Ah, another colour mixing guide. I needed one of those. But wait, it’s a bit thin, isn’t it? Small(ish) format and only 48 pages? I’ve got tomes I take great care not to drop on my foot.
Keep reading, because this is a good ’un. Have a look at those larger books you’ve got (yes you have…). Do you really need all those pages and pages of almost identical mixes? Yes, one of those subtle shades might come in useful one day but, by the time you’ve worked your way through and found it, the creative muse will have toddled off up the wooden hills to Bedfordshire and that carefully laid wash will have dried out like a camel without an oasis.
I was captivated on page 5, a simple still life done with just three colours. Yes, it’s not the subtlest piece of painting I’ve ever seen, but it works and it makes a point, which the caption, referring to each numbered area, explains elegantly. From just those three colours, there are 16 different hues (counting the white of the paper). Impressed? Of course you are.
The meat of the book begins with a brief explanation of primary, secondary and tertiary, complementary, and warm and cool colours. Each of these gets just one page, so there’s no room for complication. There’s further advice on using a limited palette and on the appropriate places for dull and bright colours. The actual mixes don’t start until page 28, so occupy less than half the book. Julie wisely confines them to pure, then 20, 40, 60 and 80% of the other half of the mix. Each of these takes up just one line in a double-page spread, keeping it all very simple.
Simplicity is the heart of colour mixing. The more you do, the more of a mess you’re going to get into. Less is always more and the moment you start adding more than two colours, the closer you are to a muddy grey. If you struggle with colour mixing, the sheer brevity of this will delight you. If you regard yourself as something of an expert, it can still remind you of the basics, back to which we should all get from time to time.
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