Collins Artist's Little Book Of Colour || Simon Jennings

Simon Jennings’ original Artist’s Colour Manual was a tour de force of total immersion that celebrated, indeed wallowed in, what is the artist’s lingua franca, colour. It wasn’t just a list of facts or a blow-by-blow account of how to mix any shade you could possibly want. By telling you nothing, of course, it told you everything.

I suppose this pocket sized volume had to come, but it’s a reductio ad absurdum with all the character of its bigger brother taken out. If you want a list of colour facts and a handy index to what most of the popular colours from most of the main manufacturers look like straight out of the tube, well, this is the book you’ve been waiting all those years for. It’ll tell you everything and, in doing so, it’ll tell you nothing.

I’m not one of those people who say that colour mixing should be instinctive and can’t be taught, or one of those others who says that facts are useless in this context and that you should just concentrate on artistic interpretation. I will shout that, “knowledge is power”, “the truth shall make you free” from the rooftops, but “the facts, ma’am, just the facts” won’t help you at all and there’s nothing in this book to tell you what to do with all this new-found information; that’s what the original book was all about.

The main selling pitch from the back cover is: “Did you know that Ultramarine Blue was originally made from ground-up lapis lazuli or that both yellow and green once contained arsenic?”. Well, yes I did and I also know that Cochineal used to be made from ground-up beetles but, do you know what?, I don’t care. Even if I didn’t know, I wouldn’t be looking around for a book to tell me.

There’s a traditional Christmas market in books that contain useless information and it’s just a pity that this one is dressed up as being somehow useful to the artist. Start a “what I don’t want for Christmas” list now and put this right at the top, just in case someone has the misguided idea of buying it for you.

Collins 2007

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