Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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The Art of David Burton
Copyright © 2001, 2002
David Burton was born with the artistic spark. He has been drawing, painting, and sketching, using any materials that were within his reach, for as long as he can remember. David's artistic inspirations and attention to detail are driven by a sense of reality and logic (and research) to make every image, character, animal, terrain, or machine work, real or fictional. Available for special commissions and projects. Burton has a limited number of previous illustrations for sale as laser prints. For pricing and availablity inquire via email or postal mail. Originals for the Mars series are not yet available. Best contact is: xxxx@xxxx (deceased) or at:
EDITOR'S NOTE: Contact info has been removed. David passed away in 2011.
In March of 2002 my good friend Bob Zeuschner sent an email with a sample image attached by an artist embarking on illustrating A Princess of Mars for a fanzine (Strange Worlds, see below). The image "John and Woola" grabbed my attention and interest at first viewing and is just one of the amazing graphics below. The artist, David Burton, has an intriguing vision of life on Barsoom--the characters, creatures, and the planet. David and I exchanged a few emails, then exchanged a few phone calls and the result is the David Burton Art page.
Burton seems determined to illustrate ERB's Barsoom in ways that borrow not from the efforts of previous illustrators like J Allen St. John, John Coleman Burroughs, Frank Frazetta, Roy G. Krenkel Jr. and a host of others (who all, at one time or another, copied each other). David's vision of Barsoom is a more earthy approach, yet fully carries the thrill of adventure and excitement Burroughs words have given millions of readers world wide. More importantly Burton's scenes embrace A Princess of Mars as comfortably as one embraces an old friend. He portrays what might be the real life of Barsoom's inhabitants in moments of adventure, danger, or tenderness.
The artist has obviously long considered the physiology of Barsoomian creatures. His calot is not a "Shetland Pony with a Frog Face" but is a sinuous creature of terrible devastation fully as powerful and unafraid as the Orca of our oceans--which attack anything, including Great White Sharks and Sperm Whales, and usually win!
Burton's Tharks exhibit the artist's desire to understand the functioning of alien lifeforms. His attention to detail is refreshing, not only to the vague descriptions provided by Burroughs in the text of A Princess of Mars but to the logical physical physiology and simple mechanics of action and range of motion. His image "The Kiss" illustrates in more detail Burton's desire to present Tharks as living beings.
I could continue to gush, but it would be best to let David Burton's images speak for themselves. We have a new kid on the block and I predict David Burton will soon loom large as an illustrator!
David Bruce Bozarth
Click any image for a detailed view and use your browser's BACK button to return to this page then read reviews by David Adams and Bob Zeuschner! The comments below in Italics are those of the artist:
LEFT: In this piece, Sola's parents kiss, something I don't think anyone has done before. I had built busts to help with reference for the various creatures, as I mentioned when we talked by telephone. When it came to creating this image I took two busts (one male and one female) and tried to make it work without looking comical. The only way I could do this was to interlock the tusks. I found that this pose makes this gesture of affection between two Tharks more binding, something that is more intimate.
RIGHT: This is the piece that I did of Sola's mother, off on her own enjoying the moons of Mars. Not from the book exactly, but I felt that it was something that should be done. (Note: this image was used as the cover for the Strange Worlds fanzine where Burton is illustrating POM in serial presentation, see below for details for information to subscibe to Strange Worlds.)
Readers of Barsoom know that Sola's mother is an extraordinary Thark female, perhaps more extraordinary than her famous mate Tars Tarkas. Burton has captured the affection and melacholy aspect of Sola's mother, a tragic character served ill by the jealousy of Sarkoja, the green Martian culture, and the extraordinary lack of courage of one of Barsoom's mightiest warriors. Tars Tarkas never publicly proclaimed his love regarding the mother of his child.
Where does "reader," "fan," or "artist" demark? David is obviously a reader and fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs' eleven novel saga of Barsoom (Mars). David has focused on Burroughs as a visionary as well as storyteller. Great effort has been extended towards detailing the areonautical technology of Barsoom that ERB described. In the Artist's words: The one thing that I didn't want to do is make these (airships) into floating sailing ships. I wanted to stay as true as possible to how ERB described them.
This is John Carter's view of Dejah Thoris's airship after it has been sacked by the Tharks, set afire and set off to its end.
Burroughs readers will relate to the enormity of this image. An entire crew of Helium warriors perished during this savage exchange of combat. The Princess was captured, the warriors died, and a crippled (dying) ship of Helium drifts into the distance. Other artists of Barsoom focus on Dejah Thoris in her (naked) beauty after her capture by Tharks; yet that image is something overdone in this reviewer's opinion. The visualization of the airship speaks greater volumes regarding Burton's depiction of the deadly aspects of life on Barsoom.
Two views of the artist's creative process: The Sketch followed by The Result. Burton's reading of A PRINCESS OF MARS evoked a wonder of the dead cities.
One of the dead cities that John Carter passes with the Tharks. I wanted something lonely and sad, thus I threw out my original ideas of setting this scene during the day. That's a statue of a Banth in the foreground. To help judge just how big this is, note the pillars in the front of it, once part of an elaborate walkway. This is the sketch for the Martian Dead City painting. Some of the details not shown in this were added later in the painting stage.
Sola. With this, note that my female Tharks have tusks that curve closer together in the front of the face. The backs of their heads is smaller and comes to a pointed end. The males tusks are more straighter and the backs of their heads is rounded and the overall shape of the male head is slightly larger.
Burton has expressed the ordinary obvious in this observation. There are subtle differences between males and females, regardless of species. Burroughs indicated these subtle differences in the text of A PRINCESS OF MARS. Burton, unlike the many previous illustrators of Barsoom creatures (green Martians in particular) has provided a graphic reality regarding the physiology of male and female green Martians. More bluntly stated (PG13) green Martian females do not have breasts.
