It’s been a wet weekend here in Boston, with the kind of rain that flies diagonally in fierce, prolonged bursts. It hits the ground in huge drops at high speed, making the puddles dance and shake with activity. Things can look rather grey and bleak during times like this, so I’m shifting my focus to color.
As an artist, awareness of color and the mood it suggests are always there, even if I’m not thinking about it consciously. Color becomes part of the language of expression. Part of that expression has to do with color relationship and context – if you’ve studied color even a little, you probably know that a particular shade of any color can look very different depending on the colors it is paired with. Pairing two colors is sort of like putting two personalities in a closed room together and seeing how they affect each other. They are each separate entities on their own, but in relationship to one another, it is as if they have created a third entity with their mutual dynamic.
(You can click on any of these images to view them larger.)
Contrast can really set a mood too, making an image more dramatic. In this photograph I took while standing on Huntington Avenue looking skyward, the contrasting colors I applied through Photoshop bring out the drama. The brightness of the buildings brings them forward and the dark blues of the sky cause it to recede. I love how the energetic yellow gives the buildings an almost animated feel, as if they are huddled in a group and bending down to get a better look at the viewer! The depth of the textured dark sky makes it feel mysterious, even ominous. It isn’t that the photograph didn’t have drama to begin with — it did — but the use of color and contrast heightens the sensation.
Another example of this effect is this photograph taken during the day of the Old South Church on Boylston Street, and then altered in Photoshop. This Northern Italian Gothic style church (built between 1872 and 1875) is constructed from brown and grey stone, giving it a very earthy feel. Yet the image shown here has a completely different effect, having been painted in bold color with high contrast, bringing the architectural detail forward. The color treatment has brought out details in much the same way that the architectural charm of a Victorian home is highlighted by the use of a range of complimentary exterior colors. The shimmery gold gives it an opulence that doesn’t exist in the real structure.
Muted colors can hush an atmosphere, softening edges and lessening distinctions. In this photo-based digital art piece that I call, “Meet You at the Corner,” a toned-down brick red was lightly applied over the apple green sky, muting the intensity. In fact, those cloudy puffs of muted brick red are applied over the buildings as well, toning down the overall mood. Little pops of yellow add reflectiveness and light while emphasizing some details.
I didn’t think this brief, spontaneous exploration of color and mood would be complete without this image of 111 Huntington Avenue — a building that some people refer to as the “R2D2” building, probably for obvious reasons. 111 Huntington is the building’s given name. It’s a lovely structure, made of glass panes with a majestic open-dome crown at the top, and I think it deserves a more regal name than either 111 Huntington Avenue or R2D2! It is a joy to photograph because it’s almost never the same, depending on the sky and weather. At night, the lit crown seen in a foggy sky is visually stunning and gothic. There are many ways this could have been treated, but I was remembering the heat of August when I first moved to this neighborhood and got a chance to look at this building close-up on a regular basis. The cool blues are meant to express the cool glass and metal facades of this building and the taller Prudential Tower to its left. The reds and oranges of the sky, reflected in the glass, expressed the thick, moist feel of summer air in New England.
I end this installment a little amazed by what comes out when I start to write, and with a renewed excitement about this beautiful city I get to live in. It doesn’t really matter that it’s raining rhinos and elephants out there – I can still see it all any way I choose to see it.