Sunday, May 6, 2012

Testing Erasure Poem Colors ... Help?

Friends, I'm doing a small experiment with colors using the same erasure poem as last time. Could you help by telling me what's working and what's not?

First, a little background. In the comments on the last post, Sandy Longhorn and I had a discussion about colors. She said, "I especially love that the erasure isn't complete and the other words not chosen sort of float in the background of the poem."

After saying something about the image being like a palimpsest, I said this: "You know, Sandy, it just occurred to me that if you pick the right colors — because cool colors recede and warm colors come forward, one could really go for what you said. So if the page background were bluish, for example, and the unerased words were red or yellow, you could really enhance and magnify that floating in the background effect. Hmm."

Anyway, that's why I'm experimenting with the colors. Let me start with the extracted text and source.

How to Build a Dinosaur

Merlin begins with powdered tin
and flashes the substance
into different elements,
sophisticated tools for
the amazing ability to keep
coming up with new shapes
and dinosaur tissues,
offering valuable evolution
in mastodon and mammoth bodies.
Source: How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever by Jack Horner and James Gorman (Dutton, 2009), pages 106-07.
—Draft by Vince Gotera     [do not copy or quote ... thanks]

You can also compare these by clicking on one of the images. You'll be taken to a slightly larger version with a black background. Then click on the two thumbnails at the bottom, center, to switch back and forth between the two images.

In the blue one, does the unerased text look like it's popping out of the book and floating in front? And is the erased text receding into the pages? Still floating but farther back?

Or maybe there's no difference except for the colors? How is your emotional response colored (sorry for the bad pun) by the treatment of color in the two versions? How does this affect your own thinking about erased poems?

Please let me know what you think in the comments below. Thanks. Ingat.

Added after the 10th comment below.

Friends, I didn't make myself clear. I'm very familiar with complementary colors, and I have a really good sense of color, artistically etc. I happen to prefer the tawny background for this poem because it feels more like an aged book. I also prefer having the connecting lines because I'm not sure all readers realize that the poem reads left-to-right and top-to-bottom, suggesting that the poem text already existed in the original text. That it's supposed to feel like a secret text, a coded ciphered text.

What I'm wondering about in this post is based on the optical illusion that cool colors seem to recede from the viewer and warm colors seem to come towards the reader. Look at the black box below. Do you see how the green and yellow seem to stand forward from the black, the white and red seem to be in the plane of the black, and the blue and violet seem behind the plane of the black? What I'm experimenting with is whether this visual effect can be exploited to have the erased text feel further away from the reader than the extracted text.

    text     text    text    text    text    text    

Perhaps the effect is not as evident without a black background. And perhaps it would work better if the poem text were green or red; that occurred to me but seemed to me to go against the illusion of the book looking like aged parchment.

Anyway, how does that affect the way you see the two versions? I'm not asking which is better. I'm not asking which is more artistic. I'm asking, in which version does the erased text seem to recede into the background? Or does it in either at all?

I'm only showing the blue one here hypothetically. The yellowish background with the blue circling and connecting is the one that's going to remain.

Thanks, everyone.


Diane Seuss said...

Vince - I much prefer the yellow/gold version. Diane Seuss

Anonymous said...

I think the yellowed version not only highlights the words of the poem more effectively (while still allowing the background text to be visible); it also suits the subject matter. It feels aged, like an ancient science or magic book, from which a secret spell or building instruction has finally been unearthed. Just perfect. The blue one feels contrived to me, and much less effective. The poem itself, though? WONDERFUL. :)


Skylaar said...

I agree, the yellow is better. It gets rid of the white which is too stark. I think if your main desire is for the text to pop forward, stick to complementary pairs (yellow/purple, orange/purple, red/green). They are opposites and give the most contrast/vividness. Love that the design looks like a dino, too!


Susan said...

Would it work without the connecting lines?

Anonymous said...

Yes. I agree. The connecting lines aren't needed. Let's see it without. ;)

Anonymous said...

Agree completely on color choice expressed by Diane, whimsygizmo and Skylaar. While I'm sure the erasure would read without the connecting lines, in this particular piece I really like aesthetic of the blue connectors as well as the green and rust squiggles that seem to reflect the search itself.

Anonymous said...

I definitely thing the Blue/yellow combo works better. The blue/yellow work better as contrasting colors than blue and light red. you can validate that against any color wheel too. I also find the warmer color backgrounds sink while the cooler colors try to lift off the page. I uploaded some contrasting color blocks for you to look at. Again, it just shows my preferences on how to use the color wheel.

Jessica McHugh said...

So awesome!! I agree with the other folks about the yellow version.

Circletheblock said...

I definitely like the original version best also – you’ve pulled life (blue) out of the earth (earth tones). I like the skeletal feel of the lines, but wouldn’t mind seeing it without them. The second version makes me feel like a failed final – you’ve red-penned my blue book all up, Prof. Gotera. ;)

Anonymous said...

I don't know if this is helpful this late in the game but I think you can use the blue background if you want to keep it without the red. I would suggest charcoal for the connecting lines if you keep the blue lines in the background. Also, if you change the thickness of the primary lines it would help them stand out from the background in general. Color combination choices are highly personal and reflective of the artist. A design book may be helpful for you to establish your own sense of color. I'd highly recommend An Eye for Color by Olga Gutierrez de la Roza. She uses art, design, and advertising sources to illuminate an exquisite array of choices, complete with the digital recipes for each color. It's also a wonderful book to simply get lost in, not at all a dry design book of page after page of color samples.

