In which I try to reconcile a colour that produces a disturbing personal reaction with some of my favorite sets of the year so far! Along the way we take a history lesson, explore the wonderful world of colour wheels, build a Wyvern and hopefully prepare to enjoy some frozen yoghurt…
It’s been a little while since my last post because I have been trying to reconcile something that has been troubling me. Here in the Southern Hemisphere, we have just seen the start of spring. A time that the weather starts to turn for the better, we feel the days getting a little longer and the grass starts to grow and trees start to bud. It is of course still jolly cold. My problem comes from trying to reconcile springtime, with its new growth, hope and optimism with the name of Spring Yellowish Green. A light, bright colour whose name shouts optimism, but whose shade, to me, shouts sinister thoughts, nasty infections and recollections of a bad night at work.
Of course, not everyone has the perceives colours in the same way as other people. I personally spent 5 years vigourously debating the colour of some towels with my wife. I eventually conceded defeat and accepted that I was wrong. But not because discretion is the greater part of valour, but because it became apparent that I experience a mild form of colour blindness . The junction of green, grey, blue is not a clear, well discriminated area of my colour perception. Rather, it is a hazy, muddy thing, where some colours stand out, and others blur together with imperceptible difference to myself, but to great embarrassment to my children, or frustration for my wife. Whilst I only experience this lack of colour vision, the rest of my family suffer because of it!
But what does this have to do with LEGO Bricks? LEGO elements have appeared in almost one hundred distinct opaque colours over the years, to say nothing of the transparent, translucent, speckled and glow in the dark colours. Well, distinct for some. For others they just blur together. You can find Ryan Howeter’s most excellent colour chart documenting LEGO colours, and their appearance over time, here. Much of the information regarding appearance dates for colours, as well as hex codes for colour pickers has been derived from this. The current colours in the LEGO Colour palette can be seen here:
In 2012, we saw elements produced in six new colours, and another was released shortly after: Aqua, Dark Azur, Olive Green, Medium Azur, Medium Lavender, Lavender and Spring Yellowish Green. Olive green is the only one of these opaque colours that has been introduced after the Friends theme was released. Only one of these colours has ever evoked a visceral response in me, just by looking at it. And that is the colour I would like to talk about today.
Spring Yellowish Green: a Chronology
Spring Yellowish Green is a bright, breezy colour, sitting somewhere in the spectrum between chartreuse and yellow, evoking images of a melted Pine-Lime Splice (a spectacularly artificially coloured ice, covering vanilla ice-cream on a stick), summer, and hospital walls in the 1970’s
Also known as Yellowish Green on Bricklink, Spring Yellowish Green made its debut in 2014, in Duplo elements, as well as a collectible minifigure fabric skirt. Relatively low key in its introduction, its regular system debut came later that year with the first wave of sets from The LEGO® Movie.
I first encountered spring yellowish green in the set 70803: Cloud Cuckoo Land Palace. Of course, like Cloud Cuckoo land itself, so much was going on to assault the senses, that the use of this colour was able to slip past relatively unnoticed. Tucked away as panels at the back of the build, the colour was almost in shadow, relatively unnoticed. There was another element, a single round stud, that served as Unikitty’s collar.
The ‘end brick’ dome was incorporated in the build for the Ice-Cream Machine, evoking a lime sorbet vibe for me at the time.
Another couple of plates,3×1 and 1×1 were introduced as part of Metalbeard’s Seacow 70810, as well as some printing on other elements. In this set, they were used to enhance ‘Queasy Kitty’. In context, this colour in combination with the sand green, it goes went a long way towards giving the us the impression of a suitably unwell animal! Indeed, if I look at the picture for too ling, I begin to understand how she felt!
In 2015, spring yellowish green appeared predominantly in the Ninjago theme, particularly in sets associated with the ghost army. As a highlight for buildings and vehicles in this ghostly series, the colour appeared suitably creepy, and the new elements were predominantly decorative: faces, heads, slopes, teeth and arches.
2015 also saw the debut of the first ‘proper brick’, the 1×2, appearing in the reinvigorated ‘free build’ Classic range. My favourite use for spring yellowish green that year may well have been another spooky use: the button up zombie costume mask in 70592 Scooby Doo: The Mystery Machine.
Despite being a colour introduced at the same time as the Friends theme, we did not see Spring Yellowish Green enter the minidoll ranges until 2016. Appearing in Friends (30396 Emily’s Cupcake Stall polybag), Disney Princess (Doors in 41067 Belle’s Enchanted Castle; A cape in 41068: Arundel Castle Celebration) and Elves (A hair element for Sira in 41174: The Starlight Inn, and a fox: Dusti, who is working with Ragana, found in 41179: Queen Dragon’s Rescue). Somewhat of an easter egg was the appearance of the 2×1 plate, hidden in the base of the LEGO Ideas set: Yellow Submarine 31036. Like the 2×1 Brick also included in that set, it was only encountered by the builder, and not immediately apparent to the casual viewer.
