Little Red Riding Hood, also known as Little Red Cap, is an European fairy tale about a young girl and a big bad Wolf. The story has changed considerably in its history and subject to numerous modern adaptations and reading. The story was first published by Charles Perrault in 1697. The origins of the Little Red Riding Hood story can be traced back to versions from various European countries and more than likely preceding the 17th century, from which several exist, some significantly different from the currently known version, inspired by the Grimm Brothers.
Every child has heard in his childhood this story about this little girl and a bad wolf. When they become adults, especially parents, they pass on this fairy tale to their own child. As a kid you imagine a frightening Forest, a scary Wolf and a little cute girl. Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale is particularly scary if we read the first version, written by Charles Perrault. This version has no happy ending; the wolf eats a little red girl and her grandmother. For this reason I decided to do my books by Charles Perrault, because I think he has a good moral not only for children but for adults as well. Life has changed significantly in the 21st century and it isn’t a scary wolf in the middle of the forest or a small little girl bringing a cake for her grandmother that we relate to. In our century it is a big city, where you must be very cautious and patient for all the world around you. Crimes, political divisions, people exploitations, thefts, kidnapping, blackmailing all are our urban problems. For all these reasons I decided to do these fairy tale illustrations not for children, but for adults instead. I want mature people to see Little Red Riding Hood tale from a different perspective. I equate the Little Red Riding Hood with a woman and the Wolf with a mature and dangerous man. Moreover I think that women, especially because of our degeneration, need to be careful and distrustful in order not to become a possible victim. Our big city life looks like a terrible dark forest where there are dangers behind every corner.
There are a lot of versions of this tale with different illustrations. Last year two quite different versions of this classic story were published. The first was Yummy by Lucy Cousins, a collection of classic fairytales headed by Little Red Riding Hood, all illustrated and written in Cousins’ signature sparse, bright style. The second publication could not be a greater contrast. Louise Rowe’s pop-up Red Riding Hood is illustrated entirely in sepia tones with touches of rich, autumn red. Six double page layouts are used to tell the story and each is truly magnificent. The pages featuring the woods are exceptional. Apart from the many overlapping layers of trees, each individual tree is illustrated using the skeleton of a leaf – the effect is beautiful, intricate and dramatic. With each page, you get closer to the danger – the woods, grandmother’s house, grandmother’s bed and then the wolf. Little readers will have to have their wits about them as the big bad wolf literally jumps off the page, baring his huge fangs. But I found another example of this classic story published by Marjolaine Leray in Tate Modern bookshop. It is a very modern version for children. Leray’s style is startlingly simple – each illustration is a sparse composition of black ink and red crayon and the text is equally pared-down with just a few words on each page. The result is dramatic and stunningly beautiful. Little Red is depicted with her trademark cape, spindly arms and legs, and a button nose. The wolf is suitably scary with a greedy look in his eye, and menacing fangs and claws. The wolf ‘speaks’ in grey writing and Little Red Hood in red which allows even the youngest readers to engage in the dialogue. Some children may find the style a little blunt however others will revel in the drama. When I saw this book I was impressed by simple illustrations but I knew how I wanted to create my own illustrations, so I chose another way. I was also immersed by the movie “The Company of Wolves”. The Company of Wolves is a 1984 British Gothic fantasy-horror film directed by Neil Jordan. All the stories are somehow reducible to loss of innocence, and fear of hunger for (a newly acquired sense of) sexuality; their Freudian character is mirrored in their dreamlike shapes. This movie is not really a horror movie; it's more a multiple tale about growing up into adolescence. Of course the story of Little Red Riding Hood is also present, with a very handsome he-wolf!
When I started to create my illustrations I got inspiration from the British television show The Mighty Boosh. The Mighty Boosh is a British comedy troupe featuring comedians Julian Barrat and Noel Fielding. They both are comedians, actors and musicians. They perform almost all the characters in this comedy; they create all set design, costumes, masks, music, draw illustrations of the pauses or inserts. Moreover they use surrealism and expressionism for all backgrounds or illustrations and these are the two genres of art which I like to use in my own creativity. When I started to make my books and illustrations I knew that I wanted to use abstract people figures. So I equated the Little Red Riding Hood with an unattractive naked woman, and I drew the wolf having man’s body and the wolf’s head. I showed how I imagined modern illustrations with all the other characters and the places where the action took place. Also I used the motive of the night, as all fears and emotions that people have are much stronger then. The work process was quite difficult, because I had to use different programs and then connect everything: I had to find pictures in the books or on the Internet, scan them, draw using Photoshop or Illustrator, then export everything to Indesign and connect them with the text. It was challenging to find the right way to put the text; I had to play with typography thoughtfully as I could not allow the text to be unreadable. Also the illustrations and text could not cover one another. This is why I decided to do the text in red and indicate the most important action or character with bigger letters in each page. For binding I chose to do concertina in order not to damage the illustrations. The cover, as well as the letters inside, is red, because I wanted to give an indirect hint of books title. On the cover there is a letter “R” which reflects to the title also.