Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Grammar of Ornament - Colour and Pattern

Creamers is about process and artistic aspiration. The process of painting, the daily repetition of painting for a living and the desire to elevate oneself to a higher form of expression. In Ester’s case the move up is a winding staircase that leads through a mysterious haze to teapots. The part of the studio where patterns are designed not painted.

One of my teachers at art school introduced me to a book called the Grammar of Ornament by the Welsh architect and design theorist Owen Jones (published London 1856).

The book fascinated me so much I bought it the next day and spent the afternoon drooling over its pages. I never really thought about its connection to my story until writing this post. The idea of painting patterns on creamers grew out of my need for a visual metaphor for animation, not out of any fixation I have with decoration. However along the way it became another ingredient in the creative soup.

Its hard to call my lowly little painting plan a ‘pattern’ when placed next to the beauty of Persian No.2. But for obvious reasons I chose the most basic of shapes so they would be easy to draw and could summarize the hierarchy within the studio itself. The bottom row is your entry-level dots on saucers progressing to the real deal on the top with teapots.

A long opening pan across wall mounted teapots was another attempt to visually reinforce the studio hierarchy. The display pieces showcase the studio’s current and previous designs, elaborate and otherwise.

One of the clever things (the many clever things) that Pixar does in their pre-production is storyboarding out the colour scheme of the movie. These gorgeous pastel illustrations by Dominique Louis for Monsters Inc map out the mood and inspire the lighting for each segment of the movie.

Lou Romano created a more graphic colour script for the The Incredibles.

If I had the ability, time and money I would have loved to do this for Creamers. Ester starts her workday optimistically, diligently meeting her quota in the fresh light of morning . However when circumstances conspire against her, natural light slowly gives way to flickering fluorescence. As her energy slips away she descends into a little claustrophobic cave of gloom. Eventually, she is released from the stifling darkness of the studio into the vast open plains of whiteness.

Recently I have been inspired by the use of colour in films like Secret of Kells

(Cartoon Saloon,Tomm Noore/ Nora Twomey 2009)

and The Illusionist (Django Films, Sylvain Chomet 2010)

The former creates bold graphic colour contrasts for scene to scene while the latter achieves amazing sense of depth with a more traditional style of landscape watercolours and old travel posters.

The colour palettes for each scene and the characters of Creamers are a continuing work in progress. I grabbed colour from images I liked and made swatch collections based on these schemes.

Having spent so many years drawing and not painting I feel lost and intimidated in the world of colour, a dumbstruck tourist miles from home with no phrase book.