Having been gradually exposed to this colour piece by piece over the past five years, the time had come to give it a proper outing: 2017 has seen a further twenty one elements introduced, predominantly in the Elves sets: elements have appeared in most set where there the goblins appear – either as the skin colour of the goblins themselves (I’m looking at you Dukelin, Barblin, Guxlin and Roblin) or of the surrounding features. These sets have seen spring yellowish green shout and and scream ‘Look At ME!’ While previous appearances have been masked either by being actively hidden in the build, subtle appearances of a single element, or being disguised amongst a visual cacophony of other colours (Almost the entire Classic line), the 2017 Elves theme has seen spring yellowish green come to the fore. While not a big player in the Elf centred sets, when we look at the Goblin-centric Sets, it becomes a dominant part of the palette.
In the 41185: Magic Rescue From the Goblin Village, Spring Yellowish Green is used for highlighting architectural features: doorways, window frames and feature walls. It is seen primarily contrasting with more subdued tones such as reddish brown, bright orange, medium blue and various stone greys. Yes: this is a shade that will make bright orange and medium lilac appear subdued. The bright reddish violet of the foliage does add a visual challenge to this mix.
For an all out assault with this shade, we can look to the 41183: Goblin King’s Evil Dragon – decked out with spring yellowish green, with black and red contrasting elements.
We reach the climax of the this year’s story arc in 41188: Breakout from the Goblin King’s Fortress. The battlements are full of sand green elements, which returns us to our initial experience with this combination with Queasy Kitty. This combination is offset through the use of earth blue vegetation which in for me, makes the combination less garish.
The Goblin King is the antagonist in our story here, and so it is probably not such a problem that the overarching colour scheme for him and his minions is one that induces distaste. Indeed, as I have looked at the parts list time and again, I start to feel that the fortress is in fact a set that I might like to work on in the future. Building it up into a proper castle could be an interesting challenge, especially given the colour scheme and the suggested design in the forthcoming Netflix Elves series. But first I have to overcome my problem.
But this brings me back to my initial discomfort with this colour. I suspect I had an unpleasant experience with frequent chest infections at an early age. Certainly, in recent years when I have seen this colour away from LEGO bricks, it has been in a primarily biological context. And rarely in a positive way. It might be considered as a little awkward then that spring yellowish green makes up a significant part of the palette for the 41320 Heartlake Frozen Yogurt Shop. But here is seems slightly more in harmony with the build. We will come to this later.
Let’s Take the Colour Wheel For A Spin
Why do the combinations used in the Goblin village feel so strange? I have taken a crash course in colour at the University of YouTube in order to gain an understanding of the use of colour. What follows may be considered proof that you shouldn’t just believe everything you see on the Internet.
[Note: some of you visiting here will have had formal training in art or design. My most recent art class was in year nine at school, back in 1983. Much of what I knew then has been displaced with less practical information. This has been an attempt to regain this lost knowledge. I apologise if I have oversimplified things! It won’t be too long before I overcomplicate them again!]
Let us consider the colour wheel: three primary colours: red, blue and green. By mixing these, we create our secondary colours: green, orange and purple. Then the tertiary colours are in between those: Yellowish green, bluish green, purplish blue, reddish purple, reddish orange, yellowish orange, yellowish green.
Moving inwards on the radius results in the applying a lighter tint to the colour. Moving outwards applies a darker shade. Now not all of these colours are beautifully rendered in the current LEGO colour palette. That is probably another story for another time, while I struggle to reconcile what I know that I know, and learn about the increasing amount of things that I don’t know. However, you can see here that Spring Yellowish Green is a lighter tint of Bright Yellowish Green
When creating a colour scheme for a design, the colour wheel can be applied, Colour combinations are often talked about in terms of ‘basic’ colour and complementary colour (on the other side of the colour wheel). Other frequently applied combinations include: a triad (3 evenly spread bands colours around the wheel) and tetrad -4 evenly spread points around the circle, colours from three adjacent colours(analogous) ; ‘split complementary colours’: using analogous colours to the complementary colour, and double complementary colours – 2 sets of complementary colours in combination. This is one of those areas where a picture is worth a thousand words, so please let me provide one:
Taking the Colour wheel for a spin through the Goblin Village…
The Goblin village initially challenged my aesthetic sensibilities. I wonder if this was the intention of the set designers, or just a foible of my colour perception. Each of the three buildings in this set has its own colour scheme, in combination with what I shall call ‘Standard Goblin Forest Foliage.’ Let’s look at each of the sub builds that comes with this set.
