Myths tell us stories of the past including beliefs and cultures of people. There are many myths and stories that give us ideas of creativity and imagination. In the book The Metamorphosis of Ovid, the story of Phoebus and Phaethon particularly stood out to me. Even though it is short, the story is full of suspense and action that helps capture the reader’s attention. The two images below portray the same scene yet they have remarkably different impressions.
Illustrations and visuals make it easier for the audience to picture what is going on in the story, and it is also an excellent way to see what other people’s perspectives are on the story. In the Myth of Phoebus, there is a young man named Phaethon. Phaethon seeks assurance that his mother, Clymene, is telling the truth that his father is the Sun God, Phoebus. Phaethon journeys to the home of Phoebus to find out the truth. Phoebus wants to prove his love towards Phaethon and promises on the Pool of Styx that he will give Phaethon anything he wants. Phaethon asks for Phoebus’ chariot, to drive the sun across the sky.
Phoebus tries desperately to prevent Phaethon from riding this chariot, due to its destructive power, but despite his warnings Phaethon insists on the chariot. Phoebus, who promised on the Pool of Styx, grants him the wish with specific instructions on how to control this chariot. Phaethon takes the chariot to the sky, but he quickly loses control. He sets the earth ablaze and countless lives are massacred. Jove ends up shooting Phaethon out of the chariot in order to save the earth before it was too late. Many artists have depicted this story in their own ways. This particular image of Phaethon immediately caught my eye.
Its modern twist of texture and colors make it vibrant and interesting. In the story, despite his father’s warning, Phaethon drives Phoebus’s chariot and sets the world ablaze. Of course Phaethon has no idea what he is doing, and the picture illustrates the terrified expression on Phaethon’s face. There is a warm glow coming from the earth which seems like the Mother Earth is pleading to Zeus to make it stop. There are also faint structures in the background which represent the kingdom of Gods but it’s diminishing because they are being affected by this chariot too.
Behind him, the fire he has caused is personified, its terrified expression and every other component in this illustration shows how chaotic the scene was. This picture is relatively bright, yet dark as well. It uses the elements of darkness and light to help make the bright colors pop. The brightest source of light in this picture is Phaethon himself, ablaze. The background is dark representing the deep space. The dominant bright colors are yellow, orange, and red. These colors represent the heat and intensity of the situation.
The color contrast of dark colors in the background and the bright colors in the foreground really make Phaethon stand out the most. This picture seems harsh and rigid so I think there is not a balance throughout the colors and the texture. This drawing obviously looks more classical than the other. The feeling to this painting is much more subtle and gentle compared to the other one. One of Phaethon legs is outside the chariot which to me indicates that he does not want to be in this situation. It looks like Phaethon has a grip on the chariot but it is starting to become loose.
Phaethon himself is bent outwards and overall it looks like he is about to fall off the Chariot which will ultimately cause his death. This drawing is not limited by certain shapes or lines. Similar to the one before, the darkest color is the background itself but everything else has basically a uniform color. The darkness represents the horror and chaos going on at that particular time. People are trying to save their lives by running away from the chariot. The painting itself looks flat and nothing really stands out but the chariot itself looks almost three dimensional because of the texture of colors and lines.
This painting has another sense of unity throughout the colors and texture which makes the painting have a more gentle and subtle feel to it. Although the two drawings represent the same story; they have many differences as well as similarities. The first drawing consists of rigid shapes and lines and there are not that many curved lines or round shapes. The picture looks relatively brighter than the second picture and you could determine the source of light clearly. I could see the expression on Phaethon’s face of how terrified he was on the chariot.
Overall many details made it modern and eye catching such as the personification of the fire, the glow emitting from the earth, and the faint structures in the background. The second illustration seems to have curved lines as well as straight lines and it even has round figures that partially exude the classic feeling. In the picture, the bright colors are not as vibrant as the first picture and therefore it’s hard to determine what the source of light is. I could not see any dramatic expressions on Phaethon nor the people running away compared to the first picture which in some way made it shallow.
Overall, the second picture is more classical with gentle and subtle components to it which gives it a totally different appearance than the first illustration. The illustrations are not exactly what I pictured in my head when I read the story. It is hard for me to describe in words what I saw in my perspective unlike the drawings that were shown above. Images make it easier for us to see and understand the story itself. Various illustrations may portray the same story differently. Each picture may have a different feel to it depending on colors, lines, texture and more.
The first picture had a modern twist of texture and colors to the story with an unbalanced feeling. The second one had a more classical feeling to it with a sense of unity which made the painting itself have a more subtle and gentle feeling to it. Each painting in some way makes it easier for the audience to understand the myth. It is a way for people to show what they see as they read the story. It is a way to share their perspective of the story and their point of view. Art help us visually, but in a way, it helps us share the diverse creativity we have around us.