Edward Gorey: 8 Elements of his Unique Cats Illustrations

Edward Gorey — an American writer and artist noted for his hundreds of illustrated books. His illustration makes us feel unsteady just like the reality. Chilly and eerie sensation remains, but you would find yourself addicted to his world. In his works, none of the cats take a nasty knock contrary to children. Oh, there’s one exception, a cat in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats is hit with a thunderbolt, which turned into world-famous musical Cats.

Edward Gorey with one of many practical cats.

Edward Gorey with one of many practical cats (Pinterest)

Edward Gorey’s…

Table of Content

  1. Style
  2. Sense of Freedom
  3. Uncertainty
  4. Practical Cats
  5. Journey
  6. Meaning of Life
  7. What’s Real?
  8. Two Essential Things in Life

1. Style

edward gorey, cats dancing on the rope

Edward Gorey, cats dancing on the rope (Dexter Patch)

I don’t think anything might have been. What is, is.

His signature style is black-and-white drawings at the intersection of the macabre and the whimsical. His illustration doesn’t let you stay in dreamland where is only full of goodies. The expectation or distorted perspective make you look things in an absurd way.

He experimented on creating books that were wordless, books that were literally matchbox-sized, pop-up books, books entirely populated by inanimate objects, which was taken as surrealism art. He once said, Ideally, if anything were any good, it would be indescribable.

2. Sense of Freedom

“Macavity: The Mystery Cat”, from T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, illustration by Edward Gorey (1982)

“Macavity: The Mystery Cat”, from T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, illustration by Edward Gorey (1982) (Barbaro Mahony)

I really think I write about everyday life. I don’t think I’m quite as odd as others say I am. Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.

Children’s picture books are full of conventional teachings, which kids may be fed up with. In Gorey’s books, tons of children dies in eerie ways. You may wanna call it unjust or nonsense. But is life ever reasonable or making sense all the time to you?

He illustrates things as it is and that strikes us. And anyone can feel kind confinement of society can feel a sense of freedom from his illustration because it shows anything can happen. He doesn’t make readers act or think in a certain way. That’s one of the beauties of his works.

Cat Illustration by Makoto Sakuma: Cats in Retro Future

3. Uncertainty

A falling cat in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

A falling cat in Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by Gorey (brainpickings)

Cats and his story have a lot in common. Uncertainty, unpredictable and unreasonable.

If one can find the idea of trying to make a sense out of everything is nonsense, she is free. You can’t predict what a cat do in the next moment.

Life is full of uncertainty, you don’t know what would happen next. And that is life. Gorey is showing us that there are dangers in every moment in everyday life.

Louis Wain: The Man Who Drew Cats

4. Practical Cats

Cover of Old Possums’ Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot

Old Possums’ Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot (School Library Journal)

Gorey illustrated a book of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats of 1982 Edition[2], originally illustrated by the author himself. T.S. Eliot is often regarded as the most important English-language poet of the 20th century.

In the 1930s, Eliot wrote a series of letters to his godchildren, under his assumed name “Old Possum”. He included a handful of whimsical poems about feline psychology and sociology in those letters which eventually published in 1939.

Gorey’s illustration shows us eloquently about cat psychology and sociology based on his experiences and observations with his cats. This book inspired the musical Cats to be born.

Musical Cats: Angelic Voice Revives the Legendary Musical

5. Journey

A cat looking out the window from a room with tons of books in the shelves

A cat looking out the window (Pinterest)

My favorite journey is looking out the window.

If taking a journey is about acquiring different perspective about life, you can go on the journey in your home. According to Gorey, the world is full of dangers, he couldn’t understand why people ever want to climb the Mount Everest.

His behavioral psychology is unique. It somehow resembles cat behavior. They are the genius at finding something new every day in the same environment. His own imagination and creation could take him anywhere and surely do with his readers.

6. The Meaning of Life?

Edward Gorey and his feline menagerie

Edward Gorey and his feline menagerie (FULL STOP)

When people are finding meaning in things — beware.

You should know there is no meaning attached to anything… until you give it. Is there any meaning for a living? Yes and no. Meaning is a reasoning. It all depends on your perspective.

Anything you have been told by your parents, teachers or friends, have no meaning if you don’t accept it. You don’t have to follow anyone’s reasoning unless you think it’s right.

Oh, by the way, Gorey more than once said he liked cats more than people. He considered them his family. We don’t doubt it.

7. What’s Real?

T. S. Eliots Iconic Vintage Verses About Cats, Illustrated and Signed by Edward Gorey

T. S. Eliots Iconic Vintage Verses About Cats, Illustrated and Signed by Edward Gorey (Pinterest)

There are so many things we’ve been brought up to believe that it takes you an awfully long time to realize that they aren’t you.

The answer is there is no real. Things just happen. 100 witness testify 100 versions of the incident. And their testimony can change in time as their memory decay or change without one knowing it. And that is natural. The truth is, we are animals who try to survive. That’s all.

The truth is, we are animals who try to survive. That’s all. And we are pretty much social animal with verbal language which makes things complicated.

8. Only Two Essential Things in Life

Books. Cats. Life is Good.

Cat reading a book...?

Antiquarian Cat Reading (GOREY ANA)

Gorey is an illustrator of Stephen King. You don’t agree with me? Gorey shows us what we want to see. What we want to see something taken as wired and creepy we may have not so much chance to see in our daily lives.

He satisfies our need of getting away from ethic and norm. And endlessly stimulates our curiosity[1], what’s in it? We are fortunate to have his books to have our value to be questioned and entertained all at the same time.

Reference

Edward Gorey
 7 Obscure Children’s Books by Authors of Grown-Up Literature (brainpickings)
 Cats (Cats the Musical)
 Cats The Musical 2016 (Cats The Musical)
 Every quotes in this article:
 Edward Gorey > Quotes (goodreads)

Related Articles

[1]Spark Curiosity by Cat: Curiosity-driven Creature

Musical Cats: Angelic Voice Revives the Legendary Musical
 Cat Illustration by Makoto Sakuma: Cats in Retro Future
 Louis Wain: The Man Who Drew Cats


Originally published at Johnny Times.

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