CONTEXT & ANALYSIS
An illustration from The Other Statue by Edward Gorey
Whether or not Gorey’s works were intended for children has long been debated within his cult following. After all, the content can be quite graphic and disturbing. But on the other hand, children have been drawn to dark literature for centuries. There is a sense, in these books, of the cautionary tale, albeit with a nonsensical moral. One can’t help but be reminded of the sort of fairytale where horrible consequences befall disobedient or unpleasant children, or even more frequently, to badly behaved adults.
If we dig down into Gorey’s illustrations seeking moral truths or behavioral codes, we may come up with some sound conclusions, peppered with advice too farfetched or absurd to put into practice:
Avoid eating peaches too quickly, standing on train tracks, drinking unmarked liquids, and being alone in a room with ravenous mice.
His works are a bit like fairytales taken back to their roots, even before the Brothers Grimm, among others, decided they would be an excellent vehicle for moral messages.
In many of the works of this section I’ve borrowed stylistically from Gorey’s heavily crosshatched and stippled pictures. The silkscreen print of the girl in a lattice window incorporates the tedious mark-making, and embellishment. Silkscreen very cleanly reproduces these marks.
I’ve been particularly drawn to the ghastly illustrations of Edward Gorey. He whimsically offs unfortunate children in the form of his sinister alphabet book, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, and terrorizes a household in The Doubtful Guest.
Using text sparingly, he creates dramatic irony, making us privy to the impending doom of the unsuspecting figure. Often he presents the moment just before disaster, allowing the viewer to mentally complete the scene and smirk guiltily at its horrific humor. Dark humor and quiet, unassuming violence often make their way into my own work.
Gorey was heavily influenced by nonsense writers such as Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. He often parodied Lear’s rhyming style in particular. In one interview Gorey said, “There is no sunny nonsense,” by way of explaining his tendency towards the macabre. Kevin Shortsleeve demonstrates this strong foothold in nonsense literature in his essay, “Edward Gorey, Children's Literature, and Nonsense Verse” (found on Project Muse).
However, I found that the techniques of cross hatching and stippling particularly lend themselves to drypoint intaglio. The drypoint print has an atmospheric, foggy quality due to the values produced through the inky printing process. The image of the little man with the birds was produced with this method. He feels much more alive with these added layers of value, and it was pointed out that he looks like he might be about to do something very crude. Stylistically he is not dissimilar to a Terry Gilliam character.
This inspired me to go some animation experimentation.