Monday, October 20, 2008

13 Days of Halloween - Sketching the Macabre

Since we're in the spooky frame of mind, I thought I'd take this opportunity to introduce you to a few of my favorite illustrators, whose artwork is appropriate for the Halloween season.
I love Edward Gorey! He wrote and illustrated several books, in a crosshatched pen and ink style. Most of them were set in an ominous Victorian or Edwardian gothic setting or sparse landscapes on lonely marshes. My favorite book is "The Gashlycrumb Tinies", a demented alphabet book (see picture above). If his artwork looks familiar to you, it's probably because you've seen the animated opening of PBS's "Mystery!" series. Gorey also won a Tony award for costume design for the ballet "Dracula" and was nominated for set design.

Charles Addams was an American cartoonist known for his dark humor and his macabre characters. He was Gary Larson before Gary Larson even picked up a pen! The cartoon collections I have are some of my most prized, and always make me laugh. (Inspect that illustration above. Notice anything unusual?) He worked in pen and ink as well as watercolors and was published regularly in "The New Yorker" magazine. Addams created a set of demented characters that later were brought to life in a little televsion program called... "The Addams Family".
While both Gorey and Addams were most prolific in the 1960s, Gris Grimley is carrying on their gloomy tradition for the new generation. He is a modern illustrator who writes and illustrates demented fairy tales, but also does dark illustrations like the one above.
I suppose Mark Ryden is more of a "fine artist" than an illustrator, but his subject matter is still dark and mysterious (and dare I say, disturbing?). I think there's much much more to his work than just little kids with big sorrowful eyes... What do you think?


chandy said...

ooh...that last one is creepy!

raven spinner said...

I had never seen the illistrations for Charles Adams, but I love Gorey, Grimley and Ryden. We totally have the same taste in good artists sometimes.

Laura said...

I love pen and ink for this type of artwork. It evokes a feeling without using color which that takes considerable talent!

The last picture reminds me of the portraits in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.

D.L. White said...

Raven - you totally have to look at my Charles Addams book the next time we get together. You'd love them! Almost 90% of the jokes in the first "Addams Family" movie were taken directly from his cartoons.

Laura - I never made that association, but you're right! It does look like those surreal portraits in the Haunted House. :) Nice observation. Must be why I like them. :P

Laura said...

Mark Ryden's art is... um... interesting. I'd love to know more about the message he is portraying through his art. I am intrigued by the appearance of Abraham Lincoln in so many of his paintings. And what's up with all that meat? Is he a vegetarian? A vegan?

D.L. White said...

I'm not sure even I understand all his art (some of it I like better than others). I do know he likes to play around with symbols and images of Americana. I would assume Lincoln represents either "honesty" or "America lost" - like our glory days that are now gone. As far as the meat goes... I think he likes the dichotomy of placing two strange and opposite things next to each other... like a cute kid next to a raw, ugly piece of meat. I don't know if he's a vegetarian or not... it would be interesting to find out.