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Thread: Color Theory in Marilyn Manson's Work

  1. #11
    zsera's Avatar
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    Manson separated from Interscope , not cooking vinyl

  2. #12
    Hallelujah motherfuckers thatrussianman's Avatar
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    Well, the time has come it is quite clear. It's time to get into the thick of it. Remember the color wheel from the Intro to Color Theory? Well, it's time to go beyond that. We have gone through the Manson albums with significant bright color dominants, now it's time to get into the grimey stuff. So now we're not talking about just a simple Newtonian color wheel. Now we're talking about the entire color spectrum that is visible to the human eye:

    This is the range of visible color. Our eyes can only see a small fraction on the spectrum of visible light:

    so just imagine all the colors we can't see. In order to get into the rest of Manson's discography, we need to understand how color varies, and the abilities those colors have to tell us about the stories of those albums. So without further ado... Antichrist Superstar.

    This cover is a good example of the properties of desaturated color. What is desaturated color? Well, it's part of the unholy color trinity: Hue, Value, and Saturation (aka Chroma). Hue is the color itself. Red, pink, topaz, etc. Value is the color on the scale from white to black. Chroma is the intensity of the color, from dull to extremely saturated.

    The more saturated the color, the more it vibrates, which is why when you put two saturated colors next to each other, they make an optical illusion.

    This picture is not moving. I swear. It's your retina trying to adjust to the extreme intensity of the color.

    An important thing to understand about color is that since color comes from light, an object's local color is actually determined by the color it doesn't absorb. Therefore, a red object absorbs every color but red. White reflects every color, while black absorbs everything.

    Sorry for the watermark.

    This is why in entertainment you see voids represented by pure blacks (like space) or pure whites, like:

    All of these components have to be understood and worked together in conjunction with properties like contrast, affinity, and composition to create effective visuals.. To understand ACSS, let's strip everything down to the basics. For expediency's sake, let's take all the albums, and increase the contrast till it won't go any higher and desaturate it as low as they can go.

    Let's focus on Antichrist Superstar (I'll get to the albums I haven't already touched on in the future).
    The angle of the angel wing points downward towards Manson's shoulder, which leads from into neck to his face. This creates a flow in the movement of your eyes in the picture, which end up at the most visually important thing in the frame: Manson himself. The area which is not filled with his body is taken up by the title of the album and the band name. The name leads us right back into the wing, and this creates a cyclical line of movement drawing the viewer into the picture. And if you don't think this was intentional, not only is Antichrist Superstar a cyclical album, the man put a damn cycle on the cover. An effective cover indeed for a man(son) trying to get his name out there and get noticed. Manson's head is also cut in half, creating an asymmetrical composition. Asymmetry is an essential part of design, because it creates an interesting picture. Humans tend to associate symmetry with beautiful, and Antichrist Superstar does not want you to think it's beautiful in the traditional sense. There's despair, ugliness, hatred, and sadness, and we get all this unconsciously just from the brilliant layout and composition of the cover.

    Let's look at the colors now. I took all the albums and applied a pixel filter, which breaks each cover down into a simple color palatte.

    What is obvious at first is that the color contrast has been boosted, and the saturation has been toned way down. However, there is an exposure effect causing pools of blooming white light to reflect off Manson's skin, which means that these colors are high in value. That why the blues and greens on the cover really stand out, because these lighter colors contrast with the black background. In this cover, Manson is playing an insectoid angel who has hatched from his cocoon. So he grows. What do we do to show growth? Green, of course, which you can see in the wing (understand that with a complex color scheme like antichrist superstar, these are not average colors like you would see on a color wheel. The "green" in this photo is actually more of a green-brown-yellow hue. Then that hue is adjusted by raising or lowering the value). There's pale red and soft chroma blue here, which when mixed makes patches of violet appear. The blue represents the cold feeling of Manson's disposition, while the pale reds in his face represent something more demonic. This is something sorta similar to what Manson would do in the future with The High End of Low's cover, but the colors on this album mean completely different things. Red does not mean love this time. Red means blood, violence, evil, but there isn't just unending rage and hatred here. There is self-loathing and depression, thus the blue. This works with the insect motif, because Manson is showing us that he has no empathy and no love, like an insect. Like an demonic butterfly rising from his chrysalis, he is changing, but what he is changing into is something dreadful. The antithesis of the beneficent and loving jesus christ. The antichrist.

