears in and out of nowhere mysteriously and has a mischievous smile. The club, spade, heart and diamonds were then doodled on as I do seem to remember about the character with the trump cards. Need to read more about it but here we are! First the background was filled in with some leftover yellow watercolor followed by Holbein’s Watercolors in a pastel shade pink.
For the first time, I experimented with Holbein’s Gouache. This is the set of proper gouache which is different from the Acryla version, the latter being acrylic based but gives a similar opaque matte finish. As this new set is not acrylic based, it is not water resistant. I was very excited to try it out here and see what happens. Sure enough, the result is amazing; strong and vivid colors (especially with the red) and as opaque and matte as the Acryla range. For now, I stuck with the blue dress for LIttle One playing Alice as per Disney version but ought to change once I have a better idea of what she could look like. White Rabbit was painted in Pearlescent White which worked rather well.
I had to make the change on the Cheshire Cat’s face though. Although I would have stuck to the naughty smiling eyes, the character calls for having a wide grin and hence I had to alter it. I struggled quite a bit with getting it perfect and now I am still trying to get accustomed to that “new look” I am still not too sure about. White and black gel pens were used to add the small details. And here we are!
And now don’t they all look so adorable? Little One and her friends certainly look as if they’re having so much fun dressing up! And like all classes, Adolfo’s was definitely about going beyond my comfort zone. It was also the first time for me to use the proper version of Holbein’s gouache, the result I was pleased about. Whilst I have yet to explore more and develop my own interpretation of the Alice in Wonderland characters, this is just my preliminary idea. I’ll definitely be reading up on the story to refresh my memory when I have the chance, especially as Little One is so excited to do more role-playing with her friends. Who knows what I will come up with. Sounds intriguing and looking forward to the challenge!