Alice in Wonderland continues to receive the red-carpet treatment, and Puffin Books recently published a 150th anniversary edition with illustrations by artist and Rifle Paper Company founder Anna Bond. In 2014, Bond illustrated Penguin’s reissues of Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, Little Women and Heidi and brings her whimsical, instantly recognizable style to Alice and her Wonderland cohorts. This edition would make a wonderful gift for Alice fans and design enthusiasts who may be more familiar with Bond’s stationery and gift business.

The busy new mother spoke with me recently about tackling the book, her work process, and her plans for the future.

1. What drew you to Alice in Wonderland?

Alice is not only a
classic but it’s also one of the most fantastical stories. I was drawn
to being part of something iconic. This project totally allowed
me to be creative with the illustrations.

2. Did you read the story as a child?

I never
read the book or even saw the original Disney movie as a child. Even
so, I knew so many things about the story just because it’s one of the
most beloved books – the characters are so
prevalent in our culture too. However, I read the book before I started any of the
design process. I was surprised by how funny it is.

3. How did you choose which scenes to illustrate?

I worked with Puffin
Books to decide which scenes would be illustrated as well as whether
they would be full pages, spreads or spot illustrations. We wanted to be
sure that the iconic scenes were illustrated
larger, and that each chapter had a mix of styles. There ended up being
some sort of illustration on nearly every page.

4. What’s your
medium? Could you talk a little about your design/artistic process? Were
you involved in selecting the type and font?

I paint with gouache
on watercolor paper and then scan and edit the illustrations on the
computer (for color corrections, moving things around, and so on). For
this project I rough-sketched every illustration
with pencil before I began painting to be sure I was on the same page
as the publisher. I then worked with their team to make sure the
interior was matching my vision. I couldn’t find a font for the chapter
titles and drop caps that I really felt matched
the story so I ended up hand-painting an alphabet.

5. After 150 years, there have been plenty of variations in art for the book; what’s it like tackling such a legacy?

It was both exciting
and challenging. I love the original illustrations by John Tenniel so
much, especially because they were created with input from the author.
I think they are Lewis Carroll’s vision and nothing
will replace them, but I loved the opportunity to create my own spin.
The originals were printed in black and white
so I felt like I had a great opportunity to showcase my use of color.  

6. From a design
perspective, it looks like you’ve taken the whimsical approach to
illustrating Alice, very much in the vein of your work at Rifle Paper
Company. Do you see the story as a charming trip down
the rabbit hole? (I’ve spoken with illustrators who see nothing but a
tripped-out nightmare in Alice, and illustrated it accordingly.)

It definitely reads
like a dream but I personally don’t consider it a nightmare. Alice is
strong and witty and fearless. I think that saying it’s a nightmare is
discrediting her character, because she navigates
that world in such a beautiful way as she rolls through each scene.
Wild things happen all around her, but just like in dreams, they seem like reality. I tried to create a beautiful, magical world where the
imagery doesn’t necessarily always fit what’s happening
around her.

7. Your Alice is a
blond in a blue dress. Are you referencing Disney’s version from the
1950s? If so, what made you go this route? (If not, what was your
inspiration?)

Disney solidified the
blue dress as Alice’s look and I think now it’s become so iconic that I
felt like it was too risky to change. However, I wanted to make her a
little more modern and less girly. I think
she has a bit of an edge to her, so I made her hair more natural, put
her in strong button-up boots, and made her dress more simple. The story
was written in the Victorian era so I kept the pinafore, the dress
style and boots.

8. Your artwork for
Rifle Paper is impeccably curated, and though many pieces are unique,
they all have a distinct and cohesive look. How would you describe your
artistic aesthetic?

Thank you! I work
hard to create a cohesive look for the brand. It’s whimsical, timeless,
and has a distinctively vibrant color palette. Everything is painted
with gouache which gives it a vibrant and velvety
look.

9. Do you have any designers or artists you reference in your work?

I’ve been inspired by
so many artists and designers over the years. I tend to be drawn to
very bold and colorful illustrators such as [longtime Disney illustrator] Mary Blair but overall, I am drawn to
very clean, minimal and muted design. I like
to think that my work has a bit of both of those aspects to it. It’s
bold and playful but also refined. I’m always striving
for that balance.

10. You recently
welcomed a baby boy into your family. Do you think you’ll illustrate
more children’s books now? Are you working on any such projects?

It’s possible. I’ve
collected children’s books for years and always thought I would love to
write and illustrate one someday. Right now I’m working on lots of new
products for Rifle Paper Co. that go beyond
paper. I’m really excited about what’s to come over the next year or
two.

11. What kinds of children’s books do you collect?

I
have a lot of classics such as the Babar series as
well as a range books where I simply love the illustrations. However, I think most of the books in my collection were published in the ‘50s and ’60s.

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Anna Bond; Puffin Books, $30.00, 192 pages, ages 10 and up.

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