Monday, June 02, 2008

Colour and Color - an online project

St. James's Parrot
8" x 10", coloured pencil on Arches HP

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I like colour, I respond to colour and people frequently compliment me on my use of colour in my drawings. But do I know enough about colour? I don't think so!

For the next two months I'm going to be focusing on colour with a view to becoming better at understanding and using colour. The idea is that I will:

  • remind myself of what I do know - so it gets bedded down even further into the braincells
  • then work out what I don't know and find out about as much of that as possible in the time.
  • Plus along the way I hopefully identify all the things which currently I don't know I don't know about - and learn about those too!!!

[UPDATE:  Most of the links are to posts generated by this project]

What I've done so far

I've set up a site Colour - Resources for Artists for the various links to different resources on the internet and have been collecting and sorting these for months and months!

I still need to try and work out what should be final order of all the information and resource links that are now included. Never before have I had an information site which has caused as much pondering as this one has! What comes before what? Colour feels to me like it's going to be one of those hub subjects where the topics are like spokes spinning out from the centre and they are all committed to the wheel but they don't have a hierarchy. (I think I just created my first colour joke!)

I keep changing the order of colour topics and I don't think I've quite got it right yet. Let me know what you think. If you take a look at the list of contents near the top of the page and then click a link it will take you straight to that topic.

Learning about colour is something I've been doing for years and I've bought a small mountain of books about colour in the process. So I'm definitely going to be doing some book reviews. I have a confession to make - books about colour make me feel good. Just turning the pages is a turn on. For that reason I can't promise that these will be the most objective book reviews you've ever read!

What topics am I going to cover?

Here's a list of topics associated with colour which will inform the plan for the plan for the project - which hopefully will emerge this week. I hope most of them will be covered - but I'm still not sure. Check them out below - can you see what I mean about now knowing quite where to start?

Colour Basics

Colour is my day long obsession, joy and torment
Claude Monet
The science of colour - ways of seeing colour
Colour vocabulary
  • naming colours and colour names
  • classification systems
Colour Systems and Theory
Mixing colours
Colour in the History of Art

Colour in composition

Colourist painters
  • individual artists and their approach to colour
  • art movements and their approach to colour
    • Impressionists
    • Fauves
    • Scottish colourists

I'm going to be dropping quotations about colour into the colour project blog posts - I'll probably be raiding Robert Genn's 337 quotations about colour for some of them. Interestingly I've already learned one thing. The Monet quote about the little square of blue, an oblong of pink and a streak of yellow isn't being picked up by some of those who are indexing quotations - which makes me wonder did he ever really say it. (Have you ever noticed that quotations are frequently not attributed to a source?). Anyway, I've come across lots that are stimulating - and will be using them this month.

Book Reviews

These are the books which will be informing this project - along with the information contained in Colour - Resources for Artists. There are links to the books below on this site.

[UPDATE:  see Making a Mark: Learning about Colour - Art Book Reviews for Artists #1 and
Making a Mark: Using Colour - Art Book Reviews for Artists #2]

  • Learning about colour
    • Colour by Edith Anderson Feisner
    • Color by Betty Edwards
    • Painters Guide to Colour by Stephen Quiller
    • Paints and Colours by David Pyle
    • Color - right from the start by Hilary Page
    • Artists Colour Manual by Simon Jennings
  • Using colour
    • Making Colour Sing by Jeanne Dobie
    • Color Choices by Stephen Quiller
    • Color in Contemporary painting by Charles Le Clair
    • Watercolour Colour by Ray Smith
    • Colour - how to see it, how to paint it by Judy Martin
  • Colour Mixing
    • Blue and Yellow don't make Green by Michael Wilcox
    • Choosing and Mixing colours for painting by Jeremy Galton
    • How to mix and use colour by Tony Paul
    • Transparent watercolour Wheel by Jim Kosvanec
I'll probably find a few more which I've put back on the wrong book case!

I'm going to be publishing another squidoo lens devoted to book reviews for books about colour - Colour - Art Book Reviews for Artists. This is already in draft and I'll see if I can publish it tomorrow. [Update - now published] This can also include links to book reviews done by other people [Update: Both bloggers participating in the project and reviews I find through blog searches]

An invitation

You are invited to join in with this projects and to learn more about colour. I'm going to suggest that you work out for yourself what you want to know more about - and that you pursue that line. Hopefully you'll get a few ideas from the above list. I've found in the past that people finding their own path through a subject - while also reviewing what others are learning - often leads to greater learning for all of us.

You're welcome to use any of the links to information I've collected - and to signal any great new ones you find.

If you want to join in please let me know below and give me the URL for your blog. I'll then do a round-up at the end of each month - and will link to blogs and blog posts which have been participating in the project. Obviously if you keep an eye on any names which pop up below you can have a look at what's emerging before that.

I've also started a site for book reviews linked to this project - and you're very welcome to alert me to any of your own book reviews of any and all books on colour that you have posted on your blog.

