Art 1 Gorey – 9/11-9/17


1. Listen to the curator of “Elegant Enigmas” talk about Edward Gorey.

2. Watch the animation of Gorey’s book , The Tuning Fork:

3. Comment on the 3 most interesting things about Gorey and how you think those things influenced his art.

4. Also comment on your favorite visual frame (drawing and composition) in the animation and explain why you find it most fascinating.

5. In your sketchbook, do a one hour drawing inspired by Gorey.  Have fun with it! Keep track of the time intervals on the back.


47 responses »

  1. I think one thing that makes him special is how his artwork is so simple but also intriguing and it makes you want to see more. I also think that his artwork in the video is really quirky with the monster and suicide and murder. I think that he was influenced by himself and he was drawing what he was feeling. I really liked how the monster and the girl got revenge on her family and how the monster just appeared in the bathtub. I love how the girl could breathe underwater. I really enjoyed Edward Gorey’s artwork.

  2. My favorite frame in the video was the part where the girl was on the beach and the monster was just about to attack. I liked it because the ocean was so simple but it looked so intriguing. I think Gorey influences himself because it does what he is feeling. He makes things simple but have a lot of meaning. When you look at one thing from his drawing you think that it’s just a bunch of lines but when you see the whole piece you see the meaning behind the lines.

  3. One of the most interesting things about Edward Gorey are his interests in literature and theater that made his art expressive and comical. Also his mysterious personality comes across in his pictures and he has a lot of creativity. His illustrations in children’s books are very lovable and playful. My favorite frame in the animation was when the girl’s foot landed on the monster’s nose.

  4. The most interesting things about Gory and his artwork is his ability to take somewhat depressing, scary or gruesome themes and illustrate them in a way that’s comfortable for children and adults alike and even slightly humorous. I also love the way he uses the the initricacy of the lines and shading to show emotion. I’d imagine he got most of his inspiration for his art from stories he made up or dreams he had, since he both wrote and illustrated books. My favorite slide is when she is on the back of the monster coming out of the sea with the pearls draped around her because it reminded me of an old legend about mermaids or something along those lines. It was a little eery and magical at the same time

  5. What I liked most about Edward Gorey was his ability to turn depressing stories into quirky and funny pictures. I think he was influenced a lot by his experiences and his sense of humor. I also think he was influenced a grand amount by stories and dreams. My favorite scene in the Edward Gorey animation was the bath tub scene where you don’t think anything is going to happen and then the monster subtly raises his fin and you discover why the girl’s famliy is dying. Part of the reason I loved this scene is because of his use of crosshatching to basically draw the whole picture. I also find it cool how he uses line to creaet his art and how he uses shading to create a mood.

  6. one of the most interesting things about Edward Gory is that he can use his line to express lots of things in an impressive way such as emotion, and some sense of humor. In addition, he draws portrait for children books, it is fun to use the drawing to explain a story, and he shows his intelligent idea and creativity among those works. I think his working with children books gave him inspiration to make his drawing funny and meaningful. My favorite drawing is the one that a human-shape monster walked in a corridor. It reminds me of some old castle in Europe and I think it is pretty cool.

  7. Gorey is a very a strange man… He must have had a weird childhood full of death because he makes these children’s books about people being mauled by bears, getting run over by trains, and sucked down drains. I really liked the picture of the man with the glasses because it reminded me of foreheadwrinkle and his hipster glasses. Furthermore, I think a key factor in Ed’s work is the mysteriousness of it all, and how creepy it gets.

  8. I agree with FiddleGirl, and wallflower, Gorey somehow succeeds in turning a gruesome tail of a little girls attempted suicide and a subsequent string of revenge murders, were her entire family is drowned by a ferocious monster, into a charming childrens book. His dark, disturbing and bloody stories are, if not the best thing to read to a toddler before bed (unless you want to raise a serial killer), are very entertaining for us now that were older. I really like the lines and tiny details that Gorey works into his art, so you could look at a peace of his art for an hour and still find something new the next time you saw it. I also like the slightly crude, child like quality of his drawings. I don’t know why, but it makes them more appealing and comical than they would be if they were more realistic I have a question though, why do you think the video was called The Tuning Fork, if I remember correctly a tuning fork didn’t feature in the story at all. Someone comment with the answer if they know. My favorite frame of the story was the one were she’s running down the stairs, right before she jumps of the jetty. I really love the unique perspective.

