Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tim Burton

I have been a big fan of Tim Burton for a while now and have gotten into many arguments over whether he is really an artist or not, since his role in his most recent works has been as director or producer. Last year I visited the MoMa’s exhibit of his work and was finally vindicated—Burton not only designs the characters for most of his films, but has a whole collection of previously unseen drawings, comics, and storyboards (mostly unrealized projects).

It was really inspiring for me to see his drawings, which combine several styles I admire. I have long been envious of the clean line-based style that has become increasingly pervasive through mediums such as manga, web design images, screen printed t-shirt culture, and tattoo-inspired art. However, I hate drawing in this style and find it extremely difficult. I find myself drawing in an expressive manner which is usually unrepresented in line drawings. The reason I was drawn to Burton’s drawings this semester was his ability to combine comic-style and line, while keeping it expressive and emotive.

Tim Burton was born August 25, 1958. He grew up in Burbank, CA, which he found to be a stifling environment. He was an avid fan of pop culture and collected greeting cards, comics from newspapers (many humorous editorials), and lists of horror films he enjoyed. He also kept sketchbooks, where he started to develop the aesthetic that is so iconic today. Burton also won various local contests for posters. When Burton was 18 he won a scholarship to attend CalArts, the fine arts school created by Disney. In 1979 Burton became an apprentice at Disney and worked in various aspects of animation. Many of his drawings for the projects he worked on were never used, often because they were too dark or strange. He found the studio contract life oppressive and the result was a prolific period in his private drawing. The ideas behind Nightmare Before Christmas were developed during this time.

Burton’s work is dark, surreal, often makes use of distortion, and has a wry humor similar to that of the editorial comics he collected as a teen. The term "pop surrealism" is often used when discussing his work. The child/parent relationship and isolation are both recurring themes. His work is very character focused, which is why it makes sense he went into animation rather than fine art.

These days Tim Burton has become a household name because of his involvement in such smash hits as Sleepy Hallow, Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, and Batman Returns. Despite his mainstream studio connections, his work is still very alternative and inspires a cult following.

Untitled (Cartoon Series)
c. 1980-86. Pencil on Paper.

This piece is a good example of Burton's humor manifested through distortion and cartoony style. I really like the hair, particularly the girl's hair. I think that the line value shows the curved shape of the head well.

Sorry for the crookedness of the above piece--I haven't yet mastered my scanner. I really like this piece because it shows how a somewhat messy (or expressive) style can still result in a clean image with defined shadows and highlights.

Untitled (Romeo and Juliet)
c. 1981-84. Ink, marker, and colored pencil on paper.

Obviously. this is in color and not done with materials we have been working with in class. However, I wanted to include this drawing because it is one of my favorites. The swirling water reminds me of the sky in Starry Night. You could just discount this swirly-ness to a cartoon style, lacking any real skill, but I think it can also be seen as a reference to great art from the past. This piece is also a great example of his character and story-driven work-- the series this piece is from is a Romeo and Juliet story about a romance between a land mass and an ocean mass.

Magliozzi, Ron; and He, Jenny. Tim Burton. New York: the Museum of Modern Art, 2009.


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