Introduction to the book by the author
One Christmas morning when I was a child, I opened a gift that seemed at the time to be the biggest box of water-colour paints in the world. The box contained row upon row of every colour imaginable. Arranged in no special order, reds next to blues, oranges next to pinks, there was a colour, it seemed, for everything. There was certainly no need to mix colours together, and anyway, when I did, the result was a dirty brown, so what was the point? Leaves were green, the sky was blue and my pet rabbit, Smoky, was black - it all seemed so simple.
Of course, the subject of colour, one that has occupied the thoughts and efforts of alchemists, scientists, writers, philosophers and psychologists, not to mention centuries, is by no means that straightforward.
For artists, regardless of whether they are working with oil or acrylic, water-colour or gouache, ink or pastel, colour is central to everything he or she does. Not only does it help describe form and texture, size and shape, but it also plays a vital part in composition, perspective and atmosphere. It creates spatial awareness, affects mood and provokes strong emotional responses in the viewer. There is no question that for the artist to give visual expression to his or her ideas, an understanding of colour is paramount.
For the uninformed or absolute beginner, the row upon row of pastels, coloured pencils and tubes of paint in any art store can look a little like my childhood palntbox - there appears to be a colour for everything.
In an effort to improve paint quality and colour choice, manufacturers now make available far more colours than ever before. On the face of it, this is good news for the artist, but for many of us this vast choice and availability can be confusing - when choosing your own palette of colours, where do you begin? Practical and budgetary considerations mean decisions have to be made: which blue, which yellow, which red? The aim of this book is to point you in the right direction.
All professional and experienced artists work from a limited range of colours. These can vary in number, but invariably consist of about 10 to 15 hues that form the backbone of their palette. If carefully chosen, this range is more than adequate for mixing all the colours and tones that one will ever need, and as will be seen from the colour charts in this book, it is possible to arrive at the same, or a very similar, result in a number of different ways.
Colour mixing can be enthralling and enormously satisfying, as you will discover when you experiment with your own mixes because with colour, so much is possible with so little.
1st paperback edition, 6th reprint 2010, Pb, 144pp, full colour throughout, 22.5 x 22 cm