When we want a picture to feel scary, it is more effective to graphically exaggerate the scary aspects of the threat and of its environment than to represent them as close to photographic reality as possible, because
this is the way we feel things look.
What else does the wolf need in order to look more wolfish?
It needs an eye.
I cut the eye out of the purple paper, since there are three colors available in addition to the white, and the new color attracts our attention. Also, I wanted to use all three colors plus white in every picture.
I made the eye a long diamond or lozenge shape, emphasizing the pointiness of a real wolf’s eye but getting rid of the curves.
But even though wolves’ eyes are often pale blue, it didn’t look right.
Why is this eye so much scarier?
The obvious answer is that it is red, but why should a red eye be so much scarier than a pale-purple eye?
Purple is a milder, less aggressive color than red, but why? Part of the reason may be purely psychological: somehow red excites us. Psychologists have found that people tend to get into more fights in bright-red and hot-pink rooms and tend to eat more in rooms with red walls than they do in rooms with paler colors. Part of the reason may be that we associate red with blood and fire, so this is a bloody, fiery eye rather than an eye associated with flowers or with the evening sky. Maybe it’s because we’ve seen drunken, bloodshot eyes, or eyes reflected in a campfire, and those were red. In some fairy tales, the eyes of witches are described as being red. Red eyes are unnatural, and unnatural things make us wary. And red is an energetic color, a color with agency, so while all-white eyes are also unnatural, it is red eyes that have the energy to be hostile.
But I notice something else with the replacement of the purple eye with the red, something I wasn’t expecting: I immediately associate Little Red Riding Hood with the wolf’s eye, in a way I didn’t before. They go together. Now the eye is looking at her.
The strong association is almost solely due to the color; when I made the eye round but still red, I associated it with Little Red Riding Hood the same way.
What happens if the eye is made exactly the same color and shape as Little Red Riding Hood?
The wolf looks stupid now, or surprised, or maybe happy. Its glance is no longer pointed at its prey. Certainly it is not nearly as evil-looking as it was before. The picture feels very different, and yet all that has been changed is the shape of the eye.
A more disconcerting effect to me is that the two red triangles are now so alike, and I associate them so much with each other, that they disassociate from the rest of the picture. They are no longer meaningful elements. I see them not so much as Little Red Riding Hood and a wolf’s eye now, but more as two red triangles that float up and out of the picture.
I return to the wolf with the more pointed red eye.