Monday, March 12, 2012

From the Desk: Color and Light Book Review

Book title: Color and Light
Author: James Gurney

James Gurney (creator of Dinotopia) writes what is arguably one of the best books on color theory. No really, if you don't believe me, check out the reviews and ratings on Amazon! Honestly I really enjoyed this book. It's strikes a great balance between explanation and example. It covers a huge range of topics. And best of all, it's very accessible to non-classically trained painters such as myself (I have a whole 4 college art classes under my belt). As I sit here with the book on my desk while writing this brief review, I'm struck by the fact that there are over a dozen post-its sticking out from pages that I marked for reference. Definitely worth the investment to add to my meager library of art books.

What I learned:
The green problem - Common in nature, but can end up dominating a scene, so some artists have banished it from the palette. I'd never thought about it because miniatures don't tend to have this problem, but paintings of forests can cause havoc for an artist due to the amount of green. Nature's "green" is deceptive in the number of other tonal shades in it.

Proper definitions - It was nice to learn proper definitions for the 3 key qualities of a color. Specifically (and here's my paraphrased versions):
  • Hue - The "color"
  • Value - Measure of brightness on a B/W scale. Also called luminance.
  • Chroma - Perceived strength of a color, as relative from neutrality. Sometimes called saturation. Think of the difference between Khador Red Highlight and Skorne Red as an example of reduced chroma.

Gamut Mapping - Another useful tool for selecting a specific palette of colors to work with. Create a triangle and only work within that triangle. Good for limiting the brightness of a palette and keeping harmony. "Pre-mixing" a palette for a miniature painter would be just picking out the paints and staying with just those. I'm definitely going to give this a try I think.

What I liked:
It's a very well organized book. Everything is accessible to the untrained provided they have at least worked with color a bit. The reference photos and paintings are very well chosen. And best of all, it covers probably 90% of what I had questions about.

What I didn't care for:
This book has a fair amount of focus on the traditional canvas painter. No doubt there's plenty of useful stuff for the miniature painter in here as well, and obviously miniature (or any "3D" painting) is not nearly as common. However much of the content about how light "works" is in relation to rendering in 2D which is not so helpful. Honestly this is a pretty small gripe against the book all things considered.

What I would have liked to have:
Some more discussion about texture would have been very helpful. There's a little, but obviously an exhaustive dive into rendering texture to a painting would be a pretty huge task.

And that's that! Hopefully you've found this review somewhat helpful. There's plenty of other reviews out there for this book, but I tried to bring more of a miniatures painter's view to it.

No comments: