Friday, January 11, 2008

Color Theory 12 - Happy Colors
I love thoughtful color stylists. Artists who create colors that can't be named, and put them together in combinations that evoke moods and feelings that can't be expressed in words. A color stylist that can do that is worth his or her weight in ice cream.
These are from my favorite sequence in Fantasia, "The Nutcracker Suite". The music is sublime and so are the moods and colors and animation.

I got these from Michael Sporn's site:

There was a rebirth of clever color styling in the 90s.

I loved a lot of the color in The Powerpuff Girls and some of the other cartoons that followed.

These are by Lou Romano:

Before the 90s, modern animation backgrounds were pretty sad.
I've tried to post some color theories on my blog and they might be helpful to artists who already have an instinctual color sense, but many artists who have great technique might just be missing the color gene. They could apply the theories and still come out with beautifully rendered mud. Romano here, has a rare gift - taste.

Lorelay Bove:

Here is an amazing new talent.
This is the kind of thoughtful and emotional color that I always crave in my own cartoons and sometimes get it.

I detect some influence from "Once Upon A Wintertime" and "Johnny Appleseed".
Each of these paintings has an overall color idea and the individual colors all fit into a hierarchy of the whole.

Has anyone else noticed that the girls tend to be better at color than guys?

There are exceptions of course, like Romano, but I know that most of the modern color stuff I’ve liked and posted has been done by girls.

I have a couple theories:

Guys tend to be more conservative by nature and like to do things the responsible traditional way - or the "cool" trendy way. ("Cool" and conservative are 2 sides of the same coin.)

If the traditional way happens to be pink, purple and blue, men go against their instincts and paint cartoons in the colors that cartoons are supposed to be.

Girls on the other hand, trust their senses more and work from the heart. They are truer to their natural tastes. If their eyes or ears tell them something is pleasurable, they try to translate the sensory pleasure through their art, rather than following what is "supposed to be" or is the current trend. Young guys try to be cool, older guys follow tradition; we are sheep.

Like, I doubt girls would be capable of inventing rap, nor keep it alive for 30 years without men who extend unnatural trends far beyond their due.

Girls also have their eye on fashion, and the range of colors in fashions is infinitely broader than the range in most cartoons. When I hire new painters I always suggest they start collecting Italian Vogue and other high fashion magazines to get ideas from. They usually look at me like I’m crazy! “Someone will think I’m gay!!” Then they proceed to start pouring pink and purple out of the tubes like real men.


The Asifa Archive continues to dig up beautiful and rare cartoon art and illustrations, and there is a great article from a John Sutherland film that you have to see.

Maurice Noble and Eyvind Earle are 2 superhuman craftsman and we all look up to them.

I find both their styles to be kind of cold, even though I admire the skill involved. Go check it out!


Emmett said...

What do these colorists base their own ideas off of, or how do they determine what color goes where, or what to come up with.

Mood and atmosphere are two of my favorite words in animation. Color not only accomplishes these, but it helps to leave a good, complete mental impression when thinking back on the animated piece.

What should we paint if we want to practice this stuff?

/\/\ikeB said...

It should be mentioned that girls have more color nerves in their eyes than guys. So they can actually see colour more accurately. If your senses are better, your sense of taste could be too.
This might have something to do with it.

Car2oon said...

Uhg, I've always been horrid with my color choices. I really admire people who can get a good tone going with just the right color scheme. It's an art in itself really.

Chickens and Beandip said...

Yeah Lou Romanos good. He was on the art department for Monster Inc and did a bunch of the voices afterward. Including Ratatouilles Linguini.

I.D.R.C. said...

Girls did invent rap. They called it jumprope rhymes.

pumml said...

I'm eating this post up, John. Wonderful. I was wondering if/when you'd mention Lou's and Lorelay's work. Both have such sophisticated color taste and superb painting ability!

Colin Kahn said...

Hey John, kind of unrelated but I just set a quote of yours off your blog in at a letterpress workshop.

Check it out!

Weirdo said...

I want to have good color sense, but I don't think I could come close to Eyvind Earle's or Mary Blair's level of taste and skill. Beautiful pictures. I also love The Nutcracker Suite from "Fantasia". Thanks for not polluting our minds with images with bad colors.

Ross Irving said...

WOW! I've never heard of Eyvind Earle before, but I'm glad you showed me tonight. Very, very clever color schemes and techniques used to portray a certain mood. To me, his work looks traditional and stylized at the same time. It's really weird, like looking at two dimensions at once.

Thank you for posting this stuff, John. I feel so inspired right now!

Anonymous said...

Holy crap. Those Fantasia paintings are incredible. And the rest of it is pretty bloody overwhelming too!

Oh the shame we must bear for being born male. Shame shame shame. No nice colors for us.

A.M.Bush said...

Yes, it is true, we do color better. I kind of suck though.

TCA said...

