Archive for category Subject: Colour Mixing

Take Three Colours: Watercolour Seascapes || Geoff Kersey

This is the second outing for a promising new series that breaks popular subjects down into manageable form. The idea of using just three colours (red, blue and yellow) is that there’s a minimum of fussing about with mixing. What’s impressive, though, is the range of tints and hues that Geoff manages to achieve and there’s no hint of the extremely limited palette.

These books are, as you might have guessed, aimed at the beginner and the instruction and hand-holding are comprehensive; you’re never left feeling that something has been missed out, that there was another stage in there somewhere. Handy jargon busters deal with any technical terms that may be unfamiliar.

The pictures you’ll work on are not complex images, but that’s not what you’d want. The tone and detail are nicely judged.

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Take Three Colours: Watercolour Flowers || Julie King

Flower painting being the tricky subject that it is, anything that simplifies the painting process has to be a good thing, just as long as it doesn’t over-simplify and trivialise. It’s therefore something of a relief to be able to say that Julie manages her task with considerable success.

You will, I’m sure, be amazed by the variety of tints and hues she manages to achieve with just three base colours (the same ones throughout). Yes, if you look closely, the results lack some of the subtlety that could be achieved with more, but you wouldn’t feel dissatisfied with the results, for all that. I also have a feeling that the reproduction may not be as sharp as it could be, and that what you see on paper might be better that it is on the pages of the book. I also wouldn’t have chosen that sunflower as the cover illustration as it really doesn’t convey the variety of what you can achieve. Please don’t let it put you off.

In keeping with the series style, there are plenty of generously-sized stage illustrations, short captions telling you what’s going on and sidebars that include a variety of tips and jargon busters.

With 9 projects and clear instruction, this is the ideal place to start on a rewarding subject. You might also find it useful if you’ve already had a go, but are struggling.

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Take Three Colours: Watercolour Landscapes || Geoff Kersey

This is a brilliantly simple idea brilliantly presented. Working with a limited palette isn’t new, of course, but working with an absolute minimum of colours removes a major element of complication that can be a stumbling block for beginners: colour mixing. What’s impressive is just how much you can do with ultramarine, cadmium yellow pale and light red. A few mixes, some washes and even a bit of drybrush gives you an impressive array of options that can produce subtle and varied results. The rule of three even extends to the brushes – less, as ever, is more.

The book itself is nicely structured and the early demonstrations are only four pages long. Sure, a cloudy sky and an evening lake are basically a foreground, a background and some middle distance, but it’s amazing what you can achieve with this. Results are the important thing and what encourage any beginner to keep going and progress. By the end, you’re ready for the simple, but complete, landscape that’s on the front cover.

If you’re new to watercolour – a complete beginner just getting started, or have maybe had a go and got lost along the way, this simple and clearly laid-out book will get you on track.

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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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Hazel Soan’s Watercolour Rainbow

This is, in short, a book about colour written by one of its acknowledged masters.

Hazel Soan’s portrayal of light and shade is legendary and here she shares the secrets of her palette. This isn’t some dry-as-dust technical tome and there isn’t a colour wheel in sight, either (well, there is one, but it’s very basic and quite small). The book isn’t about theory but about practice and there’s an important difference, of which you’re probably all too well aware.

Colour can depict recession, shape and mood. It can also influence how the viewer sees your subject and how the different pictorial elements appear in importance. It can emphasise highlights while at the same time putting detail into deep shadows. It’s the most important tool you have.

The book is arranged, if you look at the contents list, by colour – or, rather, by the main colour groups. That’s to say, yellows, reds, blues, greens, browns and blacks, greys and whites. That’s not, you may have noticed, exactly a rainbow, or a conventional colour wheel either. As I said, this isn’t a book about theory and these are the colours you’re most likely to find on your palette. There’s plenty of information about the background to the various hues, as well as their properties when this is necessary, but much more about how and when they’re used. And, of course, every page is filled with examples that hit the spot perfectly. It’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that you could use this without ever reading a word and just working from the illustrations.

Like all of Hazel’s books, it’s about painting, pure and simple. Did you expect anything else?

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