To do this, I have taken the five most prominent colours in each sub-build and plugged them into Adobe Capture on my mobile device of choice. The hex codes for the colours used, according to Howerter’s colour table, and also used on brickset.com were entered, resulting in placement around the colour circle.
Hex colour codes consist of three pairs of hexadecimal digits, representing red, blue and green respectively. Hexadecimal refers to base 16. Because we only have digits representing 0-9 in Arabic notation, the letters A-F are used to represent 10 – 15. The hexadecimal numbers 0-FF represent 0-255. The six digit hex colour code is represented as $RRBBGG (red, blue and green respectively). This gives us 256*256*256=16,777,216 possible colour combinations. Plainly I cannot discern many of them. This is still fewer colours than there are combinations for six 2×4 bricks to be put together (915,103,765 in case you were curious).
The disk used in the circular standard colour picker is based on the HSB colour model. Rather than specifying the individual colour channels such as red/green/blue, each hue has a value from 0 to 360º, based on the position on the colour circle. Red is 0º. Green is 120º. Blue is at 240º. This represents our colour circle. The saturation refers to the distance from the centre of the picker’s disk. The value is 0 at the centre (no saturation i.e. white), and 255 at the outer edge. Then we look at brightness. The colour disc we see is set at brightness of 255. As we decrease the brightness to zero, we approach a black spot – that is to say, the entire picker disk approaches black.
Envisage the entire colour space as an inverted cone, with the complete colour disc at the top, where is is bright, and black at the singular point at the tip. Computers are clever, and they can do the conversion to RGB or CYMK for us! Spring yellowish green is very close to bright yellowish green (lime green BL) in hue, but is less saturated, and brighter.
When considering colours in combination today, we will be focussing on the hue, and not particularly the saturation or brightness.
Looking at the goblin village, we have 3 houses, each with their own colour scheme, along with shared elements: the shared elements include the plants with earth blue, bright reddish violet leaves, with red elements, and carnivorous plants – medium lilac, bright yellowish green and bright red, and a ‘dark green’ base.
First, the shared vegetation of the goblin village: the carnivorous plants with their bright yellowish green, medium lilac, bright red and dark green. The foliage on most of the trees are bright reddish violet, with bright red highlights. Green and red are complementary, while medium lilac and bright reddish violet are both a little off being ‘properly’ complementary to the bright yellowish green. They are both, however, as close to complementary to this green as we are likely to see with the current colour selection. (technically, I think they are split complementary). Certainly it is not looking as though the relationships are going to be simple to describe.
The largest building, has orange tiles on a medium lilac roof and door between the reddish brown, medium lilac, and spring yellowish green. Looking at these colours on the colour wheel, they are approximately evenly spaced around the wheel. Of interest here, is the demonstration that reddish brown is close to a darker version of bright orange, and also the relationship between spring yellowish green and bright yellowish green.
Our next building has medium blue highlights, along with the spring yellowish green and medium lilac as highlights. While medium blue and medium lilac are adjacent on the colour wheel, neither are complementary to the spring yellowish green, although the medium lilac does run close. Adding the red and bright reddish violet of the plant leaves and thorns brings in some ‘split complementary colours to the SYG: lilac and magenta. The medium blue and red both run close to forming a triad with the spring yellowish green. Alternative live, you might consider it as some pairs of complementary colours, although those opposite the spring yellowish green are split. Medium blue, medium lilac, earth blue and bright reddish violet could be considered as analogous colours.
The smaller building featuring the cell and earth blue slide also features the recurring carnivorous plants: light stone grey appears at the middle of the colour wheel. Red and green are complementary. Spring yellowish green, red and earth blue are close to forming a triad, again depending on the present of the red botanical highlights. The bright red of the thorns is also complementary to the dark green of the baseplate.
Perhaps these interesting approaches to colour are designed to reflect the chaos that the goblins bring to the elves’ lives. Indeed, when you plot every colour featured in these houses on a colour wheel, it looks very much as if the colour scheme was achieved by taking a shot gun and firing it at the colour wheel over a medium distance.
Time to Desensitize! Acclimatizing with Ashwing.
Now while considering this topic so far, I wonder if I should approach some desensitisation: coming to accept the colour through ongoing exposure, face my fear and reach a state of acceptance. So, I have a copy of 41183: The Goblin King’s Evil Dragon, picked up recently during a 20% of sale. The set retails for $AUD 44.99 and has 340 elements. Forty nine of these elements are spring yellowish green.