  9. I found that the most interesting thing about Gorey was, as the curator said, he was able to create artwork loved equally by both children and adults. This seems to be the case because the pictures themselves are fun to look at and would easily entertain children, but the context behind the picture is mature and interesting for adults as well. I also found it interesting that Gorey pursued theater and literature, and was still so mysterious. His theater experiences most likely helped to make his art so animated and emotional. My favorite work in the animation was when she’s jumping off the jetty because it looks simple, but if you look closely, everything (especially the sky behind her), is so incredibly complicated and detailed!

    • I also liked seeing the curator sitting amongst the 3d sets made from his drawings. With the animation of his book and the 3d enlargements, his art is transformed in ways that expand our experience of his work.

  10. Gorey was really interested in juxtaposition. From his subject matter to his shading techniques, Gorey exhibited his love of juxtaposition. He picks a character that is unlikable, non-per to a childrens’ book. Also, he is very fond of using a single line shading. Also, unlike to childrens’ books he uses only black and white unlike a regular childrens book.

    • Sorry, in addition, I liked the scene where the main character of the tuning fork runs down the stairs to the water because of the perspective and the shading that defines the shapes.

    • That’s an interesting point about his habit of picking unlikable characters and using black and white only. With uncommon heros and uncommon themes, he becomes a popular illustrator and story teller.

  11. Personally, I think dwelling on one aspect of a piece of art that stunned you more than anything else is a little bit futile for me. I say this because in most art such as this, every little piece is meant to tell you something, and leaving those little pieces out in turn leaves out the art. That being said, I enjoyed how he was able to create so much emotional tone out of the line work and how just because a line was in one place, for no obvious reason it would evoke great meaning. In the animation I was captured most by the seen with the bathtub, mainly because it was able to create so much emotional tension in the piece, making it feel as though the artwork itself was dying.

    • You point out how important all the parts are to the whole which is the concept of unity in art, or music, or dance, etc. Sometimes though we all have favorite parts, passages, or moments in a piece that we enjoy returning to time and again. These are often the ones that reveal our aesthetic preferences which in turn, can help us find our aesthetic direction.

  12. I love how Edward Gorey accentuates small details and twists them into the obscure. Like how you barely notice the fin of the monster peeking out of the bathtub, but how critical this fact is to the story. Gorey also has the remarkable ability to appeal to both adults and children. The different age groups may enjoy his work in different ways, but that’s part of the beauty of it. Lastly, I enjoy his dark and twisted sense of humor. My favorite example of this is the book he wrote about children deaths, The Gashlycrumb Tinies.

    The part that captivated me most in the animation was when Theoda flew down the stairs. The perspective in the scene is jarring, and so is the message: “Theoda, bent on suicide, rushed down to meet the rising tide”

    • Great point about how crucial that fin detail is for the story. Illustrators often use those links to keep the narrative going and richly rewarding for the observant viewer and reader. Gorey’s work can bring up lots for discussion about age appropriate material and audience sensitivity. And, looking back at Grimm fairy tales, they do as well.

  13. By watching his animation, I think the first interesting thing is Gorey could only use the ink for filling the whole frame with all types of lines. But the pictures he drew were so mysterious. Secondly, he is not only a painter(illustrator), but also a writer. He combined his paintings with his literature, which makes the meaning he expressed more vivid and interesting. I am interested in the way he expressed this feeling as well. His drawings always made people scary, but let people want to see more at the meantime. As for my favorite work about Gorey is that a little boy who sits in a big chair in front of a big dining-table is about to eat a peach…(the words beneath the picture are E IS FOR ERNEST WHO CHOKED ON A PEACH.) I love this one because this one makes me feel how lonely the little boy is. And because there’re no people, such as parents or other family member, so the little boy named Ernest was choked on a peach…I really love the way he expressed his own feeling.

    • It is interesting to think about how his imagination was fueled by his work as a writer and an artist. Probably he thought of more stories while drawing and more drawings which writing. And, I agree, the emotional content is so vivid. I think it is what makes his work so attractive to such a wide audience.

  14. My favorite frame was the girl falling down the stairs because of the preportion of stairs compared to the size of the girl it adds a bit of comedic value to it. Another thing that i thought was unique about Edward Gorey was his ability to make gruesome thoughts and images into a enjoyable pieces of extraordinary art.

