Achieving the right colour is an art in itself and one about which many books have been written. Many more experienced artists will tell you that it’s the very basis of art itself and that it ought to be instinctive, something you don’t even have to think about. Sales of all these books tend to belie that, however!
Inexperienced painters usually to make two mistakes: the first is to use colour straight out of the paintbox and the second is to believe that more is definitely better. Colour as it comes from the tube or pan is garish and rarely bears any resemblance to what exists in nature. The huge variety of colours available is largely down to history; various artists throughout the centuries have tried to produce something with a specific shade or characteristic or simply something that doesn’t recede when thinned more than a little or which is reasonably permanent. For most practical purposes, the average painter needs no more than one or two of any colour type to be able to achieve most of the mixing variations they’re ever likely to need.
The belief that “just a little more” will produce a stunning hue is simply wrong. White light, when it emerges from a source, contains all the colours. The appearance of a specific colour is because a filter (in this case paint) is applied that absorbs all the others. It also absorbs a large proportion of the light that fell on it so, the more colours you add, the more filters you add, the less light escapes and the darker the painting appears. Paintings which appear vibrant with colour have the simplest mixes.
All this is a complex process to learn and you need confidence if you’re going to be successful. The good news is that Tony Paul leaves out most of the colour theory and concentrates on the practical. The book is divided into three sections: Understanding Colour, Basic Palettes and Colour Mixes. Tony Paul works, rather neatly, in a way where the pigment is more important than the medium so that the book can cover watercolour, oils and acrylic all at the same time without providing conflicting or confusing information. Effectively he concentrates on the pigment and leaves out the medium. This does mean that you have to be familiar with the mechanics of colour mixing but it’s a relatively small price to pay.
Once it gets down to specific mixing information, the books works by colour type and then by specific pigments within each. Tony gives you a simple history of that colour itself, a basic mixing chart showing the main mixes that the pigment can produce, a table of its properties and an example painting, either by himself or another contemporary artist.
All of this makes for an attractive and manageable approach to what is, inevitably, a relatively technical subject as well as a manual that should provide years of use for reference. Now reissued in paperback, it’s also splendid value for money.
Year published: 2003
List price: £9.99