Oh, what have you done? What have you done? This, it turns out, from extensive investigation (well, 5 minutes on the Amazon website), has a sister volume. It’s called “The Watercolour Artist’s” etc, etc. But, back in its youth, it was called “Colour for The Watercolour Artist” and, you know what? That was a really good title, it told you what the book was about, it made you want to pick it up, it had some pictures on the cover that gave you an idea of what to expect inside. This? It’s got an unwieldy title and a rainbow of stripes that tell you absolutely nada, zilch, not a bean about it. These are the spraints of a publisher who’s lost their way, doesn’t know what the book is about. I’ve seen them before and they sell like cold, stale cakes.
Oh, dear! And yet it all started so well. The watercolour book knew what it was about, so why on earth didn’t you stick with that format? It was a few years old, sure, but it only needed a bit of filler and a coat of paint, the basic structure was sound. It would have passed its MOT. All you had to do was call this “Colour for the Acrylic Artist” and it would have been fine.
The thing is, it’s a good book. The concept is a little vague, and that can be difficult to get across, but the watercolour book sold well and the content is absolutely sound. It’s a Quarto package, and you know how I like those: the design is good, everything is presented in nice bite-size chunks – one page or one spread, all easy to absorb and, above all, easy to grasp at a glance when you pick it up. These books sell because people like them when they first dip in, but you need a good cover to get them to do this. The pictures on the back are great, they make me want to look inside, but why are they on the back? What annoys me even more is that the US edition has a slightly better, but still unwieldy, title, but a much better cover. See, you can do it if you try.
So, having got that off my chest, what’s going on under the covers? (I’m sorry, but since the success of Fifty Shades of Grey, I’ve realised we have to spice these things up a bit). Well, it’s a book about colour. So much, so obvious, but colour is a difficult concept to talk about; it can get theoretical and that puts people off. Work from examples, explain what was done rather than what could be done and you’ve got the reader’s attention, and this is what happens here. The subtitle nails it, “how to make colour choices that will take your painting to a new level”. Essentially, this is a collection of paintings on a wide variety of subjects with an analysis of how colour was used for composition, atmosphere and impact. It teaches by example and from examples and makes a complex subject easy to pick up. In spite of the title and the cover, it turns out the publishers absolutely knew what they were doing all along.