The Alice App Q&A About The App

Q&A with Emmanuel Paletz

When and how did you develop the idea to create the illustrations for the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?

The journey started 14 years ago, after I graduated from Bezalel academy of arts and design in Jerusalem, Israel. In my academia, they encouraged us to think in a conceptual way closer to the British style, where sometimes when you are looking at an advertising poster you have a punch line, but you don't necessarily immediately get the idea behind it. Sometimes the ads make you think.

In this state of mind, I started to illustrate my first book of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
The first version of Alice was too conceptual and too crazy, and I didn't have a lot of experience in how to approach children's book illustration. It took me six months to complete the first edition, but I didn't like the result, so I let it go.

In 2004 I met a photographer who wanted to create a cookbook, and I saw this opportunity to use the same conceptual way of thinking in a cookbook. The result was Art and Cook, which included illustrations that were a phenomenon in this time. Designing Art and Cook gave me the experience to approach and illustrate Alice in Wonderland correctly.

When the market collapsed in 2008, I decided to take my time and to start to re-illustrate Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. All that time my real passion was for art and history, and it took me another three months to establish the new direction in which I would illustrate the book.

I started exploring Dutch and Flemish Renaissance art because it is - for me - natural that the story is describing the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Slowly I started to build the character and the landscape, and in this process I discovered the source where Lewis Carroll got his inspiration: multiple Flemish paintings from the Renaissance, such as "The Ugly Duchess" by Quentin Matsys. Actually, the discovery was quite amazing for me. It was a feeling that I'd found a gold mine.

I illustrated the new book and always kept in mind the old version that I did with a very conceptual approach. I decided to take the good parts from the old book and combine it with the new one. The result was a very layered visual attempt to solve the book's riddles and mysteries.

I decided to illustrate this book because I wanted to see for myself if I could create something different from all other versions. In my opinion, no one has really illustrated it as it is supposed to be: mysterious, smart, curious, and detailed.

How do you anticipate the public will receive this novel approach of combining art with the story?

I think they will like it, especially people who love art and know the art pieces I used for building the characters in the book. The people who don't know about art will be amazed from the level of illustrations, and perhaps it will encourage them to go to the museum and see the real deal.

In addition to that, the book will be entertaining and playful. It will engage people to read and understand the story. In my opinion, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is a must-read book as it is part of Western culture. You can quote the book every day, and you will always find a situation that parallels your life. This is what makes this book so unique and special.

You say that art and the story blend together to create works of art with universal appeal. Please explain how you did that.

As I illustrated the book, I discovered that Lewis Carroll was influenced by Dutch and Flemish Renaissance paintings, such as the art of Quentin Matsys, who painted "The Ugly Duchess." This is an example that actually inspired Lewis Carroll for one of the caricatures in his book. Another example is that the most famous hatter, in my opinion, was inspired by the perfect hat in the Jan van Eyck painting, "Arnolfini Wedding." The painting was in the National Gallery of London from 1842, and it was included in a public exhibition where it remains. I am sure that Lewis Carroll knows about this painting, and perhaps in his back of his mind he was influenced.

The last example is the Hieronymus Bosch painting, "The Garden of Earthly Delights." I'm quoting a figure from the panel of hell, and I am using him as a Time man to combine philosophy and an abstract figure in the story.

You are definitely sowing old landscapes. What lasting message do you have for people on this topic?

I wanted to give the feeling before the industrial revolution of how everything was more simple and clean and we didn't pollute so much. Human beings were part of nature and not against it. I'm not against progress; I am against pollution because as a result, we're destroying nature, and our children won't enjoy it as we did.

Please describe the interactivity of the app.

The app is going to be fun, with a lot of movement. You can play with it with your hand and finger, and it will react according to your finger movements. The app will combine video, and I have created after-effects to give a really amazing experience. For each of the illustrations, I've added specific sounds that will give a deeper experience.

How did you determine what to include in the App and exclude from it?

For each page, I created nearly eight versions, and every time I thought they were perfect, but my instincts told me I still needed to work on the final version. To truly refine the illustrations, it took me around four years. The process was very long and slow. For me, it was all about if I was finding the right assets to use in my illustration.

Tell us about your favorite illustration in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland?

One of my favorite images falls on the Mad Tea Party pages (124-125). In my opinion I succeed in giving the feeling of the mad tea party without showing that it's crazy. It is elegant and mysterious, and you have a lot of symbols that give it complexity. The background is describing a rural place that it is close to nature.

Another one of my favorite images is on page 145. The Queen's croquet ground has a large rose tree that stands near the entrance of the garden. The roses growing on it are white, but there are three gardeners at it, busily painting them red. I gave the feeling of a place that I would like to visit. It is a little bit of a comic scene, also. I achieve simplicity in the illustration of the gardeners and a feeling of a beautiful garden.

On page 169, there is an illustration of the Duchess walking and holding hands with Alice. I think this image gives the feeling like a scene from a movie, and I love the green color and the composition. It looks like a place that I would like to visit. This image was one of the first illustrations that I created, and it gave me the direction to illustrate all the other images. I really love all of the illustrations, and it took me 4 years to come to this level that all of them are more or less equal.

How are social issues mentioned in the book and tied in with the illustrations?

On page 80-81, from the chapter "Advice From a Caterpillar," I show falling apples in the background. The apples symbolize The Big Apple - New York. It represents the financial center of the world. I added it to the Caterpillar chapter because he tells Alice the story of Father William doing nonsensical tricks to gain things. In my opinion this is exactly what many did in the financial crisis and before. Actually, it has become a way of living.

Another sample of a political interpretation is on pages 224-225, from the chapter "Who Stole the Tarts?" The queen is blaming the Knave for stealing the tarts, but in my interpretation, the ants did it. For me, the wrong people where affected by the financial crisis, and the ones to blame went without guilt and enjoyed eating the tart. It's a part of life; it's easiest to blame the weak for all troubles.

Why did you choose the rabbit for the cover of the book?

I decided to use the rabbit for the cover for a few reasons. The first is that the rabbit has a mysterious appeal, and the entire cover gives a mystical feeling like a religious experience. The background is from an old manuscript.

The second reason was because he is holding a watch, which represents time. The meaning of time holds mystic philosophy and physical meaning.

The last reason is that the beginning of the book is connected to the end. At the start, the watch is set to five minutes before 12 o'clock, and in the end of the book, Alice is holding a clock set to five minutes after 12. In other words, Alice's dream was only ten minutes long.

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