Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Claude Monet Dusk in Venice

A few defining traits have come out of my early and still very superficial study of colour. Colours influence the emotions of the viewer on a subconscious level, something also reflected in nature. The understanding of colour must come through a deep introspection of our own reactions to colour. Having just seen Avatar, I will explain some scenes I remember off the top of my head. At one point, when the mercenaries prepare to fly of to battle, they are all bathed, as well as the air field, in a slightly desaturated yellow hue. Yellow is a warm colour, inspiring emotions which range from anger to annoyance, though it can also show more positive emotions. Yet the slight desaturation means that it talks on a poisonous aspect, it does not look good visually to the eye, troubling the viewer and causing him to understand the evil nature of the act unfolding in front of him. On the other hand, when we are following the protagonist around the forest, a cool blue tone, accompanied by subtle influences of magenta and cyan, create a soothing almost mystical atmosphere, causing a direct positive reaction in the viewer. The details are almost insignificant such is the power of colour to pass on the basic and pure emotional. We know, through the environment and narrative that we are in a forest area, and that is enough, with the right colours to create the right emotions. A darker red, with bright and harsh yellow spots, while being highly saturated, will dramatically change the overall mood, turning it into a tense and highly dangerous atmosphere.

Claude Monet Impression soleil levant

This can also be seen through nature’s gift to animals in need of defence, or in need of a mean to warn others of its nature or intention. The red and yellow, or any bright colour with a strong proportion of yellow in it, such as lime green will forewarn any others that the animal is either a high danger to others or to those who might consider it as edible. In my look into the Lost World, should I show these aspects of colour through the environment, or should I use colour in a less direct way and leave the viewer to feel what ever feeling comes to him. Obviously, the above example on animals wouldn’t be as precise as that of colour in an environment. The second thing is that animals actually sport those colours, while in the “real” world, generic environments usually don’t show such drastic colours. Yet what I will be designing is not the real world, it is a fictional realisation of it. Sir Doyle’s story is based on a real life environment, something similar to the Venezualan Tepuis, massive formations of Precambrian quartz arenite sandstone. They are the remnant of a massive sandstone plateau, who was victim of the erosion time made it endure. They are usually found alone rather than in a range, which makes them superb and highly surreal geographical arrangements. They are home to some of the original and unique species on the face of the Earth, something Doyle’s has taken to another extreme.

Yet what really interests me is how people from the time the book was written would actually picture such an unbelievable story, yet set in their own actual world. An article I read not too long ago sparked my interest into following anther road than the one I am following now. The impressionist where the first to start using colour to show meaning, though what made them really different is that they didn’t use “real” colours, but colours that would fit their vision. Red would not represent the actual colour but rather the anger the artist felt while he was painting. The movement supposedly started when one of the artists was missing black and decided to use blue instead to create the shadow. This confirmed, or enhanced, the idea that black and white where not present in the colour world, with shadows always formed by their complement on the colour wheel.

Though colours are known to impose and arouse certain emotional responses, it is not always the case. Colours do not automatically induce a viewer with a specific set of reactions. The context has to fit the purpose. The impressionist chose scenes that where affected by a special kind of light, a light that makes colour come out in a stronger way, saturating it to bring out its true potential.

Monet, Le Parlement, Trouée de soleil dans le brouillard, 1904
« Le monde des impressionnistes est une combinaison, une solution de liquide et de lumière dans laquelle toutes choses sont plongées et dissoutes, et cette sorte de nuage acide qui les pénètre est aussi le signe de la mouvance générale de l'univers, dont l'impressionnisme compte le temps dans le vent et l'eau qui coule. »

This amazing sentence, in French, resumes romantically what impressionism is. I will do my best to translate. Here it goes:

“The world of the impressionists is a combination, a solution of liquid and light in which everything is plunged and dissolved, and this acidic cloud which penetrates them is also the sign of the general area of influence of the universe, from which impressionism counts time through the wind and the water that flows.”

The impressionist takes art to another level of emotional reaction, seeing the world through the eyes of the materiel and the sensations they generate. Can the Lost World be translated through this way of working? I believe it can, and even I will never be able to reproduce the emotions and techniques used by the Impressionists in such a short period of time and setting, I will nonetheless take as much inspiration and work ethic from them as I can, mixing it with other art theory, flowing through colour and light, hopefully using movement and shape to progress through the conceptual visualisation of the world. This is not as ambitious as hopefully does not sound, as my main goal is mainly a more emotional and understood portrayal of an unknown.

The best way to explain some of my motives would be through a sort of narrative, in which I am a painter from the late 19th century and earl 20th century, and asked to portray the world described in the Lost World. My fictional audience would expect a more realistic view, following precepts instated by the Classical movement a century earlier. I would want their reaction to be similar to the one the actual critics and viewers had of Turner’s first more vague and abstract pieces, they where all wondering what he was actually meaning through his paintings, being a bit disoriented at this new and unusual type of art.  

Turner Snowstorm

            My secondary concern after the compositional attributes of colour and their association with light will be a more down to earth decision on the amount and type of detail to include in the concepts. This remains a world design and I cannot diverge too much past the point where a production crew would have the hardest time trying to interpret the will of the commercial concept artist. I am not a commercial concept artist. Painting art for a commercial use is antithesis to my morals of art as a mean of expression. The paintings will give mood, tone and hopefully, a definite colour palette, along with a distinctive light to give the Lost World a true visual sense.

The main colours I which to use in lake view.
Out of the three scenes, I already have an idea of the colour range for two of them. The lake vista will be dominated by warm hues, a bichromatic association of yellow and red, including everything between them. To keep the scene calm and peaceful, I will keep an analogous scheme, with the inclusion of violet to smoothen and calm the whole scene. Yet the sharp points of almost golden yellow will contrast with it to still create some sense of danger, and to forewarn the viewer of misleading peace. The purple should serve to induce the scene with a slightly more surreal look to the scene. Green as a complement will be implied for vegetation. Details will be vague, as I am asked to represent space, which I will do through shape, colour and light.

The second piece, the forest, will revolve around a cooler and darker scheme, with a dominance of green and a neutral variation of brown, with a cool shadowing of blue. The spot complementary use of red should bring out the colour and create some focus for the eye, red also showing danger and anger, though how the viewer will interpret is not for me to decide, my only power now is only to suggest these possible emotions and work my best so that they convey my intentions.


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