Odilon Redon

Odilon Redon mind map

Became really fascinated by Odilon Redon and his “Noir” drawings. The “Two Trees” represents one aspect of his use of charcoal for naturalistic forms.   The atmospheric depth achieved by his really black -black and all the nuances of tone are really affecting.  This and many other of his drawings offer a very sinister and foreboding view.   You are draw into the scene with a frisson of anxiety about what lies beyond the trees in the distance.

It appears that Redon developed a very individual technique with his charcoal drawing.   Over a couple of decades he experimented with this form as the technicalities of the medium developed over the 2nd half of the 19th century. A conservationists analysis of his work has revealed layer upon layer of working on any single drawing.


A Technical Investigation of Odilon Redon’s Pastels and Noirs

I have become very interested in his technique as well as the development of his images into the more symbolic and visionary content. In terms of appreciating what can be achieved with charcoal  this has given a great deal to think about. (Particularly as for Assignment 1 we are being asked to go back to our original mark making exercises and their emotional aspect).

“My drawings inspire and do not define themselves. They determine nothing. They place us, just as music does, in the ambiguous world of the indeterminate.” 


“Black is the most essential color”: Odilon Redon’s Noirs

Redon was interested in evoking imagery from dreams and the fantastical. He was developing this work over the decades of Darwin and Freud’s breakthroughs.

I now realise that an image which I have in the past found very powerful as well as disturbing is from this series of his work.

Cactus Man Odilon REdon


Cactus Man 1881 

Lots of food for thought when approaching Assignment 1.

Review 13 June 2016

As I have noted earlier I find the whole tonal exercises very difficult. I am aware of the different kinds of reflections but not sure that I have made any distinct differences in how this has been depicted in my drawings.

To  review where I have got to I think I have been through 3 phases over the last month.   Initially I was very excited by the course and wanted to get going.   Lots of concerns but want to be engaged.

I think I have begun to look at form differently but it is far from automatic and is only achieved as I struggle to follow the exercises.

After spending sometime on the initial exercises  and looking at the OCA site and reading lots of stuff I became overwhelmed with the whole thing.For about a week I was at a standstill and beginning to worry that I have made a bad decision taking this on.

Now I think I have calmed down a bit and am getting going more tentatively.   However it is hard to let go of being successful with every exercise or sketch. I am still not that comfortable with sketching especially outside.

I have also observed that I don’t spend enough time looking and really seeing what is there as opposed to what I think is in front of me.   My concentration is developing slowly but I realise it is probably like any other muscle in the body and has to be used regularly in order to develop.

Often I find my drafting of the original image is inaccurate.   I know it is not “right” but continue.  I think this is linked to looking/concentrating.


Exercise 3 – Creating Shadow

Exercise 3Exercise 3-3

Enjoyed this much more than purely tone with charcoal.  I was able to use pens and ink which I prefer.   Not too good at formal cross-hatching but when I can be more flowing with the pen I like building up the object from the page and finding the form.

Exercise 3-4

For me there is more in this drawing – it has an energy and aliveness that I struggle to create with just tone.   Feel like my drawing skills are recovering slowly. This was drawing with a drawing pen.

Exercise 3-5

Thought I would try another one with dip pen and ink.   I like this too. Was not sure whether I could have worked this one further but somehow I like the way form is implied rather than fully drawn.


I do like working faster which working with pen allows somehow.  Or maybe it is more my thing.   As far as this way of working is concerned perhaps it points a way to use my sketchbook more – get away from pencil and charcoal and into PEN & INK.


Exercise 2 – Observing Shadow

Exercise 2

I don’t know why but I find working solely in tone really difficult and had put off doing this exercise.  So with the tried and tested method I jumped in prepared to make a mess if necessary.  Found it very difficult not to “draw” i.e. as in line rather than tone but struggled on and found some form but not particularly happy with them.

Exercise 2-2

Again a bit at sea with this.  Everything has a tendency to merge and finding the difference in the tones was a little more successful. Not very happy working in just charcoal.  Feel I am not in charge and end up making marks without actually contemplating what they are representing.


It is a hard discipline not to retreat into making outlines of objects and to struggle to find their form and make them real on the page.  One of the aspects that I have found hard coming back to drawing is developing my concentration for looking again.  Trying to stay with the task but finding I have to walk away and come back to look again.  Keeping focus is something that I will have to concentrate on developing.




Part 1 – Project 2 – Group of Objects – Still Life – form

31 May 2016 2

Freaked out again with the prospect of drawing a still life and an exercise proper.  In the end thought the best way was to allow myself to make a series of messy drawings – pulling myself back into looking again.

Liked some of the shape making rather than the marks. Also lost all of the subject matter along the way but didn’t mind because it got me going.

Lesson:- When in doubt make a mess

31 May 2016 3

Another messy one trying to find the shapes and spaces.  Enjoyed this much more.  Although this is not an accurate outcome.  Does it matter?  I like the fact that the drawing is characterful. It interests me. More varied mark making.

