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The Inspiring Lessons from Edward Gorey

I have a confession to make…

It might shock you to know that up until late 2010/2011, I was not at all familiar with the works of Edward Gorey (Gasp!). I wasn’t even really thinking about drawing back then. I was at the infancy of my artistic journey as a writer/illustrator.

As I slowly explored the world picture books, I looked at various artists and simply happen to encounter the wonderful works of Gorey. I was obsessed at the line art, the macabre Victorian settings and intricate details of his unique style. Gorey’s artistic influence on many of today’s artists is huge. But there are practical lessons in his artistic life that we can learn from…

Lesson #1 Edward Gorey had Insane Work Ethic

A quick look at his repertoire as an author/illustrator, one can easily be impressed by his long list of completed works. His projects span over 100 books, not including his illustration pieces for various authors (H.G. Wells, Charles Dickens, Edward Lear just to name a few) and in publications such as The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Such work ethic is quite admirable and something that all artists should aspire to. Not all of his books were a best seller, but he followed his heart. He had a story to tell and he went for it.

Lesson #2 He Tried New Things

Edward Gorey was always trying new ways of telling story. His books portray a range of emotions from obnoxious, humorous, scary, unusual and even quiet. Some of his works could even be considered experimental and would be labeled as non-sense. But this didn’t stop him from trying it out and seeing where it would go. Today, we often find ourselves filtered to produce for a specific genre or market and we may hide everything else from public view. We may be denying ourselves and our fans something exciting, surprising and out of the box.

He also worked in set and costume design for many theater productions as well as television shows, showcasing his skill in a different medium.

Varying ones artistic passion into different channels can keep us fresh and a give us new perspective. Sure, it might be scary at first, but it will help us grow as a creative. Many artists will stick to what is “hot” in the current marketplace and everyone ends up having the same look or style. We should always try new things and never fear failure.

EDWARDGOREYLesson #3 His work transcended all age groups

Since the beginning of my artistic career, I’ve always gravitated to Children’s Picture Books. But today’s children’s picture books are different from the children’s books of long ago. For example, Gorey’s books although called Children’s books may not actually even fit into today’s classification of a Children’s book. His macabre style, dark humor, and portrayal of death could easy be considered too dark for today’s kids. His famous Gashlycrumb Tinies, an alphabet book, was quite popular & entertaining, but maybe not for everyone.

But even in this case, his artwork and stories spoke to so many people that it transcended these challenges. He eventually created more “adult” focused works for a different audience, but at first glance could easily be mistaken as a children’s book. Categorization didn’t matter so much as. His fans would simply say, “This is a Gorey book and we want it.”

One can only hope to achieve a litany of work that can be interesting to all-ages and stand the test of time.


I hope you enjoyed this post. If you like Edward Gorey, macabre fairytales or haunted houses…. then you’ll probably like my new picture book THE STUMPS OF FLATTOP HILL. Watch the trailer and get the book, available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other book retailers.


 The Stumps of Flattop Hill – A Macabre Children’s Fairytale Picture Book

Buy The Children’s Fairytale The Stumps of Flattop Hill here


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