Basic Colour || Jane de Sausmarez

At first sight, this looks more like a scientific textbook than a book on painting, but there have been many attempts over the years to explain colour theory for artists and what they’ve proved, above all, is that there’s really no better method than with charts and diagrams.

The problem is that colour is all about physics and, to understand what primaries and complementaries are, why tones and hues appear as they do and how colour mixing actually works, you need to know a reasonable amount about the properties of light. Once you get into it, it’s not actually that complicated but the problem is that arts and science are now so far divided (this isn’t the eighteenth century you know), that the two are generally regarded as almost diametrically opposed.

This is a shame. Actually, it’s more than a shame, it’s a tragedy because just a little basic science could save a great many aspiring painters from a great struggle with colour mixing which itself stems from a failure to understand that it’s not an additive, but a subtractive process. Put simply, more is less. And if you want to know why, then buy this book, which is the distillation of many years’ teaching experience and is, despite its perhaps rather forbidding initial impression, actually a very straightforward explanation of what colour is, how it works and why this matters.

Every painter should read this book. The absolute, real tragedy, is that very few of you will.

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