One of the many satisfying aspects of independently producing a book of short stories included creating my own cover art. The process reminded me, however, that the quality of art lies in the beholder, meaning that art may be interpreted by the viewer in ways the artist never intended.
Statistically, most men have at least slight color blindness, typically red/green confusion. I have it, somewhat. My brother has it badly enough to be considered color blind by many standards.
Unfortunately, green, and more rarely, red, are two common aurora borealis colors. Since the title of my book comes from a story about the aurora, Shy Ghosts Dancing, my artwork features a northern lights theme.
I drew a wash of auroral streaks with a ghost couple dancing in the center, in auroral green with red accents, or as close as I could approximate it in screen colors. The results pleased me, and I happily shared it with friends and family. Most gave complimentary feedback; one did not.
My brother commented, “I’m not sure I like it. Your ghost is flipping me off.”
I realized that my brother might see the color combinations differently than I. I guess I just didn’t expect him to view them that differently. Looking at the image, and letting my red/green confusion work, I began to see what he saw: an insolent ghost, grinning at the viewer, and making an obscene gesture!
Ironically, misinterpreting what one sees is a major underlying theme of the book. In the Foreword, I wrote:
“There’s something about Southeast Alaska—a quality of light, an uncertainty of perspective and scale, or perhaps merely the way the forest grows that creates an astounding optical ambivalence. This often leads a person to stare steadfastly at an object, vainly trying to divine its true shape and identity from appearance alone—attempting to decode the sensory information offered, only to eventually, perhaps belatedly, discover its true nature.”
Case in point, I guess. Hopefully my brother’s the only one who sees it that way. Of course, now that I’ve pointed it out, maybe you will, too! Sorry about that . . . .