Reading an Image

(Part 3/Working it out/Hierarchy/Reading an image)

Hierarchy in the Image

I have just had occasion to look at the Course manual on-line and looked again at the picture by Geoff Grandfield. Standing back from the computer I realise it is a not-quite-abstract picture of 2 climbers on a rock face.. Now it looks different. The roaring noise has gone, there is no avalanche, it is cold and silent with just an occasional bird call, the sky is blue and the rock is dry. Two guys out for a day’s climbing – a totally different concept! Obviously standing back from the image does make a big difference.

Exercise – Reading an Image

In view of my revelation above I checked this picture carefully on-line where it is clearer than in the book.

A dragon, possibly dead but probably sleeping.
Treasure – Lots of gold items and a throne guarded by the dragon and anchored by his tail.
Two cartoon-style characters gesticulating.
Armour and weapons in two shadowy piles.
A cave? with the roof very brightly lit by a hard-to-distinguish hand-held blazing torch.

What is it about?
It appears the two characters have come upon a sleeping/dead dragon in a cave either intentionally or by accident. One of them wants to go back, but the other (female) is indicating either the dragon or the treasure, or both ,and is not in a hurry to leave.

They have conveniently arrived with a strong flaming torch which is quite small but gives off tremendous light causing the whole cave ceiling to reflect yellow and red.

The Palette etc
The palette is limited yellow/red/orange, red/purple, green/turquoise and blue. The picture relies on these six primary and secondary colours. There are no tertiary colours. The blue and purple have been shaded to create the shadows.

There is a heavy reliance on ‘hot’ colours for effect. I think the cave roof is too dominant and is the first point which attracts the eye. The dragon is a complex shape and has to be considered closely to identify its actual pose. The eye moves along the yellow colour from cave roof to treasure before ‘discovering’ the dragon. Maybe that is the intention, if so it is very subtle. The flat green of the throne makes it hard to distinguish and the eye continues to flick to the two characters who look as if they should be important.

I think it is a very confusing picture and with conflicting areas of visual interest. If it is intended to be talked about with a small child then perhaps discovering all the content will be a good thing.
However, if it is part of the story it is not that good. The roof of the cave is too important. I think the primary object should be the head of the dragon with attention being led around its shape to the two figures. Maybe less yellow on the roof and a yellow swirl along the back of the dragon would be more effective.

The shadows are annoyingly wrong, they do not emanate from the light source which is itself not very satisfactory.

When I first saw the picture I thought the dragon must be dead as its left rear leg had been chopped off. However, I now note that it is in fact anchored to the body. Nevertheless it does jar in its incongruity. The picture looks better if that leg is cropped off. In fact if the top of the picture is also cropped to the level of the top of the throne, the whole thing looks better. (As above)

Thus cropped the little people gain more significance and the relative size of the dragon is emphasized. The big blob of yellow has gone so the eye is more likely (being western) to land on the people and progress to the dragon via the green chair which is still too bright and should not be the focal point. I still think the dragon’s head needs to be more yellow to raise its profile.
The textural detail is largely confined to the ‘scenery’ and possibly is part of the reason why the cave roof is so ‘attractive’. I don’t think the textured effects really contribute very much to this picture especially as they seem to be part of the background which should be less prominent.

Obviously the reds and yellows are to echo the ideas of a dangerous fiery dragon, however, as this one is asleep? maybe that is not so effective. If the fiery effects applied to the cave roof had been applied to the dragon itself that might have improved it. I guess red itself is a dangerous colour by tradition and culture so that does help to set the scene as no doubt was the intention.