Tuesday, August 14, 2012

M is for Mathemagician

A thousand apologies for the long silence, folks! It has been a hectic Summer... I missed last week's AlphaBooks entirely, & I'm late with this week's, but I hope to be back on schedule by next week. Always depending on what free-lancing & family life throw at me in the next couple of months, I do plan to fill in the gaps (F & L) before the alphabet ends!

The Mathemagician is the number-obsessed ruler of Digitopolis in Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth. I first found this book in the school library in 5th grade, & I remember very distinctly the sensation of joyful recognition I felt after reading the first page or two. I knew at once that this was going to be my kind of book: full of deft wordplay & deep philosophical musings, playful & serious at the same time. It didn't let me down!

Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for this alphabet-oriented project if I'd chosen to illustrate the Mathemagician's estranged brother, King Azaz the Unabridged, who is as obsessed with words as his sibling is with numbers. But A had to be Alice... A will always be Alice for me...

I wish I had had more time to do this character justice! I was so rushed I almost forgot to work some stealthy "M"s in there. Of course there are some in his robe & hat, but do you see the others?

Thanks to my math-whiz son, James, for providing the actual equations & formulae for the robe. I hope I didn't mangle them too badly in my haste. There are also a few silly word-puzzle ones thrown in there, just for fun.

Acrylic on text scanned from this modern paperback version, ~5.5" x 8.5" I couldn't find our original copy so I had to buy a new one! Yet another reason for the delayed post...

Edit: Once again, I seem to have mysteriously illustrated the Illustration Friday topic before it was announced! Although I had some real interest in math as a child, most of my math teachers were nothing like the Mathemagician, & I found the classes dreary & repetitive. But I had a great geometry teacher in 10th grade, Helen Compton (who went on to teach at the NC School for Science & Math). Thanks to her enthusiasm-reboot, I got as far as college calculus, which I enjoyed despite the endless homework because it really seemed to explain things, but after that class other interests prevailed. I still have a sort of sideways fascination with math... especially stuff like fractals & chaos theory, studies that apply to patterns in nature... but I'm far too lazy to get back into it in any serious way. I'll leave that to James!


  1. "M" is for marvelous! As for your stealthy letters--I'm delighted by his eyebrows and his monogrammed pencil :)

  2. I LOVE LOVE LOVE The Phantom Tollbooth. It may be one of the books that first instilled a love of words in me. It was always being checked out of the school library by either me or one of my many siblings. I ready it to my kids, after they came along. AlphaBooks is a great way to commemorate the books that have impacted your life, isn't it? You're doing a marvelous job with each alphabet.

  3. It's great to see another AlphaBooks from you! I like the M of the Mathemagician's eyebrows and beard.

  4. Seriously cool book! I featured Tock and a tollbooth sign on my IF "Lost" entry. This wizard is fantastic! Super love the robe and hat detail and your fab colors. So fun and cool!

  5. I remember The Phantom Tollbooth was on my reading list in the 5th grade, but I think I chose to read other books on the list instead, because I don't recall ever reading it! Now i'm thinking I should!! Love all that detail - like the formulas on his coat, and the little 'm' on his pencil!!

  6. As always, lovely to visit and meet your charming characters! ; )