  15. One thing I really liked about Gorey was that he would write stories to match the drawing that he drew. I also was impressed by his spectacular use of lines to illustrate his paintings. Gorey also had a lot of discreet details hidden in his drawings that are essential to understanding the theme of his stories, but aren’t the first thing you see when you look at the painting. My favourite works by him was the book on the deaths of children. My favourite part of the animation was “When senseless toes touched nose”. It illustrated the airy feeling of sinking in water…

  16. Influences seem to be literature and theater; perhaps his childhood, dreams, experiences encountered over time. He thought and created in book form; he drew in the same scale that the book would appear. Is Gorey gory? Seems he is able to take painful (to most) experiences or events (choking, falling, not being liked, even suicide) and treat them with non-threatening illustrations that appeal to all age groups and levels of naivete. In The Tuning Fork, the theme of a child thinking it is not liked/loved, thinking suicide, creating a sympathetic monster to ‘pay’ the parents back for the lack of like/love felt and even ‘wanting’ them dead for the pain caused is a pretty heavy theme, yet also childlike… children often sense they have no personal power (source for a tantrom?) to deal with their (mis)perceptions. Monsters in our imaginations can be very scarey but he gives this one a ‘loving’ aspect not expected…it listens and commiserates. Then, there is the exquisite and expressive line work, so fine and detailed to reveal shape, form, emotion….the story line finally does not FEEL so sad, or dark, or scarey. THAT is transformative to me.
    Looking at other works, I found I loved the frame of multiple people types, somewhat elongated, some turned away from the viewer, some further away in the picture plane…all drawn with such expressive postures and so emotionally animated that I felt as if I could name actual people I know who are similar in body type/expression/charaterization. Wonderfully drawn and illustrated linear work all!

  17. I think that one of the most interesting things about Gorey is how he is able to create a lot of depth without using color. Using only gray-scale can create an interesting effect in art. Aside from that, I also like his dark sense of humor. I think it reflects that he, himself is dark. I also think that it is interesting that he doesn’t always pick very likable characters as protagonists in his stories. My favorite scene from the animation is when the monster is listening to her story because Gorey was able to show emotion through body language, and that is something that I really like about his work.

    • It’s a great technique to have the monster become a kind of friend for the protagonist because then it becomes psychological and symbolic. In this way, stories can begin to represent the taming of internal conflicts, in a way.

  18. He always drew in scale, which can be quite difficult depending on the piece, he appealed to both children and adults, and he used mostly simple lines to do everything from drawing people to shading. But not only do I not find most of these interesting, but somewhat repulsive. With such dark “humor” and macabre themes, I don’t see how he can appeal to children OR adults. Suicide, children being mauled by bears, families drowning in bathtubs, just to name a few examples. I found minimal sense in “The Tuning Fork,” as it was lacking in explanation, rhyme, or reason. Sure, it’s not meant to be realistic, but just throwing together random elements of a storyline doesn’t make it notable. I found his works to be dull and drab, always portraying a horrific scene, some incredibly violent, such as being crushed by a train. In “The Tuning Fork,” my favorite scene is the first: it is the most detailed in crosshatching, has interesting shadows, and actually makes sense. Most of the time, I’d be interested in such dark humor, but this is just senseless gore, no pun intended.

    • I found it very interesting also that he drew in scale. Usually illustrators draw larger and then it is shrunk to tighten the image. It’s good to hear another voice in the discussion. I’m sure you are not alone in your feelings about him. But you must admit, some of the Grimm’s fairy tales are rather macabre, at least the original versions are.

  19. I think it’s interesting that Edward Gorey is known for being admired by both children and adults. I think it’s because his artwork has this deceivingly simple appearance, but behind it there’s so much more. What looks like a plain scene, when studied a little closer, is amazingly complex. The way he uses so many lines to make such a big story looks effortless, but I imagine is very painstaking and time consuming in actuality. Another interesting thing about it is that the simplicity of it attracts the adoration of children, but the themes hidden inside are so dark and sinister (e.g. hate from the girl’s family, suicide, etc.) My favorite visual frame in the animation is when she’s sitting there telling the monster how hard her life was, and it was just sitting there and listening so attentively. I think it was really sweet because she had never experienced someone caring about her, but she finally got it from something unexpected: a monster.

    • That’s a good point about how rich and complex the technique is, despite the simple appearance. And he really humanizes the monster, doesn’t he, both by the illustration and the story. In a way, it is the family that are the monsters, he’s the attentive and caring one.

