In the film Life Lessons directed by Martin Scorsese as a part of New York Stories (1989), middle aged New York painter Lionel Dobie (Nick Nolte) must combat with his lack of inspiration resulting from his assistant, Paulette (Rosanna Arquette ) no longer wanting to be his lover and the fact that his next big show is in only three weeks.Throughout the short film we come face to face with the reality of a man who is so incredibly dependent on other people for his inspiration and how he suffers throughout his artistic process due to not being self sufficient.
Many of this film's most intriguing elements deals with the visual representation of Dobie's interaction with his own passion and lack of inspiration. This section of his creative process is highlighted by the color blue.
The first time that we, as viewers, see the color blue in Life Lessons is during the first 30 seconds of the film when Lionel steps on tube of paint and it splats! against the white supporting bar of his studio. This image is repeated and reflected again on the beginning credits as it is the first color that is splattered on the title. The color of blue is also incredibly connected to Paulette- or rather the idea of her. While blue shows up on Paulette's door to her room, in her earrings and choices of clothing, it is ultimately her eyes that are the most notable piercing shade. These pops of blue that are associated with the things that Lionel loves is what connects us to the idea that passion is just as much a part of his creative process as the actual act of painting is. The most notable use of blue within lighting design is during Lionel's short dream sequence with Paulette. The two of them are basked in this soft blue light in moments of passion that are completely in Dobie's mind after he sees her bare foot and has the impulse to kiss it. Directly after this Lionel can paint and keep moving in the process of completing his artwork before his deadline.
While other colors are present in the Life Lessons the color blue is a direct reflection of the passion that Dobie needs from his "assistants" so he can keep being a successful, respected artist in New York City.