The "humor" regarding this striking image can only be appreciated by reading Edgar Rice Burroughs' A PRINCESS OF MARS. Sarkoja in a more happy moment, one where she isn't plotting against others... She isn't evil, she's just really, really, bad.
The following speaks both artistically and eloquently:
Woola. I have to say that I felt drawn to this character, who is just as important as any of the others in the Mars series. I fought with several designs before settling on this one. Some had teeth sticking out of his mouth and some had them sticking out of his lower jaw. Once his mouth is opened, his teeth are like those of a sharks. As a tribute to Pima, a pygmy goat who lives with the seven llamas my wife and I care for, I based Woola's eyes on his. In many ways, Pima reminds me very much of Woola.
John Carter: John Carter. I went through a lot of ideas for him before settling on a friend of mine, actor/model Steve Holland. Steve was Flash Gordon in a poorly done television show during the 1950's. He's best known for his modeling jobs, where he posed for just about every artist and publisher from the late 1950's until his retirement in the early 1990's at the age of 67. He had a great physique and could out pose anyone at any time during his long career. Steve is best known for being the model for Bantam Books Doc Savage series. I didn't want a bodybuilder or young male "star" type. Steve had heroic looks and this is my tribute to him. The body of John Carter is based, in part, on Tarzan, Frank Merrill, only with better leg development. Steve passed away in 1997.
"One chieftain alone had hesitated before departing; I saw him standing in the shadows of a mighty column, his fingers nervously toying with the hilt of his great-sword and his cruel eyes bent in implacable hatred upon Tal Hajus. It was Tars Tarkas, and I could read his thoughts as they were an open book for the undisguised loathing upon his face. He was thinking of that other woman who, forty years ago, had stood before this beast, and could I have spoken a word into his ear at that moment the reign of Tal Hajus would have been over; but finally he also strode from the room, not knowing that he left his own daughter at the mercy of the creature he most loathed." A Princess of Mars
The above is my first painting of Tars Tarkas. I didn't put a lot of detail into this as that the character was in shadow and I wanted to go for mood.
At right we see John Carter leaping in the air as he fights one of the Tharks that killed his Thoat (laying in the background). Like every Barsoomian artist from St. John to Frazetta David Burton explores the extraodinary physical capabilities of John Carter on Barsoom. Carter is in displayed in mid-leap, a leap which is impossible on Earth. Burton's image of Carter in combat is different from previous artists because his green martian's expression indicates astonishment, and perhaps the full realization of his impending doom!
Columnist at ERBmania!
David Burton's Barsoom Art
Edgar Rice Burroughs created fantasy worlds populated with people and creatures who held our interest page after page, and book after book. Two of ERB's fantasy realms dominate--Tarzan in an Africa that never was, Barsoom, which may or may not be the red planet Mars. Both realms have intrigued readers for almost a century, and have inspired numerous professional and amateur artists ever since 1914. Tarzan's Africa is filled with beasts and men we recognize easily; however, Barsoom is filled with beasts and men unknown to anyone who hasn't read the author's eleven Mars novels--banths, calots, tharks, and the fearsome white apes; descriptions of which inspired many great artists like J. Allen St. John, Frank Frazetta, Roy Krenkel, and others.
Previous artists of Barsoom generally illustrated those times of peak action, greatest tension, and fiercest battles. David Burton's art of Barsoom portrays the tharks and the settings, but presents a viewpoint coming from a different physical perspective. Burton's deserted cities are dimly illuminated by one or both moons, envisioned differently from the past artists. We instantly know the hug John Carter gives to Woola in Princess of Mars is a moment of high intensity, but to the best of my knowledge has not been done so beautifully before. The burning flyer drifting towards the ground is another classic image from the Mars books. We have never had a pensive Sola, a scheming Sarkoja, or a glimpse into the personal lives of Tars Tarkas and Sola's mother. Burton has ventured into this uncharted territory and done so with confidence and skill.
Mr. Burton's considerable artistic talents are easily recognizable. He has worked hard to make Barsoom a fantasy realm which is really inhabitable and he has chosen perspectives and scenes overlooked by artists past, but should never have been missed.
For me, the artistic depiction of Barsoom has never been a question of one artist is right and the others are wrong. I treasure every contribution to the visualization of one of my all-time favorite places. Mr. Burton's artwork is not only skillful, it is a wonderful contribution to the depiction of Barsoom by one who reads the books and loves the realms. My thanks to David Burton for taking the time and energy to lovingly recreate Barsoom one more time, and doing it in a truly original way.
David "Nkima" Adams
Columnist at ERBmania!
Looking through this new portfolio
I find much of interest
And things of whimsy that remind me
of Brian Froud.
Large-eyed aliens flirt seductively,
None fierce or frightening;
A sentimental sorcery displaces swords.
David Burtonís work has a monumental presence,
Sculptural, hard-edged, bronzed,
As though every thing he touches
turns to metal.
These Barsoomian drawings carry the
That one often feels in the work of
Edís famous son,
Solid shapes that seem to rotate
under your view.
Itís hard to judge a manís work
By a handful of pieces executed for
a specific purpose,
But I find Burton to be a lover
One who is familiar with Burroughs
In a friendly way, and yet the headless
Slouches toward the possibility of
That may yet be born in his work
And turn those graceful green men
Into monsters that laugh at pain.
Certainly I liked Burtonís work.
He is a skilled artisan and kind.
Carter hugs Woola tenderly,
Yet I wonder if the hint of a tooth
Might have been welcome after all,
Or the tail of an Ulsio hanging
from the calotís mouth.
I know that in the entwined tusks
of a kiss
Ivory grates upon ivory,
And below, that naked arm clutches
a blade of death.
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