I'm going to start tomorrow with a quick overview of the various books - so that if anybody wants to go out an buy one you've got an idea what it's about. I'll be saying which are my favourite books and the ones I recommend - because I know which ones stand out at the moment.

Finally - I think you can expect the emphasis to be on colourful images from me in the next couple of months - hopefully putting learning into practice. I hope to also try and explore colourful greys at some point.


  1. hi katherine,

    i'd like to do a little contribution on colour (not too big as i'm pushed for time... would also like to write something about your basically very sound advice about painting holidays as fill-in some of the missing parts... tempus fuguit... busy)

    this sounds wonderful, as i spend my days thinking about colour, it would fit in nicely.

    may i suggest two other key books on colour:

    john cage - colour & culture, thames & hudson 1993

    johannes itten - the elements of colour, chapman & hall, 1961 (ok, now disapproved of by many but the book still has some of the best colour printing there is... most further education art education up to 2000 used this as the key text).

    can certainly do something on the fauves!

    colourfully yours

    adam cope
    Dordogne Painting Days

  2. Colour is indeed a good post. We can never learn too much about it and how to apply it in our work.

    I also have to say that your flowers are delicious. That's the only word to describe them. They are like some exotic candy and always make me think of sweet shops, they're so pretty.

    NOw can you teach me how to do that too? :)

  3. I began to study color a few months ago, but got side-tracked by a major change in my life. In a few days, I will be settled into my new home, several thousand miles from here. Then, I can get back to devoting more time to my art. I will be devoting blog posts to what I am learning in the next couple of months, but probably won't have anything before the middle of next week. I am going to enjoy studying along with you.

  4. I'm so glad that you are starting this project. Color continually baffles me. I have a break coming up, but I will try and participate.

    Certainly, I will be reading!

  5. as someone who loves colour - in fact when I was accepted for art college on leaving school they told me that my use of colour was a principle reason for them accepting me.

    so - I'll play!

  6. Like the good student, I will try to focus on one element rather than the whole (thorough) list you've outlined. The one that comes to mind is the attribute of "intensity".

    As I read your outline, I jotted down "artists", but then I see it near the latter part. The move in art history now is to subvert the artist under the subject, period or time. This is an academic study, I'll grant, but I feel moved to keep the artist in the forefront. Just my 2 cents.

  7. Hi Katherine,
    I can recommend another book by Michael Wilcox and the School of Color Publications:
    "Perfect Color Choices for the Artist"

    Greetings, Petra

  8. I was on the fence about whether to embark on a special project for myself when I saw this post. Your color project gave me just the push I needed to give my idea a go! I don't know yet if I'll be posting the results of my own 'color project', that all depends on how things go :) I will certainly be following along, you always have such a wealth of information here. Thank you for taking on this timely project!

  9. What a great idea! And this has come along at exactly the right time for me because I've been struggling with color since I'm now experimenting with acrylics. When I use my trusty old colored pencils it's not such a difficult thing. I know I have so much to learn and I'll try to hang in there with you all month, but I'm already two days behind. Yikes! Oh, today I got my Artists magazine and there is an article in there on grays. Timely, isn't it? I'll read that in bed tonight and be smarter in the morning. Thanks so much for all the time and tremendous effort that you put into your blog. I really appreciate all the information. You are one of my favorites I'm sure to check every day.

  10. Thanks to Adam - I now own both the books hr recommended - plus Josef Albers's Interaction of Color too.

    The ONLY bookshop I knew would stock them (given I'd never seen them before) did indeed stock them - in what I discovered was a special two bookshelves section totally devoted to colour! The Waterstones flagship store in Piccadilly strikes again!

  11. oh what fun to spend time grazing in shelves of colour books :)

    repeat : treat Itten's interpratations with caution but the pictures remain the the standard illustrations for the key concpets in colour mapping, so handy (& light weight) for us teachers. i was taught colour with this book many years ago & so have a affection for it, despite it's errors. Lineage i guess.

    the john cage made me realise just how much thinking about colour throughout the ages there has been... though I would have liked a chapter about Ancient Egypt, this being my own personal fascination. anyone else interested in colour in egyptain art & culture should read 'symbol & magic in egyptian art' by richard wilkinson ... but this really is a tangent from modern day use of colour ... however having a good indepth knowledge of another culture helps relativise those set-in-stone-never-to-be-questioned shibboleths that sometime blind us from clear sight.

    btw , here is ablog about colour & contemporary (american) culture:

  12. Thanks Adam

    I passed on the Art of Colour by Johannes Itten - which they also had - but I decided that £75 was a little too much even for this bookaholic! It looked as if it were definitely worth a look and I'm now going to see if I can get the library to order it for me.

    John Cage had another book which came after colour and culture which was titled "Colour and Meaning - Art, Science and Symbolism" - also from Thames and Hudson.


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