First Eyes (1982).
I’ve emphasised the artist label to distinguish this Mel Odom from the very prolific writer of the same name. The artist received a fleeting mention here in the Gay artists archive but for many years he’s been a highly regarded book and magazine illustrator, with a Gold Medal from the American Society of Illustrators among his accolades. (By coincidence, one of his covers was for an Ellen Datlow horror collection, and I happen to be illustrating a new Ellen Datlow collection of horror stories this week.) More recently Odom has gained a very different audience for his doll designs which are mentioned in passing below. I’m grateful again to John Wisniewski for offering me this piece. Thanks to John and to Mel, more of whose gorgeous art can be seen at his website.
John Wisniewski: When did you begin drawing and painting?
Mel Odom: I’ve been drawing since I was about 4 years old and painting since my early teens. I have scribbles in an early picture book of mine that I’m sure were my first attempts at drawing.
JW: Whom are some of your favorite artists?
MO: I like so many different artists. The Pre-Raphelites were a huge influence on me as well as artists like Edward Hopper and Georgia O’Keefe. Aubrey Beardsley has been an early and constant favorite of mine. Representational art moves me more than the abstract for the most part. Disney animation also shaped what I still think of as being beautiful.
JW: Have you had any exhibitions? If so, what was the reaction to your work?
MO: I’ve really never had a one-man exhibition. When I was illustrating I was too busy to bother and illustration was not considered gallery worthy. Then when I quit illustrating to create Gene [Marshall] there was simply no time to even consider it. I’ve been in tons of group shows where the reaction has been everything from adoring to dismissive. I’ve been working on a series of oil paintings towards a show.
JW: Your work is easily recognizable to those in the art world, Mel. Did you expect this to happen, when you began?
MO: When I started out I knew my drawings didn’t look like anyone else’s, but it wasn’t a conscious ploy for recognition. I devised my style by the process of elimination. I knew what I didn’t want them to look like. I just drew with a vision that made me need to see what the drawing looked like completed. My drawings were always based on a very personal sense of beauty.
Hello, I Lied (1997).