Research Point – Odilon Redon

Odilon Redon (April 20, 1840 – July 6, 1916), started drawing as a young boy, and was awarded a prize for drawing at school at the age of 10. At 15 years of age, at his father’s insistence, he took up formal architectural studies, but failed to pass his entrance exams at Paris ‘Ecole des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts). On return to Bordeaux he took up sculpture, and also etching and lithography under the instruction of Rodolphe Bresdin.

Threw his early career he continued to work almost exclusively in black and white, in lithographs and charcoal drawings right into his 50s. These drawings became known as his Blacks ‘Les Noirs’. He developed an extremely unique repertoire of weird subjects such as strange creatures, insects and plants with human heads on; these subjects were often influenced by the writings of Edgar Allen Poe.

In 1975 he studied trees and the Underwood at Barbizon in North-Central France, the same year saw his Blacks reached the ‘Most distressed period’ with him often depicting the topic of prisoners in his works, appearing behind the bars of windows or isolated in a nightmare or hallucination. Has he said about his Noirs “They were executed in hours of sadness and pain”.

From the 1890s due to illness and a religious crisis which transformed into a happier person he began to use  pastels and oils, expressing himself with use of vibrant colour, creating works that depicted mythical scenes and flower paintings. Odilon abandoned his Noirs completely after 1900.

He always remained a fairly private person but the end of his life he became a rather distinguished figure with various awards and recognitions and was also regarded by the surrealists to be one of the forefathers of the surrealist movement (I was almost certain that it was going to say this in at least one of the online biographies as I began to look at his works.)

http://www.odilonredon.net/biography.html

http://www.odilon-redon.org/biography.html

http://www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/redon/

http://www.escapeintolife.com/essays/odilon-redon-prince-of-dreams/

http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=4840

I had never heard of this artist until I was asked to research him but I’m glad I got the chance to do so. It was good to get a chance to see all his paintings side by side and to see how his works changed over the years, rollercoastering in and out of an often dominating dark mood until his change in mediums in the 1890s. I found a lot of his images disturbing and quite a lot of the hybrid characters made me feel uncomfortable like ‘The Egg’. However I was inspired by some of his darker works like ‘The Convict’; since my childhood I have often tried to put something similar down on paper but never got around to it.

The Egg, Odilon Redon 1885
The Egg, Odilon Redon 1885

I find a lot of his works interesting and could probably gain inspiration and ideas from them. Although I would find it hard to bare my emotions like he did, for all to see I quite often like to depict some of my innermost feelings and beliefs into my work and will continue to do so.

The Convict, Odilon Redon 1881
The Convict, Odilon Redon 1881
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Basic Shapes and Fundamental Forms 3 – Supermarket Shop

I originally wanted to do this exercise as quickly and as simply as possible, but then turned into something that I needed, a practise for using different medium.

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I did a practise drawing in charcoal pencil rather than graphite, I probably should have sketched it out in pencil first to see if it fit on the paper as I lost the top of the box of baby food but it felt good to do something completely in charcoal.

1st rawing with charcoal and Pencil
1st rawing with charcoal and Pencil

I wanted to produce the finish drawing in watercolour pencil, but I needed to get work up some confidence as I had never used watercolour pencils before so did an initial drawing in ordinary colour pencils, and I’m glad I did as it taught me a few crucial lessons.

1. I would never buy any drawing tools made in Thailand again, the leads kept breaking.

2. Next time I produce a colour pencil drawing to use paper with less tooth, rough paper is hard for blending.

3. Place objects at the best angles so I don’t have to spend hours producing every bit of detail.

4. Read the exercises in the course materials properly. Most of these objects were cylinders with only 1 box and no packets.

2nd Drawing Colour Pencil
2nd Drawing Colour Pencil

After completing the colour pencil drawing which wasn’t great as I left a lot of text out off the objects plus the tin in the the middle was too light (the rough paper making it hard to blend) I went to do a bit of shopping. This time I purchased Faber Castell watercolour pencils not trusting the Masterart ones I had in the drawer and some A3 watercolour paper.

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I changed a few objects, I had to use the gravy for Sunday dinner so swapped that for parsley sauce, swapped the tin for a big bag of Nesvita cereal drinks, took the plastic lid off the Rosa tin and swapped the baked beans for a bag of Tipco something or other that the school director gave me for Christmas.

3rd drawing watercolour pencil on watercolour paper
3rd drawing watercolour pencil on watercolour paper

I’ve never used watercolour pencils or watercolour paper before so instead of spending hours trying to learn how to use them through trial and error I jumped onto YouTube to have a look at a couple of videos.

However once I started the exercise I learnt some more valuable lessons:

1. This probably want the best medium for this exercise with all the writing on the boxes.

2. I probably should have used a heavier paper, the 190 I was using begun to warp like mad.

3. The video was not enough I should have practised before doing this exercise.

Even though I did not rush through this exercise (it took a good few hours split up over a couple of days) the final drawing in my eyes looks a complete mess due to the very reflective purple box in the middle that made me lose my rag. However I am happy that I allowed myself the chance to start using watercolour pencils and to be honest for the first drawing ever with this medium, I don’t think I did too bad even though it does looks better without my glasses and my eyes squinted.

Overall the shapes were fine, the shapes between the objects were pretty much perfect and there is depth there so in that respect I was successful.