Book Review: Colour: A Workshop for Artists and Designers – Part 1


Colour: A workshop for artists and designers by David Hornung.

This book is one of the set texts for my current OCA course so I decided to work my way through it to try and gain as much knowledge as I could from it. In places it overlaps with some of my set work, so I’ve followed my course text instead of the book, but these areas are very similar so I’ll include them anyway.

I’ll start by saying my one annoyance with this book, on the cover it is called Colour, but clearly it is an american book as american spellings are used throughout the rest of the book, and as any English person knows, repeatedly having to read the word color is enough to drive you insane!!! Why bother to change the spelling on the cover but not anywhere else, how irritating!

That was the only downside, on the whole I found this book incredibly useful. The introduction is fantastic, and really goes into a lot of detail, I especially found the information on viewing colours under different light sources very interesting, its not something that had occurred to me before. The section on colour schemes is also very handy for referring too when planning a piece of work, I don’t always find it easy to pick out a set of colours, and there are plenty of lovely colour photo’s to illustrate their descriptions.

Now this book is primarily there to work through as if you were going to actual lessons, and the materials you need to complete all the assignments are listed very clearly and specifically, which I find helps a lot when you are learning something new. There’s no wishy-washy get a red and a blue blah blah blah, its Vermilion Red and Ultramarine for example, thus insuring you can fully complete all the activities in the book.

Now on to the assignments, there are 14 and most of these are broken down into 2 or more related exercises, sometimes many more… They are separated by areas of free study, and some of the artwork shown in these are so inspirational, I would buy the book for these alone. I didn’t stop to really do too much of the free study as I worked through the book, but I feel it is something I tend to do anyway when I’m inspired by things I’ve seen, and it would certainly be a good way to experiment and bulk out your portfolio.

Assignment 1

This assignment is all about chromatic greys, doing it I so thought I had it nailed, but looking back at my work after progressing further through the book I realise now that a lot of the swatches I made were in fact muted colours instead! Doh! I didn’t have plain newspaper to work with though and I think the normal copier paper just didn’t work as well. At least it shows I’ve learnt something as I can now identify a chromatic grey, and I also have a fantastic page of colour swatches with the notes on how I made them to refer back too. The first 4 assignments are based around a small collage made over and over again in different colours, so pick a simple one, you’re going to see mine a few more times.

 Assignment 2 

Now this one is all about muted colours, totally got that one covered! Oh and I hope you picked an easy design to work with as I’m already sick of cutting out my collages, it’s all squares and straight lines next time!

Assignment 3 

Prismatic colours – this totally makes me think of Matisse! You can see by this point my collage skills are starting to slip, I’m not the biggest fan of cutting and sticking, and I found the gouache dissolved off the paper into the glue giving me some very mucky fingers. At least this one is easy to achieve, as prismatic colours pretty much come straight out of the tube!

Assignment 4 

Combined saturations, now this was an interesting one, and difficult to achieve, getting all those different colours and values in there seemed quite a challenge at the time, but persevere and at the end it all seems to make sense. (Yay! The last of those pesky collages!)

Assignment 5 

Now on to another selectio of collages!!! This is an area that overlapped very closely with my course text, so I followed that instead, this book does the same kind of exercises just in much more detail. It’s all about how colours interact and our perception of that, so for example the small green sqaure shown above looks a different colour when its surrounded by the dark purple when compared to the one surrounded by pink, however they are both the same colour in reality.

Assignment 6 interaction composition

Assignment six is a very short one, but very interesting. It’s called interaction composition and explores how colours appear to alter depending on which colours they are next too and how big their area is, for example the tiny bright blue sqaure hidden in the dark area looks much darker than the large area painted in the same piece. These studies would make the most fantastic solid coloured modern quilts, so I think there’s a bit of inspiration in there for everyone. I think I need to start making the effort to mask of the edges of my work though, as the rough, uneven edges and patchy paint distract from the focus of the paintings.

Assignment 7 

Tonal(value) and colour progressions – making the progression charts was something I struggled with. Before starting this book I hadn’t worked with gouache paint (which they recommend) since I was at school and I found the colour mixing quite difficult. If you add too much water into the mix it all just runs together as you paint it on creating a big muddy mess, but if its too thick it doesn’t mix as easily or paint on very smoothly! To be honest I go so fed up with it that I ordered some acrylic paints to try with some of the exercises too. You can’t fault the book though, their diagrams and instructions were great, its my skills that need improvement! I started off by making progression sequences as detailed in the book, and then moved on to creating a design using those progressions. The examples shown are made up of simple geometric shapes and patterns, but I was fed up of working in such a controlled manner by now, so my attempts at playing  with value and saturation are much more abstract than the book intends, but they were great fun to make!

Assignment 8 

This assignment is all about using colour to create a feeling of space. The smaller sqaure pictures were painted with gouache, showing up all the issues I’ve had with this paint so far! Grrr! So I tried again in acrylic paint which I felt turned out a bit better. I’m still not happy with the messy edges though so I think I need to dig out some masking tape. Working with the acrylic paint was actually very fun, so I carried on and created two more Klimt inspired overlapping pictures. The brown one works really well in natural light, but I struggled to get a good photo of it as the paint is slightly shiny.

I’m now working through the rest of the book so i’ll post part 2 soon!



One response »

  1. Pingback: Project 3 Colour : Stage 3 Recording colours accurately | It's Sew Immaterial

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