31 May 2016 4

Not as messy but more accurate although not correct.  Getting beyond outline which is not the purpose of the exercise.

Intentionality :- a word that came up over the weekend and struck a cord.  When there is intention in the mark making it is much more successful. I tend to dive in and fill in the space because I can’t bear the white.

31 May 2016 5

Final drawing in the sketchbook. With more concentration getting the layout of the objects.   They are now “in place” although that place is in the air.

Now going to work on a larger piece to see what comes through.

31 May 2016 6

This is roughly an A1 size and have used more varied materials. Still floating.  Got to a point that I didn’t know what to do more.   Most of the forms are there and some of the texture but didn’t want to shade in.

Being me I couldn’t resist trying something completely different so added some pieces of extra paper.

31 May 2016 7

Would have been better if the pieces of paper didn’t have straight edges and more like my old collage style. Also the tonality of the pieces of added paper are too bright but I do like certain passages of the piece and parts where it overlaps.

final close up

Learning:- I am pleased to have got going.  But am finding my concentration time is not that long at the moment but suppose that that will come back with time.  Also need to be more discerning about what I am trying to achieve.  Perhaps more standing back and looking.

Breaking in the Sketchbook


31 May 2016 1

Had to struggle with my demons about drawing in general and having been set specific tasks.  Particularly starting from the beginning again and hating the fact that I am not very good at drawing – or should I say concentrating on drawing.  I have big ideas but without following through.  Anyway just drew what was in front of me.  Felt I still have some of the principles intact but not that interested in the subject matter which makes a difference.

Learning:- I can do something if I get over myself. Need to find strategies to get past the thinking into doing more easily and not worrying about the results.

Drawing – Feeling & Expression

Exercise 1

calm cut

The four media I used were:-

Compressed charcoal, black ink with stick, black oil bar, and  8B pencil.

Something that on first reading seemed so simple immediately became a very challenging exercise for me.   Particularly gaining the nuances with the different media.  I feel that I have not really achieved this except with the oil bar (bottom right).   I have always liked working with this material as I like the way that you can smooth the lines into very delicate shadows of themselves. The other areas of line and shape do not interest me very much.

joy cut

Joy became a bit more interesting.   Firstly the compressed charcoal (bottom left) was more like the feeling of the unrestricted way joy encompasses the whole being in random ways and intersecting each other – thrills of excitement and little centres of thrills.  Not convinced that I have achieved as much variation in the nuances possible with the media.   The tone all looks about the same.   Needs more tonal variation I think.

Top left, stick and ink – enjoyed this much more liked to squiggle and reminded me of one of my grandsons (2 1/2) who when he is very happy does a lovely squiggle dance using his whole body.This feels like a partial representation of his dance but again I am not sure that there is enough variation of depth in the marks.

Bottom right – oil bar.   This felt a much more substantial experience with definite direction and movement.  Was not sure at this stage if I could contain it in the prescribed square.   Ordinarily it would have burst through the edge in some way.

Lastly the pencil (top right). Something here about experiencing the shapelessness of the feeling of joy as well as the contained spaces which want to break out of their constraint.

anger cut

This page was a really physical experience – I found myself breathing hard and working really intensively in the 4 areas.   Firstly the charcoal(bottom left) was about two beings being angry at each other and the inhalation of the space in between caused by the power and outflowing of the destructive energy.

Top left the spiralling of anger out of a single source with pen and stick.   I like this a lot because it has its own power and potential movement.

Anger in oil bar – bottom right.  This I feel I could work on a lot more by using the media more effectively.   Totally covering the area and then scratching back and working over building up layer after layer.

Finally the pencil which iI really wanted to work into the paper so that it would tear and shred but even with a lot of energy into it and the pencils breaking several times (very satisfying) I could not penetrate the paper.

I think I got a lot more out of anger than the previous emotions.

love cut

I chose love for the fourth emotion and things got a lot more interesting.

Bottom left the charcoal.   To penetrate or not penetrate? Was not sure how much I wanted to make the shapes contained or edgeless but I like the different density in the different parts of the shapes. I could work on this more.

Top left using the side of the stick with ink was trying to create a weave of the two directions of the work as well as the complexities of the intersections.  For me this was expressing love in some of its emotional complexities.   We do not know each other but sometimes we intersect each other at significant points in our day to day lives.

Oil Bar used softly and with tenderness – became a sort of jelly fish with a nebulous body and trailing ?  I like using the oil bar in this way using the facets of the face.  It is an interesting form for me to ponder.   The associations are about soft containment but with a sting in the tail!

Finally soft intersecting pencil lines coming from different directions and tailing off – ending randomly. Looking at it now it would have been more interesting if I had used different pencil density for the two entities and directions.


I found this a far more interesting exercise that I had expected. Already can differentiate consciously about some of the different types of mark available but obviously this can be expanded enormously.

Note to self:- did most of this blog post without saving it and it disappeared! Panic  but working my way back was able to restore what I had done.  Maybe in future write the text in Word and then transfer to blog post so I have a copy.