Tim Burton – Art and Influence



I went to see the Tim Burton exhibit at TIFF Lightbox back in 2011 and it was great. It was a Valentines date night actually.

There were a lot of cool pieces on display. A lot of Burton’s early work, notebook sketches and unfinished business. Movie props. Black light sculptures. Black and white stripes, of course.

Two things really stuck in my memory from the exhibit. First, there was a giant wall listing all of the projects Tim Burton ever worked on throughout his career.



There were approximately a ZILLION projects listed. Out of them, only a few ever came to fruition. And even fewer were any kind of success.

It reminded me that to be truly successful you have to get really comfortable with failure. Success isn’t doing everything right the first time; success is continuing to work hard no matter how many setbacks you face.

There are going to be times when you make something great and nobody notices, and there will be times you do something awful and everyone sees it. The point is that you keep creating, keep doing what you do, and don’t let discouragement keep you from starting the next project.

Like a lot of Burton fans I’ve been more than a little disappointed with some of his more recent work, but I figure at this point what he does with his talent is his business. If I had studios throwing me mad cash to play dress up with my best pal Johnny Depp and have tons of fun making terrible movies I’d probably take them up on it too.

The other thing that stood out at the exhibit was this:

EdwardScissorhandsCostumeImage from The Spooky Vegan’s review of the Tim Burton exhibit

What is it about this costume from Edward Scissorhands (1990) that is so gorgeous? It’s like a Frankenstein patchwork – random elements of industry and artistry, haphazardly thrown together into something that looks like post-apocalyptic bondage gear gone horribly wrong.

On one hand, it’s interesting that such a gentle, soft-spoken character carries an outfit that looks dark and sinister even without the blades for fingers. But it’s the suit of an underdog, like the opposite of a super hero costume, and in that way it’s very fitting for Edward Scissorhands.


If you like Tim Burton’s work, I recommend you check out these two artists.


Edward Gorey

Edward Gorey had an enormous influence on Burton’s style.


You can read The Gashlycrumb Tinies on Brain Pickings. It’s an alphabet book, so a short read, I promise.


You might have seen Gorey’s work at the beginning of Mystery on PBS:


And his drawings were the inspiration for Trent Reznor’s Perfect Drug video:


Ken Turner

Ken Turner is a Canadian artist and animator who loves all things Burton. He illustrates weird and wonderful characters, and he’s made some great animated films, including Attack of the Giant Vegetable Monsters (2006) and this homage to Tim Burton, undoubtedly inspired by Vincent (1982), Burton’s own homage to Vincent Price:



Check out more of Ken Turner’s work on his blog and online portfolio.




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