Archive for category Author: Julie Collins

Colour Demystified || Julie Collins

Julie has previously been the author of fairly conventional colour mixing guides, but this is something else altogether.

There’s a hint of what’s to come in the list of acknowledgements, which includes several artists and art writers, the Tate Gallery and many art brands which will be familiar to the reader. Julie has not just done her research, but done it in depth.

It’s no exaggeration to say that, if this were alchemy, it would be the philosopher’s stone, the catalyst that turns the base metal of simple pigments into the gold of a successful painting. It’s not magic or witchcraft and has nothing to do with the creative side of painting (you’re on your own there). What it is, though, is a completely reliable guide to how your materials behave on paper (we’re working with watercolours here).

Watercolour has many properties and they’re all based in chemistry. Guides to this have appeared before, most notably Ralph Meyer’s Artist’s Handbook of Materials and Techniques, an exhaustive and exhausting tome that has its roots firmly in research chemistry. For the faint-hearted it is not.

This is shorter, illustrated and altogether more manageable. Or, let’s just say, manageable. Colours can be transparent or opaque. Some are staining, some will granulate. Some are perfect for glazing, others decidedly not. You need to know all these things, you need to know which pigments play nicely together and which should never be invited to each other’s birthday parties. It’s all in the chemistry, but you’re not a chemist, you’re an artist. You want the magic (OK, it is magic really) to happen on the palette, not in the library.

This is what Julie gives you – a practical artist’s guide to how colours work for the artist. It’s full of colour swatches, examples and demonstrations and you can see what’s happening at every stage, even try it out for yourself. It’s a book you’ll want to keep handy for reference, although there’s also a very good chance that you find you’ve remembered most of it. It’s convincing, comprehensive and joyously concise. Above all, it’s a key that opens just about every door.

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3000 Colour Mixing Recipes: Watercolour || Julie Collins

Along with the welcome resurgence of David & Charles comes the equally welcome reissue of this very thorough encyclopaedia of mixes, tints and hues.

It was originally part of a larger volume, Colour Mixing Index, which covered all the main media and you can read the review of that here.

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Colour Mixing Guide: Oils || Julie Collins

On the heels of the watercolour and acrylics volumes comes this on oils. Previous comments apply.

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Colour Mixing Guide: Acrylics || Julie Collins

This is in the same series as the first volume on watercolour.
Everything I said about that applies here.

While I was checking the link for that, I was reminded of the same author’s 2007 Colour Mixing Index, which is also worth a look.

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Colour Mixing Guide Watercolour || Julie Collins

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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Colour Mixing Index || Julie Collins

Everything about this book is right: the size, the coverage, the format, what it doesn’t include and even the flexible covers that allow you to flick through it easily yet are more than a paperback so that it doesn’t get dog-eared.

Do you need it? Well, only you can tell. If colour mixing comes naturally to you, if you can look at a cloud and say, “oh yes, Payne’s Grey with Alizarin Crimson and just a touch of Cadmium Yellow Deep”, then you’re unlikely to want a guide to colour mixing. If, on the other hand, that last statement brings you out in a cold sweat, then you’re one of the legions who struggle and whose existence is hinted at by the plethora of guides that are already on the market.

OK, so this is just another one? Well, yes, but someone has taken the trouble to look at the competition and come up with something different. First up, this little book (it’s jacket pocket size, but fat at 320 pages) doesn’t attempt to teach you how to paint. There’s 10 pages at the beginning on the basics of mixing colours and then it’s nothing but colour swatches, arranged by medium, base colour and tint. It’s not a book to sit down and read, it’s one to flick through (this is where the clever production design comes in), find what you want and look up the constituent parts. It’s small enough to take with you in the field, so you don’t ever need to be without it and it covers watercolour, oils, acrylic, gouache and ink – the only book of this type to include that last one, as far as I’m aware.

The only thing you might need to be aware of it before you shell out is that the colour names are from the Winsor & Newton range. This necessarily narrows its appeal if you don’t use their paints, but it does mean you get specific recommendations rather than generic names you then have to translate. You can’t have everything, I suppose. That small caveat aside, this is a book worth buying if you have the slightest trouble with colour mixing and even if you have other guides already. It feels nice in the hand which is a better quality in a book than is often credited.

David & Charles 2007

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