Term: 2 Year: 2011
In 2010, The Peninsula School’s Year 8 English and Art faculty teams combined to develop an engaging
learning unit on Tim Burton’s unique style of writing, cinematography and artwork.
The catalyst to this unit was last year’s stunning Tim Burton Exhibition held at Melbourne’s
Australian Centre for the Moving Image [ACMI]. Teachers should access the ACMI website for an array of
excellent online resources including interviews with Burton and ideas for classroom learning.
Students became aware of Burton’s writing, artwork and cinematography. Recommended starting points were the
movies Edward Scissorhands  or The Nightmare before Christmas  but shorter movies such as Vincent 
and The World of Stain Boy  were more time efficient for the classroom. Students discussed Burton’s
imagery and style. They collected images of Burton’s work, glued them into their visual diaries and
annotated them. Students tried to draw in a method similar to Burton’s. Features of Burton’s style
include fine pen and ink drawing. Subjects were anthropomorphic creatures, wide- eyed humans with crazy hair
sticking out at all angles, graveyard scenes, rooms with tilted tiled floors, staircases, looming shadows, haunted
houses…everything a soul searching Year 8 student could ever want to identify with!
Students were encouraged to develop a folio of 4 different Burton inspired pieces using a range of media and
subjects for each piece. The Peninsula School students produced a variety of artwork and writing which included
poems, character studies, prints, drawings, paintings, models and Disturbia Windows:
Students drew a dark and lonely Tim Burton styled human character. They created their own rather than directly
copying one of Burton’s. The character was drawn small. Practise sketches were made in visual diaries
until the drawing was finalised. The final copy was worked in black felt tipped marker and was drawn in the middle of
an A4 piece of Cartridge paper. This was then photocopied onto the centre of an A4 acetate sheet using the bypass
tray in the photocopier.
The students were supplied with thick A4 pieces of black card. They were shown how to safely use a Stanley knife
on a cutting board. They drew an irregular window shape in the centre of the card using a pencil and a steel ruler.
They cut out the window using the Stanley knives and steel rulers on the cutting boards.
The background scene was executed on A4 sized Cartridge paper. We discussed creating “disturbed”
environments. We looked at techniques used by Burton such as masses of concentric circles and spirals drawn on
coloured backgrounds. Other ideas were using found papers, stained newspaper, straw blown ink and bubble prints
[captured from ink and detergent blown through a plastic straw]. Strong colours were best.
Students trimmed around the edges of the acetate sheet and the “disturbia” background and used masking
tape to secure them to the inside of the black cardboard window.
The work was displayed and used as a catalyst
for creative writing.
Visual Art Teacher
Suitable for Level 8