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Portraiture That Terrifies: The Work of Ally Burke

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Among the Draculas, Wolfmen, and Frankenstein’s Monsters of the world you will come across Virginia-based Ally Burke’s even scarier creations. Wrought with sunken skin and razor sharp teeth, Ally’s work somehow creates strikingly creepy creatures whilst also calling back to all that we’ve come to associate with Halloween.

“the halloween moon”

Ally (a.k.a FunnySkullGrin) has been exhibiting work since 2014 and has all but cornered the market on eerie, illustrative portraiture. Rather than looking as though they have been caught in motion, her monstrous mistresses all seem to have been meticulously posed by some ghoul off-screen. Their eyes (and eyes and eyes and eyes…) are often set deep into their skulls with prominent shadows and delicate lines.

“hand with skullflowers”

Ally’s character designs are uniquely beautiful; the eyes of her ghastly creatures stare out from their canvases at anyone who dares to peer in at them. Unarguably, it is the way that Ally plays with these eyes, sometimes multiplying them by the tens or combining them into one large, daunting orb that play the most important role in the horror of her pieces. Her work is so recognizable, so human shaped, that it’s hard to imagine not approaching one of her characters from behind, mistaking her for a friend from down the hall, until you are suddenly gazing into one dozen sets of pupils.

“bright monsters”


“space demons”

It is this resemblance to our world that makes Ally’s work so very striking. There is a familiar body language to all of her portraiture work. Slunk shoulders, smoothed hair, and gazes directed squarely towards the viewer reign supreme in this collection of work. Flipping through mid-20th century high school yearbooks would surely evoke the same level of nostalgia. That is, with fewer razorblade incisors and liquified eyeballs (probably).

“comprehensive eye care”

The backgrounds and clothing in Ally’s work feature playful patterns and classically Halloween coloring. This balances the body horror present with a world that feels almost playful, allowing Ally’s creatures to exist in space. These girls appear to live in a world that is cartoonishly spooky. They sport dresses covered in UFOs and pose in front of clouds with thin, goofy frowns.

“cosmic coffins”

Ally experiments with a multitude of mediums to create the visual treat that is her artwork. Her work is created on canvas and wood, with acrylic paint, ink, and shapes cut from recycled paper.

“halloween blossoms: witch moon”

While her paintings are bold and expressive, her drawings are delicate and bright. Her linework is excitingly intricate, the composition of her inkwork creating subjects in mythic motion or moments of utter delight. Though much simpler than her paintings, Ally’s drawings are no less creative. Slime drips from disembodied heads and candy corn takes the place of sharpened fangs.

“cavity melt girls”

Truly, there is no artist quite like Ally Burke. She is so willing to play with shapes and color, to experiment with recognizable forms in exciting and unnerving ways. She has created a world that calls to us. We at Dear Darkling are longtime fans of her work and can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

Follow her Tumblr, Instagram, or Twitter here or visit her website for her full public portfolio.

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About The Author

Liah Paterson is a Queens-based freelance illustrator. She spends her days polishing up her knowledge of occult objects, destroying canvases, and trying to coax her cats into liking her. Her apartment is filled with piles of books, sculptures, and paintings of disembodied hands, and a partner who plays scary video games for her so she can watch them like movies. Find her on Instagram (@atenderwitch) or on her website (

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