Eisner-Winner's Unique Art Style Adorns ABCs of ALICE
Released by Archaia Entertainment this week, The Wonder Alphabet features illustrations in Lee's unique style as it tells the ABC's with characters and concepts from Lewis Carroll's classic stories, Through the Looking Glass and Adventures in Wonderland. Working with writer Alethea Kontis (Enchanted, The Dark-Hunter Companion), the artist used her signature technique of decoupage to design a book that works as a children's story but also as an artistic treasure for all ages.
Newsarama: Janet, what's it been like for you since the success of The Return of the Dapper Men, and how did that influence your work on Wonderland Alphabet?
Janet Lee: Oddly enough, except for three pages, we finished Wonderland Alphabet long before I finished Return of the Dapper Men. In fact, Wonderland Alphabet was created because I couldn't show or sell pages from Return at a local [Nashville] gallery show for aspiring book illustrators.
One of the great things that happened as a result of Return was that Archaia wanted to publish our little Wonderland Alphabet.
Nrama: What is it about Carroll's book that attracted you toward approaching it like this?
Lee: Ever since I got my first copy of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, at the tender age of seven, I have been a Lewis Carroll fanatic. John Tenniel, who illustrated Alice, is a major influence on my art. The degree of my fanaticism waxes and wanes; when I came up with the idea for Wonderland Alphabet it was definitely waxing. At that time both Alethea and I were working as buyers for a major book wholesaler, and we quickly determined that there was a bizarre lack of Alice-in-Wonderland-themed alphabet books. In fact, there were none.
Nrama: How did you begin working with Alethea? And what was it like working with her on this project?
Lee: As I mentioned, Alethea and I worked together and were friends. By the time I started working on Return, Alethea had already authored two books, AlphaOops and AlphaOops: Halloween. She had also written a New-York-Times Bestselling companion book to Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunter series. She was the perfect person to write Wonderland Alphabet — I'm very grateful she came on board.
Nrama: What media did you use for the art? And what tactics did you use as you created these images?
Lee: Like Return of the Dapper Men, I used decoupage to make the illustrations for Wonderland Alphabet. That entails making original drawings, inking and coloring them, and gluing onto board or canvas using a type of glue called Mod Podge. I chose to reference Art Nouveau textile designs when making the letters themselves, and then paired them up with the images I made for that letter.
Nrama: Although this can function as a children's book, it feels more like an art book of entertaining and interesting words with images for all ages. Was that your intent?
Nrama: What were some of the more challenging pages or letters, and how did you meet those challenges?
Lee: I think Alethea would agree with me that "X" and "Z" were pretty tough. There simply aren't any obvious words from Alice to go with them. So we had to get creative: "X is for aXe" (which is used for chopping off heads) and "Z is for zzzzz" (was Alice asleep and merely dreaming, or not?). That being said, I think the most difficult letters for me were the ones where I had too many choices. I'm still conflicted about "D." I opted to go with "Duchess", but how much fun it would have been to do a "Dodo." "M" is for "Mad Hatter" — but it could also have been for "March Hare"! It was so hard to choose.
Lee: Don’t tell the other letters, but I think I love "O is for Off with Her Head" the best. And while I can't be entirely sure why, I think it's because I was beginning to play with perspectives, and it actually worked the way I wanted it to. For a beginning illustrator, that's a big deal. I was also determined the have a great word for "J" — my initial — since J's usually get paired with really boring things. J is, of course, for Jabberwocky.
Nrama: Of course! And I know you've got several other projects coming up. Where else will fans be seeing your work soon?
Lee: I'm working right now on the sequel to Return of the Dapper Men, which will be released next year. Then I move on to another long-form graphic novel, which I'm very excited about, but can't give any details yet.
Nrama: And that mention of a kids book brings us back around to The Wonderland Alphabet. To finish up, is there anything else you want to tell readers about the book?
Lee: Wonderland Alphabet is a book that, I hope, appeals to both the young and the young at heart. It was certainly a labor of love by both its creators. We hope you have as much fun reading it as we had making it come to life!
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