Anyway, to stagger vaguely towards a point before I pass out from a wine-and-graphic-design-induced stupor, let me start out by confessing my great tragic secret. I am a fan of "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic." I think it's a marvelous show, and one of the best pieces of Western animation to come out of the last decade or so. I am what is known on the great Junk Culture Engine that the kids call "The Internetwork" as a [ahem] "Brony."
So it was that I was looking at My Little Pony fan art and--
No, no, shut up, keep reading you cackling jackanape, the article isn't just about My Little Pony!
--came across this image:
This is not Mondrian as interpreted by someone that knows more than three colors (Zing!). No, this is a color swatch rendition of the main characters of the show:
...And also the character Derpy Hooves. Don't ask.
What's interesting about this is that despite being a bit of a novice when it comes to the pony fandom, I recognized each of the characters (yes, even poor Derpy) immediately. What's going on there?
Well, one of the major features of the characters of MLP:FIM is that they're extremely iconic. They have simplified designs that make it particularly easy to pick out which is which. This stylization extends to the color scheme, to the point where the characters are almost synonymous with their colors. It is this quality--along with certain things like body language, which I'll devote a whole other article to at some point--that allows the characters to easily transition from their depictions in the show to all sorts of fan art depictions:
Now, when I saw this, it reminded me, in particular, of a section in Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics where he talks about the power of color in comics and how a lot of the most iconic superheroes have a particular color scheme that they are associated with. Consider the following two color combinations:
Recognize those two by the colors? It's Batman and The Hulk. Those of you more familiar with the recent movie depictions might find those colors a bit odd, since the movie version of Batman, for example, blacks out the entire outfit in order to be as dark and brooding as possible. Although that certainly worked for the film, I have to wonder--was it worth sacrificing the iconic value of the older color scheme?
Regardless of that question, what comic artists over the years have recognized is that big, bold color schemes really help to define a character. They can become cemented in the public's mind just as much as strongly as images like the Bat Symbol or the Superman S.
Here's what you might be thinking as you nurse your drink: "Alright, sure, this stuff is useful for cartoons for little girls and for colorful superhero comics. That doesn't mean it's useful in the fine arts!" Well, first of all, that's really not giving shows for little girls or colorful superhero comics much credit, is it? But alright, alright, if you want a fine art example, check this out: