Odilon Redon and tone

The last two exercises focussed on the differences in tone between the primary and secondary light sources, and I do find effectively translating those differences by using blocks of tone quite difficult in drawing. I found using the crosshatching to depict the form of the book quite illuminating as I managed to get the sense of it sitting on a surface and having solid dimensions without doing an outline – quite a revelation for me! I think a problem I have is working out the variety of tone to use as it all gets rather homogenous. I do aspire to be able to draw in tone rather than lines so I will persevere and much as I enjoy and like line drawings, they do lack atmosphere.

Odilon Redon (1840-1916)

One of the leading artists of the French Symbolist movement, Redon used charcoal to produce what he called “Noirs” from his perception of nature. Rooted in reality but with a fantastical interpretation, these atmospheric drawings are a blend of observation and imagination and the blackness of the charcoal makes for dramatic imagery. Pegasus is my favourite in the selection below, but the variety of marks, the negative space and suggestion of form in all the drawings are powerful. Symbolist artists explored the occult and dreamworlds, and emotions and subjectivity formed the basis for their art.

Tone invariably adds atmosphere, and charcoal seems to exemplify this as the variation in tone can be from black to white, whereas graphite is less extreme. Shadows and dark areas make us feel vulnerable and this aspect of tone can be effective in bringing a sense of emotion and edge to a drawing. The Two Trees in the course text shows the light reflecting off two large tree trunks with an area of blackness between and behind them; this gives a feeling of uncertainty and wariness and the natural response at the prospect of standing in an area of light and openness leading into a dark enclosed space is one of trepidation. This makes an essentially simple drawing a more complex proposition through the use of tone.





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