  20. What really interests me about Edward Gorey is that the majority of his works hold extremely dark and slightly horrific subjects, yet each piece is rather enjoyable. I also like the fact that he did things to the scale they would be published in, this I think gave him the option to detail each work that much more. The thing that I most admire about his artwork (and this may sound strange) is when he puts someone in a fur coat into a drawing, I just love the way he draws furs with all the tiny lines, it looks so warm even though its a two inch drawing. My favorite drawing of his does not actually come from anything we are shown on the blog. It comes from a book I had when I was little that was illustrated by Edward Gorey called Cautionary Tales for Children. In one of the stories a naughty boy runs away from his nurse and is eaten by a lion very slowly. What I like about the few illustrations he does for this story is even though it talks about the lion first eating his legs, then torso etc. until it eats the head, it is still a book that kids all over the country have read and these kids aren’t traumatized by it at all. Its just a picture telling a story.

    • I wonder if it helped dissuade you from being naughty as a child. Who would want to be eaten by a lion for such behavior? In the past, people used to tell their children such outlandish things to help discourage bad behavior of course but I think it also fueled their imagination. I admit, I love the fur coats too. It is very Victorian too which fits with the overall mood of his pieces.

  21. What I find interesting about Gorey is that the black and white tones of his work reflect the macabre subject matter. I think if one met him, he would be a reclusive and dark person. I liked the bit int he animation when she’s meeting the monster. The contrast between the dark gray monster and the girl in her white dress was very poignant.

  22. One of the interesting things about Gorey I think is his use of shading to create dimension and shading without any use of color. Another thing that sets him apart is his use of dark comedy in his works. And I think another thing that made him unique was that he incorporated writing into his art. My favorite work of his is the alphabet of children dying in various different ways, because it was so haunting.

  23. Something I found interesting about Gorey’s works is that his work is marketed towards children as dark as it is. It shows just how seriously people took children back then. Another thing I find interesting is his use of extremely dark humor to highlight the world around him and the way he uses lines and cartoons to express that. I like the frame with Feyota’s family because it so clearly characterizes the family that never wanted her and is careful not to demonize them. My favorite work of his is the Gashlycrumb Tinies, because it has a dark sense of humor that makes you both laugh and wonder to yourself if it makes you a bad person for laughing at it, giving a unique, dark insight on our nature.

    • He just died in 2000, so “back then” is not all that long ago. But his works look like they are a lot older because of the pseudo Victorian style that he uses. He certainly makes us think we are looking back into these dark tales. You bring up a good point about the pleasure that his work gives us and the feeling that it may be “guilty” pleasure.

  24. I think that it is very interesting that Gorey is so different than many other people i have learned about or met. I like the name of “ascending peculiarity”, that is the title of his own book about him self. I also like how he “changes” his name to Eduard Blutig in the movie “the tuning fork”. Blutig meens bloody in german, like gorey. This also shows how his thinks across the lines. I think that something probably happened in his life to make him think lots of sad thoughts, and lots of his art that we have seen all seems drab and demure.
    My favorite frame was when fayota was falling down through the water. I found it fascinating because it gave a real sense of weightlessness and quiet, as if she was really falling through water. It seemed to denote a break in the story and a turn from unhappiness to adventure.

    • I love that phrase “ascending peculiarity”. It definitely suits his work. You are not alone in choosing the weightless falling through water scene. The artistry of it appealed to others. Thanks for reminding up of the translation of Blutig, another example of his clever wit.

  25. I think that the most interesting parts of Gorey’s art are how he is able to take characters that you normally wouldn’t like and make them relatable and the main character of the picture, this makes his art more unique and adds the ability to relate to the art. Another thing about his art I like is how he can get his point across while using very simple backgrounds to his drawings which draw your eye to his point he is making in the characters. The third thing I find interesting about Gorey’s art was the titles and or captions he placed on them which makes his message very prevalent in the art like in the picture of the man and the bird drinking tea it says “the top of the zagava tree was frequently were they had tea” this sets the setting and brings the whole piece together. My favorite part of the animation was when the girl was falling because in this drawing he uses the shading and simple lines to create the distinctive background and girl. The fact that she blends into the background with the same type of texture but is still able to be distinguished really fascinates me.

  26. Gorey’s use of continues line is very intriguing because of how well he disguises it which makes objects more aesthetically pleasing. Another aspect of his artwork I enjoy is its randomness. The scene with the bird and man drinking tea together reminds me of black and white Dr. Suess artwork. I also liked Gorey’s ability to create depth only using lines and solid black or white. One thing I found interesting was his dark artwork with the people dying and fall down the stairs etc.