    The 2nd cover for the album, revealing the other half of Manson's face and his final form.

    I think the Nazi imagery is pretty clear. This album draws extensively on Red White and Black so much that I'd say it's the definitive color scheme of the album which the main cover does not portray at all. I think this may have been done for marketing reasons, because some stores might get a little uncomfortable with the nazi imagery. Manson uses red white and black to represent POWER. If we draw a parallel to Manson's life, then POWER would mean FAME. But the fame Manson is looking for is not the hollow "I want to be famous because I want to be rich and popular" dream (he makes fun of that stereotype on the album), he is looking for revenge. Revenge for all the people that told him he couldn't. Revenge for all the people that made his life hell. He wanted to become something that would become a lightning rod for controversy and a voice for the voiceless. Even if it means becoming everything they said he was.

    That's really all there is to color in the Antichrist Superstar booklet. I mean, seriously, it has about as many colors as Born Villain has. But where Born Villain went minimalist, Antichrist Superstar throws the book at us (this makes sense, after all, artist in their early 20s seem to get out as many ideas as they can). There are tons of photos and tons of words splattered all over the place. Calling the layout and composition of Antichrist superstar's booklet a "jumble" would be an understatement. Normally, this would detract from the visuals, but with ACSS it works to it's advantage. It's chaotic. It's instinctual. It's raw. Words like HEAVEN and COMPLACENT are superimposed over lyrics along with bible verses describing the apocalypse, opening the reader up to Manson's pathos during the making of the album. The lyrics are rigidly uniform, with cursive titles contrasting with standard font. Again, little things like that help sell the idea of Marilyn Manson being half good and half evil. The lyrics on the sadder songs tend to be tilted askew, as if to show regret or wavering in the face of challenge. At the bottom we can see what looks like stills from an old video you might see in biology class, showing Manson being birthed (the world spreads its legs for another fucking star) from his cocoon and transforming into the angel.

    There's even celluloid decay, which ties into the aesthetic of the album and the biology theme. Every living thing eventually dies and decays, and on this album Manson is birthed from the decay. When a body decomposes, maggots grow. Life coming from death. And then back again. A cycle. The circle of life, simba.

    The place that created this insect Manson is anything but friendly. It looks like a dilapidated apartment which no one has touched in ages (it probably was). This creature that is growing did so away from the sun, in the dark corners of the earth that have not been touched, that are cold, dark, and damp. He is the disgusting thing on the underside of a rock, which makes you scared to life the rock to look under it (but your curiosity eventually gets the better of you). This birthing scene reminds me of Alien, because the xenomorph had different stages to it's life too, and also did not need sunlight to grow like most lifeforms do. H.R. Geiger probably had insect life cycles in mind when he designed the creature. Great artists think alike. And on Mechanical Animals Manson would literally become an alien. Ash and the xemomorph are not human. The alien omega, the worm, and the desintegrator are not human. Or it could just be that the worm photos remind me of the milky guts that poured out of the android Ash:

    This album is the opposite of everything a successful and happy person should be. But in spite of all that, what it does well, it does fucking great. There is not one thing on this album that is a failure, not one thing that visually doesn't fit into the theme. Manson did not let his depression take away from this album. He put his everything into making this album, well, make him. It's his magnum opus, his masterpiece, whatever you want to call it. A tribute to making your dreams come true (when you wish upon a star, don't let yourself fall into hard...). A truly inspiring work of art.

    When all your wishes are granted, many of your dreams will be destroyed.
    Last edited by thatrussianman; 03-09-2017 at 04:37 AM.
    I'm not actually Russian.

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  4. #13
    Hallelujah motherfuckers thatrussianman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rabeschadel View Post
    This is all incredibly well thought out and detailed - cool stuff. I find your take on THEoL's color scheme especially interesting because I interpreted the usage of bright red against cool blue to represent violence. hatred, and anger (rather than love) against the icy numbness of depression. I think it's an incredibly angry and bitter album presented in an unusual and vulnerable way.

    Love your interpretation of Mechanical Animals-era art. The sparse usage of yellow and gold in promotional pics was something that stood out to me, but I wasn't sure if that just so happened to tie in with the glam, Bowie-esque image of the time or if there was something more deliberate behind MM's choice. After reading your post I'm inclined to believe it's the latter. He seems like an intelligent person so there's no doubt he put a lot of care into the art itself. You're probably dead-on.

