I Want to Be By His Side

If I had a time machine and could travel back to learn how to oil paint from any artist in history, I would not spare a second thought setting the clock to circa 1895, smack dab in the middle of the era when Odilon Redon was refining his fine art oil-painting and pastel-painting skills.

The Cyclops by Odilon Redon, c. 1914, oil on canvas, 64 x 51 cm.
The Cyclops by Odilon Redon,
c. 1914, oil on canvas, 64 x 51 cm.

In addition to learning exactly how he worked, I'd also get a chance to be by the artist's side and observe what went into Redon's color choices–so many of which combine and juxtapose improbable objects and colors together–as well as how he came to let his imagination run free. Redon was a wonder at incorporating basic things–landscape elements, flowers, figures–into paintings that appear at turns dreamlike and nightmarish. He seemed to paint what was in his heart and in his head more than merely allowing his perceptions and observations to rule.

Redon wrote, "I have often, as an exercise and as a sustenance, painted before an object down to the smallest accidents of its visual appearance; but the day left me sad and with an unsatiated thirst. The next day I let the other source run, that of imagination, through the recollection of the forms and I was then reassured and appeased."

Woman with a Yellow Bodice by Odilon Redon, c. 1899, pastel painting, 66 x 50 cm.
Woman with a Yellow Bodice
by Odilon Redon, c. 1899, pastel
painting, 66 x 50 cm.

Reading this makes me equally sad at the idea of the artist coming away from his studio unfulfilled and somewhat lost. But it also sparks hope because he sought a way to make his paintings come alive and did so by being true to himself.

For oil-painting tips on color and composition that you don't have to travel back in time for, consider C. W. Mundy's Mastering the Dramatic Still Life video download. It gives insight on how to build visual interest with color, highlights, and compositional tools. And it's 20% off right now, so you are able to immediately access top oil-painting instruction from the convenience of your own home. Curl up and enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

2 thoughts on “I Want to Be By His Side

  1. Odilon Redon is one of my favorites! It’s happened to me several times where a painting in a museum will really catch my eye. And, not knowing who painted it, I draw nearer only to see it’s – once again – an Odilon Redon work. I love his cyclops giants, and the slightly unnerving elements to his work. It’s almost as if he lifted a veil on our reality to give us a glimpse of what our eyes missed when we weren’t paying close enough attention.