Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Color Signatures and Classic Novels

When reading your favorite novel for the third time or approaching an intimidating classic have you  noticed how the authors create color portraits within their stories? Is that fictional world replete with moody blues and gray over cast skies or passionate reds with a dose of clean perfect white. What colors does the author gravitate toward and what colors are the most important to the characters in the story? 

One of the American Classics  famous for this type of color imagery is the Great Gatsby, shown above,  The green lantern beaming from the dock across the lake  becomes part of the story because its an object of minor obsession for the main character.  Gatsby's famous green is only a small part of the color picture of that novel but through the use of color data visualization  you can get the feel of the mood of the story.   

Fortunately for all us color lovers Jaz Parkinson, an artist with a great blog  on Tumblr, has been doing just that, constructing color signatures for well known novels that help reveal the color behind the story. Take this image The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum. 

As Jaz describes the pieces: "Each colour reference or piece of visual imagery in the novel has been tallied, graphed, and charted to make a unique signature for the book." So as we would expect ruby slippers, yellow brick road, and Emerald City  hues dominate this picture of of Oz but we also get to see the naked neutrals in the center and a blue purple sliver floating along the edge giving us clues to the less but perhaps more complex messages within  the story. If purple is only mentioned a few times perhaps it highlights a subtle but important part of the plot. 

The color signature for Cormac McCarthy's The Road, a brutal tale of apocalypse and survival, buries the thin filaments of green and blue, colors associated, at least in this context, with sustaining life, under a mountain of bleak gray scale topped with a bright vicious red. The color signature gives you visual, and because of our associations with color, emotional foundation out of which the story can emerge. There signatures are yet another great example of the power of color, evoking whole stories just from they colors they use. Brilliant! 

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