    From what I've seen of GAoG-era art, it is stark white, red, and black. Not unlike Mechanical Animals in terms of minimalism but far darker. Black replacing grey. The demented Mickey Mouse pictures are some of my favorites of Manson so I'm curious to see your thoughts on those too.

    As a new fan I am really enjoying digging through all the symbolism and hidden meanings in his work.
    Thank you! There is violence on THEOL, but it is either self-harming or empty threats. In a way you could say Manson is "romanticizing violence" on that album.

    I think what Manson does really well is notice patterns, and finding all these connections applied in his work is what keeps it fresh and exciting to me. For example, his use of gold in the promotional pics for MA, it does tie in with the glam bowie aspect of it all. Those pics always have blue backgrounds because blue and gold are on opposite ends of the color wheel, so they create contrast and focus. And then there's the line in Posthuman "All that glitters is cold", referencing the saying "All that glitters is gold".

    GOAG is going to be fun. More purple than it lets on.
    I'm not actually Russian.

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  6. #14
    Hallelujah motherfuckers thatrussianman's Avatar
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    #4 1/2. A Brief Color Callout.

    Now that we've covered the basics, I thought it would be interesting to actually show you the specific attributes of the colors Manson uses in his compositions. Thanks to the eye dropper tool, I called out three major colors from the albums I've covered so far, then analyzed where those colors fall on the color spectrum. The way they do says a lot about their respective albums. First, two things to understand.

    If we look at the color spectrum in grey scale, we can see right away without even adjusting the value (darkness) of the hues, blue is already our darkest color, while yellow is the lightest. This is important when coming up with a color scheme for your artwork.

    Once a color is selected, we can see where it falls on the color spectrum by following these steps.

    The High End of low is SUPER saturated. There are some midrange earth tones in the background, but just barely. Interesting to note that the value decreases the lower you get into the picture. The top red is high in value, his face is midrange, and his clothes are very dark. If anything, it helps with all the heaven and hell references on the album, and goes with the theme of being high and low. Like the album itself, the colors here are not muted but immediate; depression hits as hard as love. Not a bleak sadness, but a visceral, colorful one.

    There are no dark colors on the cover for Mechanical Animals (except for the title, because it ties in with the color scheme of the album booklet). It's surprising that the pink here is not as high in value as expected, but that's because the colors surrounding it are so desaturated. Omegas body is high in value, while the background is midrange value, demonstrating the (alien) grey and (coma) white themes of the album.

    Born Villain is the only one of these album that has the truest black. The turquoise is on the midrange of the color spectrum, and the ONLY saturated color on the cover. It acts as the barrier between the white and black areas, which gives it this ethereal shiny quality. Even the white is really a very low chroma yellow, which you can see if you tilt your screen back. If you connect the circles on the different color charts, they actually forms a sideways V (this was probably unintentional... or was it?).

    Our brightest color is a low chroma orange, a muted rust color. Our midrange color is smack dab in the middle of the chart, a yellow that's decaying. The darkest color is a nearly black violet, which when paired with the other rust colors, gives some sense of uneasiness to the whole composition. You wouldn't expect blues and violets to be on an album cover like this, but there they are. Perhaps foreshadowing Mechanical Animals?
    I'm not actually Russian.

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  8. #15
    kk_15's Avatar
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    Forgive me if this has already been mentioned somewhere but I remember an interview with Manson discussing his use of blue/red makeup in the Mechanical Animals era as homages to the colours of blood (this is not an exact quote, just what I remember) - if this sounds familiar to anybody please find the interview.

  9. #16
    Procrastinator's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by thatrussianman View Post
    So it would be safe to say that Red and Blue not only represent the conflict between love and depression on this album, but the duality of Marilyn Manson himself (light/dark, good/evil). After all, the album is named after being High (red) and Low (blue)
    Someone might have already said in another thread this but I would've thought that the red is the Low (Hell, as red is usually associated with fire and in popular belief there is a lot of fire in Hell) and the blue is the High (Heaven, sky). Although I totally see your point by looking at the colours as emotion indicators. Interesting read, nonetheless. Thanks for posting!

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  11. #17
    Shagbag Celluloidholes's Avatar
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    Gosh, I really love the way you're talking about the covers and composition of the albums.

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