Colour is the basic vocabulary of the artist, the means by which you speak to your viewer, and everything else: media, equipment and brushstrokes are just a means to the end of putting this down on paper and making your statement.
That much is obvious and it won’t surprise you that a lot of books have been written about the subject over the years and they all say pretty much the same thing. There’s not a lot new you can say about colour, certainly not in the way that you can about a new brush or a new range of paints.
The best thing you can say about this book is that it doesn’t try to get clever, doesn’t try to say the unsayable, doesn’t look for a “startlingly new approach”, which must have been a temptation. What it does do is offer a comprehensive look at what colour is, how it works and how you can use it in a painting. Colour theory is important, but it’s a subject that can be as dry as dust and, in this context, it’s best dealt with in a few pages and plenty of diagrams. Which is what you have here. It’s nicely done and easy to follow, but not so trivial that it leaves as many questions hanging as it answers. You won’t leave feeling you’ve understood the physics of it, but you never wanted to in the first place.
The rest of the book develops nicely into a look (and I mean look: there are loads of illustrations) at the way colours work: warm, cool, complementary and how they behave in different media and on different surfaces. All of this is good solid practical stuff and that’s the tone of the book. It’s very much one for artists and one which it’s not unreasonable to say that every artist should read. Maybe you know it already, but this is such a good overview of the whole subject of colour both in theory and in practice that it clarifies everything for you.
I’m not quite sure why it’s spiral bound. The pages lay flat in use, which is nice, but this isn’t really a book to have open while you paint, so it doesn’t really serve a practical purpose. However, £18.99 is about what this publisher charges for a hardback, so they haven’t increased to cost to cover it and we don’t need to deduct points for that.
North Light 2008