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E.R.'s Heroes: Tim Burton

Hello everyone!

I learnt that Tim Burton turned 60 this weekend. So who better to do my first artist inspiration/hero blog post about than the man himself?

Tim Burton: director, artist, auteur

I can't remember when exactly I started becoming a Burton fan. My earliest memories are my obsession with The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice in my teens. (I remember in my first GCSE Art lesson, we had to draw from a photo of someone. Everyone chose current celebrities or family members. I chose Beetlejuice...and my teacher showed the entire class! I became the art boffin from there on out.) I gradually watched more and more Burton films over time, and...well, here we are. I even wrote my dissertation on Burton's monster misfits at university, where I used Edward Scissorhands, the Penguin and my name sake Emily the Corpse Bride as case studies.

What I love about Burton's overall style is the way he depicts monsters, gothic fantasy, the macabre and all around spookiness. It's so charming, quirky and weirdly beautiful at times without being overtly gory. Believe it or not, I'm incredibly squeamish when it comes to blood and gore, so to have horror and monsters portrayed the way Burton does is perfect for me!

There are some of Burton's films that have influenced my style more than others. I would say the most obvious examples were Corpse Bride and Beetlejuice.

The way Burton depicts the dead in those films is perfection for me! As I mentioned before, I'm a wimp with gore, so the majority of zombie depictions (as good as some of them are) make me feel queasy. In Corpse Bride; the dead and the afterlife are portrayed as vibrant, colourful and friendly skeletons and zombies (not like the dull grey and placidity of most living dead), with bones and the occasional eyeball falling off here and there. I love to portray that friendly and quirky charm into my own undead characters, along with the amazing green and purple hues used in the Land of the Dead.

Some of the colourful undead cast of Tim Burton's stop motion masterpiece Corpse Bride, including the eponymous heroine.

Similarly with Beetlejuice (one of my absolute favourite films ever so this may get a separate blog post later), the dead are weirdly colourful characters, their appearances alone telling a whole story (the dead in the waiting room, people!), and the lovably ghastly Deetz couple, along with their wonderful goth daughter Lydia, are almost like they have stepped straight out of a cartoon.

Beetlejuice: one of my favourite films (and fictional characters) ever.

Speaking of which, I also enjoyed the 1980s cartoon TV series based on the film. Whilst not being as good as the film (and Burton wasn't completely involved with it), I have a real soft spot for the cartoon series. It's quirky and a lot of fun. I started drawing Beetlejuice in the style of the cartoon, gradually combining this version and the live action version together before finally settling on drawing him in my own style. It's from the cartoon series (and Burton's overall aesthetic) that I took one key part of my style - the slightly sunken eyes.

As you can tell from the pictures that I've crammed together, along with with one of my paintings, the sunken eyes with dark circles around them of Burton's characters have made their way into my own style of work. The eyes have always been one of my favourite parts of creating any painting, drawing or sculpture. No matter what stage the piece is in, it always comes to life when the eyes are complete. In Burton's characters, the dark sunkeness makes the eyes pop out more (figuratively speaking.) No matter how dead or spooky the character is, the eyes of Burton's characters always have a spark of life to them.

Other elements of Burton's aesthetic that have inspired me are the elongated neck and (in some cases) extreme body proportions.

Perhaps another reason why I'm such a big fan of Burton is because when he was starting out, he was never afraid of making art and films that he liked rather than what the mass wanted. He has developed a unique, immediately recognisable and weirdly beautiful style that stands out and has appealed to and inspired millions of fans around the world, including me!

Happy Birthday, Tim Burton! Thank you for being a fantastic, inspirational artist/filmmaker and keep up the amazing work!

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Feb 02, 2021

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