A Q&A with artist Mel Odom


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).

Continue reading “A Q&A with artist Mel Odom”

The art of George Stavrinos, 1948–1990


I’m still playing catch-up with the generation of gay artists who came to prominence in the 1970s or early 1980s. Many of them worked for American magazines which were seldom seen over here: both Mel Odom and George Stavrinos provided illustrations for Blueboy while Stavrinos was popular enough to be given the cover treatment from Christopher Street in 1978. Stavrinos is rightly remembered for his stunning Art Deco-styled fashion illustrations but there was enough work in the gay press for him to be regarded as an important artist in that sphere. There’s more at The Advocate and Decoy.




Bather (1977).


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive

The art of Mel Odom


Boys Kiss 2 (2007).

The gay artists archive has for a long time been the most popular part of this site, that page proving twice as popular as the next post down. In which case I feel I ought to try and add to its contents a bit more frequently…

Mel Odom is an American artist who since the late 1970s has been highly-regarded as a book and magazine illustrator. (JVS Publishing has more about this side of his output.) For the purposes of this post there’s male nudity and some homoerotica, of course, in that Art Deco-ish Tamara de Lempicka style that was very popular in the 1980s. For the time being, this site seems to have the best selection of his paintings and drawings. If you need more then Flickr is one place to go searching.