Color theory is like the theory of evolution. You can't blow it off because "it's just a theory." I'll be working in black and white for the duration... Grayscale on a good day.

Okapi Figment William said...

I like happy colours.

Mr. Semaj said...

Has anyone else noticed that the girls tend to be better at color than guys?

Well, it's a scientific fact that women are better at distinguishing colors than men.

Another good colorist is Don Shank. He became an art director on The Powerpuff Girls for a very good reason.

Bitter Animator said...

Am I the only one who spent some time wondering why there was very little to do with porn at

I got it when I read the text. Eventuallu.

Adam said...

I bought this really handy book, Vision and Art: The Biology of Seeing and it has some great information on how we actually process color information. After reading the book I had a much better understanding of how to make good color choices instead of totally relying on instinct and making a ton of bad choices.

Lluis said...

("Cool" and conservative are 2 sides of the same coin.)
I Love this quote!! always had something against being cool!! hehe

Jeff Esterby said...

One of my favorite illustrators (who probably isn't a stranger to some artists on this board) is Tadahiro Uesugi.

I think that he is very good at taking colors from the real world and making them look atmospheric and incredible. Just trying to represent for the guys out there.

Kali Fontecchio said...

Purdy color post!

Hahahahaha, I rule and you DROOL!

boootooons ltd. said...

holy shit, 'rhapsody of steel'??? i saw that when i was a little kid in a video store and the guy who ran the place had this wierd sample video for this cartoon distribution house that he used to play all day, and it was on that. wow. i had no idea maurice noble was involved, though i'm not the least bit surprised.

and were those FANTASIA scans from the new DVD or an old videotape? i ask, because, i saw FANTASIA recently while watching my friend's kid, and, like the looney tunes discs, it was super-saturated and remastered.

just curious.

- trevor.

E said...

whatever john, there are just as many examples that show otherwise. ill even drop names such as ronnie del carmen, enrico casarosa and pascal campion.

This isnt to discredit a whole group of talented ladies(the color keys on samurai jack were all done by women.. you might not dig the animation or the show.. but the colors were brilliant) its just to voice how odd that opinion is.

""Girls did invent rap. They called it jumprope rhymes."""

and im SURE "jump rope rhymes" came hundreds of years before nursery rhymes and poetry. ;)

Richard Daskas said...

Just to correct what "e" said,it was Scott Wills who was in charge of all the color on Samurai Jack and did most of the color keys.By the way, Scott is a man.

JohnK said...

Hi Richard

yeah Scott is a great painter. So are you!

Like I said, I was just making a broad generality.

I've worked with many great painters and color stylists, but in general have noticed a bit more inspired color selections from some girls.

maybe it's 60%-40%, or maybe it's just nonsense, too!

Richard Daskas said...

Hey John,thanks for the compliment.

JohnK said...

Hey Richard,

send me some jpgs of your work and I'll feature it.

I'm going to rave about Scott's Samurai Jack stuff next week.

E said...

even better :D

...though I thought I saw that the two women in the round table discussion in the extra features of the last dvd were both the ones in charge of color keys.

Richard Daskas said...

John let me know where to send the jpegs and I will get you smoe of my stuff as well as Scott's.

Lluis said...

Hey John, great post with this one and the "A+ Flintstone BGs - using neutrals and Grays between the colors" really inpired me to try to paint better and look at selecting the colours so they make sense!! I got my gouache out and tried some stuff and I'm really happy with them, I've got a record cover to do soon and I'm hanging out to try more on that.
thank you!

JohnK said...

Hi Richard
I think Scott has my email, so get him to pass it on.

I'm looking forward to seeing what you've been up to lately!

pumml said...

Looking forward to that post on Sam Jack backgrounds, John! Richard hit the nail on the head. Scott Wills, Bill Wray, Jenny Gase-Baker... you can't go wrong with that group.

Also, feel free to use any screencaps you like from my blog, John. Just search "backgrounds".

perspex said...

pretty pretty colors- i wish my eyes worked that way.

Liimlsan said...

What blew my mind was this: the gene that supplies nutrients to the Red cone in your eyes is carried in the X chromosome.
In human terms, Girls are capable of identifying nearly twice the distinct hues of color than men are.
Also, our society encourages girls to look at outfits and paint, so they develop good knowledge of color names.
(I will tell you, it's probably a lot easier for your brain to digest color if you're comparing 'eternal blue, asure, purest torquiose, and merest touches of ash green mixed with spruce and teal highlights' to 'blue blue blue dark blue green bluish green.'

My litmus test is (because fag though I be, I still am a dude) that 'If that painting has a color that my first reaction is the HUE, or the shade, or the saturation, or something, it's good. If I look at a painting and think 'Red White Green', then it's not good.
Simply put, if color jumps out at the audience (and rainbow syndrome doesn't help) then it distracts. Color should be playing on the underside of your brain. (This is, however, why I like sepia type cartoons; Synvain Chomet, anyone? because the colors have more subtle distinctions and hues.)