Gesture, Color, and Scale

I was thinking about the ways this class might relate to graphic comics/novels. The reading suggested that these images should be read according to “gesture, scale, and color.” I wonder if I could meditate on this idea for a moment. The reading was careful to point out that illuminations “rarely reproduce” the text in a literal way. If I think about comics I realize that panels rarely reproduce the action described–that would be a redundant move on the artist’s part. The artist uses image (gesture, scale, and color) to add tone. In the way a movie is scored, a text is enhanced through certain visual cues–cues about genre help the reader understand the situation of the text.  In a way many of these texts were adhering to a genre–a christian/devotional genre in many cases.

I’m not entirely sure what the word gesture refers to in this case. I could take it to understand the movement of the image–or the movement of a character within an image. If someone is making some symbol, if the objects present seem to communicate some symbolism. In a comic, gesture is conveyed via juxtaposition. From panel to panel, ideas flow and change because they are in conversation; just as, text and symbol are in conversation in a manuscript. The church is a place of intense symbolism. Think of the way people signify in church mapping the trinity on their very bodies–gesturing. Imagery and gesture can be used to reference the genre conventions of the church.

What about scale? Scale in a manuscript is directly related to money. If a page is devoted to imagery it is not devoted to script and thus the manuscript will be longer. If an image is large it is also expensive. It grabs the readers attention, it requires more layers of artistry, more detail. In comics, large panels are typically important, they are emotional, or broad. They are detailed because they are meant to replace smaller images that might have communicated more meaning. Scale is directly related to importance and significance.

And of course color, color is always expensive. Even in comics from this century color isn’t ubiquitous because it is expensive. But in the medieval period color was even more important, especially the color red. Red dye was made from the cochineal bugs which were traded through France. Red was in demand, therefore it was expensive. If a text was rubricated it would be an expense. A rubricator would be a skilled scribe who would detail a manuscript with red ink. Red ink is doubly significant because it was often used to write in the calendar of saint’s. Even color is a convention or the christian genre.

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