Bag one breaks us in gently, giving us Cronan, the Goblin king, Jimblin the Goblin, and two bears: Blubeary and Li’l Blu. We also have some classic Elves scenery, ready to explode when you push in the dynamite. Hardly anything too controversial, colourwise, here. But there are crystals for Cronan and the Goblins to mine! Cronan has the obligatory Elves tattoo on his right cheek as well as a brilliantly printed tunic and bootlaces. There is no back printing, however he has a dual tone medium lilac-red cloak, made of the new spongy fabric that has been around for the last year or so. Jimblin the goblin has a printed tunic, with crystals tucked into his belt. There are a couple of printed elements: locks for the cage as well as the Goblin ‘joblist’ sheet which has been present in most sets. Here it appears to say ‘Mine more crystals!’ Blu and li’l Blu are both bears, but li’l Blu appears to be a refashioned hamster from a previous friends set.
Bag two brings us to the body, head and tail of the Ashwing, the dragon. Technically, I suspect Ashwing is a Wyvern as he has only two legs, with claws incorporated in the wings. We have plenty of spring yellowish green curves, tiles, plates and offset plates. In addition to these, there are plenty of red, and bright reddish violet reddish elements to make up the belly of the beast, while reddish brown and medium lilac, with pearl gold trim are used for the saddle. The axels for the legs to connect to are built into the body and keep in relatively steady through the use of friction clamps concealed within the Ashwing’s body. A similar technique was used with the Queen Dragon’s legs last year. The head is premoulded with a bright reddish violet lower jaw, which has great printing, to match the nature of the Goblin King’s tattoo.
The third bag focusses on the legs and wings. The legs are movable, but stiff. They are designed to look suitably muscular. The proximal part of each wing is built up using constraction elements, giving a feeling of strong wings, which also double as arms for the creature. The angle at which the wing element attaches to these allows it to be a little more swept back than that of other dragons appearing in the Elves sets.
As you can see, spring yellowish green is almost, but not quite on the opposite side of the colour wheel from the red and bright reddish violet used on the belly, and medium lilac featured on the saddle. In fact, we appear to have a ‘split complementary’ colour scheme, although these colours are far more saturated than the pale, milky green. The use of red fits as an analogous colour to the bright reddish violet.
In summary: this is a great set if you are looking for the Goblin king, or aiming to maintain a complete collection of Elves dragons. It is odd to find a set in the Elves line without any of our core group of Elves or humans included. That said, their always seems to be a bit of antagonism going on between the Goblin King and the Goblins, so there is scope for conflict and drama here! The use of stiffening techniques on the legs is nice, and the colours used on Ashwing seem to work well together. The decision to make Ashwing a 2 legged Wyvern rather than a four legged dragon maintains a level of variety in the line, which after a significant number of dragons is starting to feel a little bit more of the same. It can however make it a challenge to have the model balance if you change the position of the wings and head.
The landscaping elements provided, giving us a small crystal mine as well as a water fall, fit in with the aesthetic seen in other elves sets, and the exploding play feature is fun to activate.
I’ll have to admit that by the end of the build I am no longer totally upset by spring yellowish green. I may even be coming to like it, so long as it is in the right context.
All of this year’s Elves sets have all been quality builds, with interesting colour combinations. I have found the architecture and design to be appropriate for the different characters inhabiting the sets. I give the Goblin King’s Evil Dragon four out of five (4/5) Arbitrary Praise Units.
When I set about writing this post, I was uncertain where it was going to lead. I am intrigued by the way that spring yellowish green was stealthily introduced over the first few years, a piece at a time for the first few years, and then brought to the forefront much more recently. For one of the colours introduced in the same year as LEGO Friends, it has had very little to do with that theme, until now. It will be interesting to see where it appears from here. Certainly large quantities have been effectively employed in creepy and sinister scenarios such as the Ninjago and Elves sets, but most other use has been subtle. It is a difficult colour to reconcile aesthetically pleasing combinations within the current LEGO colour palette.
I spoke earlier of the Frozen Yoghurt Shop. Can I understand the colour scheme used here any better now than I did before I set out on my exploration? Here is the colour wheel and distribution of the colours in use: the bright purple and medium lilac both serve as split complementary colours to the spring yellowish green. the flame yellowish orange serves as complementary colour to the pale royal blue featured in the base plates. Exactly how this works in the eyes of art and design scholars, I am uncertain.
After all this, I think I might now find time to kick back, relax and enjoy my frozen yoghurt.
Are there any colours used in the LEGO palette that evoke certain feelings in you? why not leave a note in the comments below.
Until next time, Play Well!