Do you want to learn about colour and light?
Want to discover some new artistic techniques?
Understanding colour and light for most artists is fundamental. From painting, fine art to illustration, learning colour can raise your art to the next level. Learning colour and light has been very beneficial for my work, and it’s a topic I’m learning about. This is why I’m such a big advocate of helping you learn about it too!
If you’ve read my previous blog posts recently, I’ve been helping you get to grips with colour. It’s the ultimate guides to help your colour. Firstly, I delve into the colour wheel, looking at primary and secondary colours. Secondly, I discuss the colour palettes used by the masters, from Van Gogh to David Hockey. Lastly, I share the benefit of limited colour palettes. If you want to learn more about colour, I would highly recommend you check out my previous colour blog posts.
As a result of these colour articles, I’m taking the opportunity to delve deeper into colour. Within this blog post I’m sharing my review of James Gurney’s book, ‘The Color and Light – A Guide for the Realist Painter’. I’ll debate what you can expect to find inside, who it’s primary aimed at, my key takeaways and my final rating out of 5 stars.
An Introduction To Colour And Light By James Gurney
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC, James Gurney is the author. Colour and Light uses Gurney’s experience as a plein-air painter to help you learn about colour and light. Creator of Dinotopia, a New York Times best-selling book, this book is 224 pages long, and is roughly 23cm x 26.5cm. James is an experienced painter and features a lot of his paintings throughout. The book covers these chapters;
- Traditional Paintings
- Sources of Light
- Light and Form
- Elements of Colour
- Painting and Pigments
- Colour Relationships
- Visual Perception
- Surfaces and Effects
- Atmospheric Effects
- Light’s Changing Show
They are all detailed chapters and have reference paintings and photographs throughout. The book starts with paintings and seeing how the masters used colour. Furthermore, the book discusses situations a realistic painter may encounter. For example, limited colour palettes, colour opposites to colour gamuts (my favourite section).
The book is most appropriate for realist painters. However, most fine artists and illustrators can find it useful. Even though the book discusses technical analysis, beginners and advanced artists can benefit. Beginners can improve their colour theory, whilst advanced artists can learn extra pointers.
If you’re a landscape, realist or portrait artist, this book is for you.
What Chapters And Sections Did I Find Most Useful?
The book is most helpful with situational painting events. I found these sections less helpful until I encounter them within my illustrations. For example, if I was painting a portrait with the light shining directly on the subject, I would jump straight into James’ book and head to the ‘Frontal Lighting’ section. This is when I feel the book is at its most helpful. My favourite chapters are ‘Paint and Pigments’, ‘Colour Relationships’, ‘Premixing’ and ‘Visual Perception’. These chapters starts roughly 90 pages in. These in-depth chapters discuss colour theory – looking at colour relationships, colour gamuts (like complimentary colours for example) and studying the colour wheel.
I found this useful as I could directly take what learnt, and apply it straight away into my work (sort of like a quick and easy win). I love the book’s writing, as James’ takes complex subjects and explains in a simple and easy to follow manner – with helpful diagrams to support. Those who want to learn more about colour relationships and light, this is the book for you. Certainly recommended if you’re struggling with your imaginative landscapes and environments.
Whilst I was reading the book, you can tell that Gurney has a lot of painting and illustration experience, and it’s fantastic to soak up all of his knowledge. You can see that he is passionate about the subject, and the amount of work which he has painted and produced (featured throughout the book), is mind-blowing and inspiring. As you may of gathered by now, there’s lots of positive! But are there any negatives?
Is There Anything I Didn’t Like?
It’s very hard to try and pick holes in this book, as it teaches how to use colour excellently. It’s full of golden nuggets and great wisdom – I need to reread it for this reason! If I was to be extremely critical, I would have liked to have seen more examples of how the artistic masters used colour and light in their work. I feel this section wasn’t long enough, and James’ could have shared more of his thoughts and takeaways from these geniuses. However, I can understand this isn’t what this book is about, and including more master examples may have made the book cumbersome.
This is all I can say that is negative about the book, and I hope you can see that this is an extremely tiny detail – as I’m trying to deliberately pick holes in the book (which to be fair, is extremely hard).
Who Is This Book For?
This is an excellent book by Gurney, who teaches complex colour and light issues in a simple and easy to read fashion. But who is this book for? I think it’s aimed at both professional artists and beginners who are new to colour and light.
Even if you’re a beginner to art in general, and don’t pick up everything that James mentions in the first read, with experience you’ll begin to see what he’s trying to teach you, and it can help massively.
It’s one of those books on my bookshelf that I reference when I need advice on a problem. I think it’s one of those books that you digest in the first instance, and you come back to it time and time again for excellent painting tips.
Who Isn’t This Book For?
I think this book can be useful for any artist, from any industry with any style. Aimed at realistic painters, abstract or children’s book illustrators for instance, can still be beneficial. Of course, if you don’t exactly fit into the realm of a ‘realistic painter / artist’, then it might not be as beneficial, however most artists can certainly benefit from this book.
Another Book By James Which You’ll Love!
In addition to Colour & Light, I also love this great book by James called ‘Imaginative Realism’ (now I’m beginning to sound like James’ brand ambassador haha!).
This book teaches you how to create art from your imagination. This book is similar to ‘Colour & Light’. Offering lots of practical information to guarantee strong imaginative art. Again, aimed at fine artists, illustrators and artists that create realistic art. Even though this is the case, it can help most artists. I love sections on perspective, eye level, and the importance of master studies. If you already own James’ Colour and Light book, then you’ll also love this one too! (It’s also has exact same width, height, and number of pages as ‘Colour & Light!).
My Rating Out Of 5
This book is an extremely useful book, which I refer to on a regular basis. If you want to learn about colour and light, this is the ideal book for you. For these reasons above, and because it’s a great purchase – I’m giving it 4 / 5 stars. The only thing wrong with the book is the wording of ‘colour’, as someone from the UK is just plain wrong. 😉
James Gurney’s book, ‘Colour and Light – a Guide for the Realist Painter’ can be found in most book retailers and can also be found on Amazon (at a very respectable price of £11.99 / $16.84 currently – I bought mine for £16.99 so this is a steal!).
If you want to find out more about me, head over to my about page. Alternatively, you can see my latest unique art prints, paintings to greetings cards over on my illustration shop! As you’re interested in learning about colour and light, do check out my previous colour blog posts to help you with limited colour palettes. If you’re unfamiliar with myself and my work, I’m a freelance illustrator and designer from the UK, and specialise in editorial, publishing and advertising illustration.
Thanks guys, and I look forward to seeing you on the next blog post!
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