“On a traffic light green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana it’s just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead and red means where the hell did you get that banana at?!?” — Mitch Hedberg, R.I.P.
I meant to post this on Valentine’s Day but got taken down by some evil germs and forgot. So slightly belatedly, here’s RED!
I love red. People who’ve seen my house or my plants (or me most days) might also notice I’m quite fond of orange. Oh hell I really like to indulge in color, period. But let’s focus on red today. (We’ve already talked about black and maybe we’ll do the whole spectrum eventually.)
Red is a wildly energizing color. It symbolizes strong emotions like love and war: red is Cupid and the Devil. People who study the effects of color on we humans have shown that red is literally stimulating: it raises your blood pressure and heart rate, it’s gets your appetites up, which is supposedly why a lot of restaurants and bordellos are red. (And as you might imagine, blue is very calming.) This is true even for color blind people — the rods and cones in your eyes process the colors the same way, send the same signals to your brain, even if you’re only seeing shades of grey or brown. Red is the color of emergencies (police lights and flares) and the color of sex (lipstick and “red light districts”). You can “see red” or have a “red letter day” or “paint the town red.”
The god Thor had red hair (not in the comics where he’s inexplicably blond, but you know, in real life) and all the red animals were sacred to him: foxes, robins and squirrels. (Sorry Thor but squirrels are currently on my shit list because they eat all my figs. I used to hand-feed them peanuts but I’m about ready to sit out back with a shotgun like some crazy hillbilly.) Oh and get this — researchers at the University of Rochester did experiments on the way color affected how attractive men found women. Pictures of women framed in a red border were deemed “more attractive,” and the same woman in a red dress was more likely to score higher as well. My favorite part is where they figured out that men would spend more money on women wearing red. (Take note, ladies.) Red didn’t change how women viewed other women, nor how the men judged the women in terms of likability and intelligence. Does this somehow connect back to our primate days and bright red baboon butts?
A Flock of Cardinals
In medieval times there were strict clothing regulations — gorgeous pure colors of cloth were only to be worn by the rich nobility (hence the peasants and surfs were always scrabbling about in their drab brown rags). Wearing a red cloak or coat was only an option for the wealthy or higher ups in the church — a way of broadcasting their power over life and death.
For me, there’s something really classic and gorgeous about huge folds of red fabric, whether it’s drapery or clothing. And I really slave over those reds, layering them up with different colors and tinkering around until they’re very glowy and bright. Which is terrific in a painting, but not so easy in the printing world.
Red bits from some of my paintings
When we got the first color proofs of the book we all noticed that the reds had a not-so-wonderful, dead-ish quality to them. Like old luncheon meat. It was red, but it wasn’t my red. I think of my red as a screaming-Corvette, blood-spurting, cardinal-on-fire blazing red. The good news is that the fab folks at Chronicle agreed that the reds in the color proofs weren’t up to snuff, so they’ve gone back to the drawing board to see what can be done.
The ever-terrific Beth Steiner explained it to me this way: ”Basically, the red color in the transparencies is unachievable in regular four color process printing. It’s “out of gamut” meaning out of the color spectrum we can capture. So, in order to make the reds more vibrant, less dull, and closer to the originals, we are exploring using a special magenta ink.
The test sheets we currently have use a Rubine Red, which is a special ink made by IPI inks. In talking with the prepress house yesterday, they felt that they might get an even better result going a different route – printing four color process, but then adding a PMS ink “kicker” in the reds, essentially printing the book 5 color. “
So we’re messing around with that and I hope everyone enjoys oggling the blazing inks they’re working so hard on. Fingers crossed they print really RED!