The World of Tim Burton
This Christmas I was fortunate to have my family stay in Tokyo with me over the festive period. One of the events pencilled in was The World of Tim Burton Exhibition at the Mori Arts Centre Gallery in Roppongi Hills, Tokyo. I read about this exhibition about 5 years ago when it was held in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition was attended by record breaking crowds and it received top reviews. Like many artists with extensive careers, Burton has been involved in so diversely different projects in genre and context. I wouldn’t say I am the biggest Tim Burton fan but there are some projects which I have been drawn to purely because of the concept, subject matter, character design or theme. We planned to go Saturday, December 27th. For an exhibition that started November 1st, I felt and hoped there would be no record breaking crowds and that Tim would not be in attendance. However, we still had to queue for over an hour to get in! I should have learned by now; never go to events at the weekend in Tokyo; it’s very likely that 10 million people will be in the queue with you! Below: Tim Burton exhibition entrance and poster. Notice the expressionistic interior entrance.
The exhibition was very extensive and was divided up into sections. The artwork exhibited spans over four decades. I was amazed by the amount of drawings and illustrations exhibited. Burton has been so proactive, I thought. Each section was based on a theme or project which customized the spectator’s viewing preferences. For me, I mainly wanted to view his early work, influences, inspirations, horror drawings, doodles on napkins and the work which learned heavily on German Expressionism influences (i.e. mise-en-scenes of Edward Scissorhands and Batman). Below: Alice in Wonderland and Edward Scissorhands sketches.
From his early work (16-26 yrs old), you could see how his future projects would take shape. Clowns, monsters, horror characters and bug-eyed people are predominantly his main interest. The children’s book writers Rohald Dahl and the cartoonist Dr Suess (Theodor Geisel) are noticeable early influences, especially the use of anapaest style of poetry; a very characteristic element of the Dr Suess children’s books which Burton mimics in his early work. Below: The Boy with Nails in his Eyes and The Queen of Cydonia
Some of my favourite work is The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories. The illustrations are a mix of satire, black humour and misunderstood characters in the form of a monster/alien-like creatures. Viewing these original drawings on scraps of ripped paper, complete with smudging, scribbles and construction lines, I found all very engaging. I got a lot from this exhibition, even his unrealized projects. A wealth of art which didn’t even make pre-production. Great exhibition and a nice way to round off the year.
Heat, Light and Shadow (2014) 117 drawings approx
Demons of the Mind (2014) 135 drawings approx
My Graphics B.A. (Hons) program at the The University of the West of England offered modular courses in Year 1 and 2. The modules are designed to develop the student in areas which would be beneficial in their self-directed project in Year 3. As I had a project in mind involving film and animation for Year 3, it was necessary for me to become accustomed to working with sound. The sound modules enabled me to experiment creatively and explore different possibilities. The more I experimented, the more ideas were generated. A Play Without Words: The Suicide was a sound module project in Year 1. The project had to be under 1 minute in duration, voices could be recorded though not in dialogue form. The process of the assignment made me consider the following questions: How is the suicide committed? Which sounds/ sound bites will be used bites? How much time is needed recording outdoor ambience’s? Which sound effects should I employ? In which order will I use the sounds? At which points should the audio levels be high/low? Do I want the listener to understand what is happening? Will my concepts be too abstract or pretentious? The process allowed me to be creative, original and audacious. I could learn how sounds worked together. Also, there were times when I created new sounds accidentally. Smooth transitions from one sound to another were very challenging and often frustrating. Too much going on at once would end up as a cacophony of disorder. By the end of the first sound module I had taken a lot of notes which helped me reflect on how I worked through the process. The experience gained from the modules and my reflective diary became invaluable to me when working on a rotoscope project in Year 3.
Rotoscoping involves the process of drawing on film. A lot of early Disney films were rotoscoped and more recent examples can be seen in Richard Linklater’s work. He employed the rotoscoping technique in films such as Waking Life (2001) and A Scanner Darkly (2006).
The first time I used this technique was when making a short film called The Duellists in my final year at university. The process- Initially, I shot about 9 minutes of footage on Super 8 film then transferred the 8mm film onto a camcorder. After editing ,the film was about 4 minutes long. To animate, my portable 14″ TV was placed face up on the carpet while I positioned myself over the TV with pen and paper. An animator’s peg bar was cello taped to one side of the screen to ensure that the paper would always be placed in exactly the same position. I drew about 3 frames every second. As you can see it’s VERY jerky! I can still vividly remember the laborious process of clicking the VHS frame counter every time I drew a frame. By the end of the week the VHS player was seriously damaged the and tape was just one big glitch. At the time I never contemplated making the sequel for sanity reasons! All in all, it took around 700 drawings before being shot under an old EOS stop frame camera. The sound score is mainly Morricone, though I used soundbites from other well-known films. Looking back at this animation 18 years on, the work employs the same principles as DIY punk ethics. Basically, a heap of shoddy charcoal drawings awkwardly mashed together. The result being a confusing manic montage. After editing the rotoscoped version, it was whittled down to 2:32 seconds in duration. I still have the Super 8 footage-for a future project, I intend to make a digital version of The Duellists.
During a college trip to Amsterdam in 1992, I visited the Stedelijk museum. The museum has a wealth of modern and contemporary art. It was here that I first viewed many works of the Expressionist art movement. While at college I had only read about painters such as Kandinsky, Kirchner and Schiele. However, to see their work in a museum made a big impact on me. At the time, I was particularly interested in German and Austrian Artists especially the figurative work. I was fascinated by how figurative forms were almost caracturesque by appearance; their features distorted and elongated. For me, this approach was so visually engaging. By contrast, my drawings and paintings were still very much representational, photographic looking and flat. I was usually too over-concerned about ‘correctness’ and my approach being very tentative when marking a mark on the paper. I was very inspired after the trip to Amsterdam. I began researching more into Expressionism. For example, the Die Brucke artists and Austrian Secessionism. The Expressionism movement had an overwhelming effect on my figurative drawings and also broadened my horizons in my approach to drawings in general. As a result, my drawings became very linear and outlines were much bolder than before. I was increasingly looking at ways to exaggerate forms with more intensity. When assembling work for entrance to university, the series of self-portraits drawn in conte (below) were very much the spine of my portfolio.
Self-Portrait Series 1993 (Conte on paper)