Books on colour mixing are both ridiculously easy and ridiculously hard to review. On the one hand, you can see at a glance whether they’re any good but, on the other, you rack your brains trying to work out how you’ve arrived at your conclusion. And, into the bargain, there have been dozens in the past few years and, let’s be honest, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. It really is like watching paint dry!
So, I’m not going to be excited about another one, am I? Except that I am, and I can tell you exactly why. For a start, this is by Sharon Finmark, not maybe the most prolific author, but a presence on the scene and someone I associate with the art rather than the mechanics of painting. In fact, what on earth’s she doing getting into colour blobs? And that’s where it gets interesting because, although there are plenty of said blobs, they don’t look like blobs. Hang on, what do I mean? Yes, what do I mean? Well, they look like something you might try out on a piece of practice paper as you go along, rather than a painstakingly constructed grid done to prove – well, ultimately to prove nothing. The other strange thing is that, although the title implies a heavy tome, this is quite a small book and only has 176 pages. I’m going to take their word for it that there are 600 mixes here, which is a lot, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming.
It gets better because the book is peppered with practical painting stuff like Overlaying in practice, Wet-in-wet in practice, Colour, light and shade. The usual approach is to organise everything by colour and then relate any token illustrations to that, as if anyone says, “I know, I fancy a bit of Payne’s Grey mixed with Cerulean Blue today”. Of course you don’t, you look at the sky and mutter, “Wow, I’ll have a bit of that, now, what colours do I need? A bit of wet-in-wet, mix on the palette or on the paper?” That’s the challenge of painting; it’s the finished result, the visual interpretation, the mastery of technique. Not the ruddy colour mixing, that’s just a means to an end.
So, here’s what this is. It’s a book about painting that comes at it via the practicalities of making up the hue and shade you want. It is, if you like, coming at its avowed subject backwards, which is entirely the right way to do it. If you have any other colour mixing books, throw them away and buy this, it’ll be the best favour you ever did yourself.