Vince Gotera said...

Hi, everyone. Thanks for your insightful comments.

However, please see what I've added at the end of the post above. I wasn't clear earlier what I was actually asking, which has to do with an optical illusion and how it might be exploited or not in the visual presentation of an erased poem.

Vince Gotera said...

Hi, Diane. Great to "see" you. Thanks, that's my preference too. But could you see what I added at the bottom of the post above?

Vince Gotera said...

I agree, De. I always thought that. But could you see what I added at the bottom of the post above? Thanks.

Vince Gotera said...

Sky, that dino thing is great ... didn't see it before. Thanks. But could you take a peek at what I added at the bottom of the post above?

Vince Gotera said...

Yes, it would but I'm not sure that all readers understand that the poem reads left to right and top to bottom, like a text hidden within the original. Susan, could you please see what I added above (to the bottom of the post)? Thanks.

Vince Gotera said...

Hi, jik. I agree completely with you, and thanks. But could you see what I added above to the bottom of the post?

Vince Gotera said...

Meena, thanks. I appreciate your going to the trouble of making the graphic demo. What I'm asking though is not about contrasting colors as such but rather how possible it is to use the effect of the color sinking into or lifting off the page to enhance the poem's presentation. Please see what I added above to the end of the post.

Vince Gotera said...

Thanks, Jessica. These erasure poems are fun to make (when they go well). And I also agree about the yellow version. But I didn't make my question clear. Could you look above at what I added at the end of the post?

Vince Gotera said...

That's an interesting viewpoint, Andrea. As you know that research about pen colors to use in correcting says red is offensive to students. But I've been asking my college students lately and I think (at least anecdotally) that that research is now obsolete. Students now don't attach any emotion to red ink. In fact, they sometimes say that red is a good choice because it stands out agains the white and black. (!) Thanks, Andrea.

I didn't ask what I'm trying to find out well, though. Could you please look at what I added to the blog post above? (At the end.)

Vince Gotera said...

Hi, Anna. I really appreciate the trouble you went to in your comment above. Thanks! I'll certainly check out the book ... sounds fascinating. Though I think I have a pretty good sense of color already.

I didn't ask clearly what I'm trying to find out, though. Could you please look at what I added above to the end of the blog post?

Emily said...


While I agree that the blue/gold combo is more pleasing to look at, I also agree that the text circled in blue seems closer than the red circled text. That is, the red circled text seems to sink further back than the blue. That being said, the example you provided in comment number 2 is also viewed this way to me. Maybe that is odd and not the way others view it, but the blue text with the black background in your example stands out the most to me, not the red.


Vince Gotera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I agree the green and yellow text in the black box appear to be coming at me. I love the idea of the cipher.

Circletheblock said...

The blue erased text does seem to fade into the background more. It would be interesting to see what would happen if you changed the red lines to green or a darker blue, like in the original one. I wonder if you would see the same result (or as pronounced a result) in a printed version – as monitors are RGB and print is CMYK.

Interesting students don’t attach emotion to red ink. I always feel like such a meanie when I mark up a paper in red. Red always says emotional to me – cupid, devil, passion, danger, anger. But I guess I don’t find much alarming about red crayons, gel pens, markers, etc. I have an exercise where I give each student a colored felt square and have them write down everything that comes to mind and then write a poem from that. The red square almost always yields a love poem from the girls and some sort of bloody, gory poem from the boys.

Vince Gotera said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vince Gotera said...

Hmm, interesting, Emily. Astronomically speaking, blue is the most energetic color and blue stars give off a lot more energy than red stars. But in this case, when you say blue stands out more, do you mean that it looks like it lifts off the black background more than the red? I'm not talking here about contrast between the two colors. I'm talking about the optical illusion that warmer colors seem to float off the background more than cooler colors which seem to sink into the background. See you later this coming week?

Vince Gotera said...

So, Anna, does that work the same way with the bluish page? Maybe I should have used green circling and connecting. I did have a yellowish/orangish color before the red and it seemed weak.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I think a bright green would come to the forefront and you could use a layer to tint the background all over to increase the visual illusion of it receding.

Laurie Kolp said...

I see what you're saying, Vince. I still like the first one better, though.

Sarav said...

Hi Vince--love art and poetry combined. The blue does make the non-selected words fade away, however for me, it does not make the selected words float, possibly because some of the blue squiggles crossed/invaded (those feisty things) the white word space. And the contrast between the white and the yellow/orange seems stronger making the white bubbles float(ier)? In my humble opinion.

Skylaar said...

Hi Vince. I think certain colors in your example pop or recede because of their intensity and hue. If you used a navy blue or a dark maroon, they'd probably recede. And yes, I agree, the color of the background has a lot to do with. You can adjust opacity levels in photoshop and see how that affects it. I often do that when I make books and want to layer images or text, evoke memories, or just make it look faded. I still think the yellow version is best because having the overlay of color "erases" the background text and takes away the emphasis, putting the focus on the text you circled.

I really thought it was a dinosaur graphic! Must be the cartoonist in me...

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