  27. His influences seem to be his childhood, dreams, nature and people. It’s really interesting the way he uses short little lines to create such amazing images that are so simple yet so intriguing. The way he composes his art by placing un-associated characters and objects together in the same piece gives the art an innocent childish look. This is another thing I really enjoy about his art.

  28. What I think is interesting about Gorey’s work is that it’s very morbid but in a children’s book style. I also like that he uses black and white and that’s all he needs. Every stroke of the pen gives character to the subject. Most of the pictures have some sort of movement and the way he draws it is very fluid. I liked the picture with the monsters wing coming out of the bath tub. It was a sweet moment but it was also kind of creepy. I grew up with Shell Silverstein books all over the place so this style of art makes me feel like I’m a little kid again.

  29. Gorey’s work seems to exist in between gothic and nonsense. Shading and much of the narrative produce a distinctly dark tone, but the content and details of his work evoke the childish. This is perhaps best illustrated (pun!) in his treatment of death. In the Tuning Fork, the heroine commits suicide only to “revive” in a sparsely illustrated underwater world. This quasi-death is a characteristic of a child’s understanding of death. The heroine disappears from her former world, but then awakes in a world the same as her own, yet somehow separate. A lack of understanding of death defines innocence; Gorey’s representation makes sense to children and carries an uncanny nostalgia for the initiated.
    A similar treatment of death is found in Gorey’s Epiplectic Bicycle ( It begins auspiciously with the prologue “It was the day before Tuesday and the day after Wednesday.” Again, this inspires the idea of being somewhere familiar, yet existing outside of the mundane. Two children come across “an untenanted bicycle” which carries them on a nonsensical journey. When they return home, they discover a 127 year old memorial to them. Like in the Tuning Fork, the children made a seamless transition from life to death. They disappeared from their former world and travelled to similar, intangibly separate one. Many young children don’t understand death, they just believe their loved one is simply away. I don’t think Gorey is toying with any theology of life after death, just representing a child’s perception of it. His characters don’t go to a better place, just a different one.
    Gorey defies interpretation with the random events of the narrative, indeed, he seems to mock the archetypes of storytelling. A crow foreshadows lamely “beware of this and that.” The pair is threatened by an aligator, a monster which they handily defeat by “kick[ing] it on the end of it’s nose.” They then are almost struck by lightning, an open reference to the classic anointment of fate. Like his depictions of life after death, his stories are familiar, yet unsettlingly different. The gothic and nonsense elements of his books are not at odds with each other; it is the uncanny nonsense of his stories which create the gothic tone. This analogy is carried further with his illustrations which are often realistic except for an odd facial feature or an unaccounted for shadow. The epitome of this technique is in the construction of the titular Epiplectic Bicycle. It appears normal in basic structure, but a quick examination reveals the dysfunctional geometry of the frame. Gorey, simply rotated the classic triangle shape of a bicycle 90 degrees, again making it familiar yet random.
    Like all great children’s book authors he had an element of the innocent himself. He describes himself as “neither [gay nor straight] particularly. I am fortunate in that I am apparently reasonably undersexed or something.” Along with ignorance of death, an ignorance of sex is characteristic of children. It his evocation of the innocent which makes his work so appealing to both children and adults. By weaving the gothic and nonsensical Gorey transports us to world just beyond our own.

    Oh, and I liked picture with the monster.

  30. Edward Gorey’s dark and cynical, yet strangely approachable style is very interesting to me. I think it’s his storybook like drawings that draw us to it, mainly because of its precision and haunting familiarity. Gorey is able to stack so much detail on every page without making it seem cluttered, creating a vibrant picture. My favorite picture was when the girl woke up on the bottom of the ocean. The way Gorey juxtaposes the bright girl and sand beneath her in the foreground with the dark ocean in the background really struck me. The way the ocean is shaded, almost layered, is also very striking.

  31. The three things I found the most interesting were the way he layered his work, the way that events are placed practically at random in his work, and the way he depicts such dark cynicism in his work. As JKSC previously said, his work his oddly familiar but there’s a darker twist, or we feel that something else is at hand under the surface. He strikes at the innocent stigma that would usually come with the image of a child with dark twists of irony that can almost seem to be plucked out of the daydreams we usually prefer not to talk about (girl waking up at the bottom of the ocean, etc..) One of my favorite illustrations he did was “V is for Victor, squashed under a train” which once again strikes at the lollipops and teddybear themes we would usually find in a children’s alphabet storybook.

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