Saturday, March 31, 2012

From the Desk: Color Choices Book Review

Book title: Color Choices
Author:Stephen Quiller

This book came recommended to me by another painter, and I have to say it was definitely worth the read. The intended audience of this book however is not really that close to the miniature painting hobby domain. Now before I continue with this review, I should make clear that I am not very educated on art history and will freely use terms that I may not fully understand. With that disclaimer in mind, I'm aiming to give a review of this (quite good) book from a miniature painter's perspective.

What I learned:

This book is jam packed with information about color, color schemes, and approaches to choosing a palette of colors for a subject. Perhaps the first big lesson was that there are other color wheels out there besides the classic one. The "Quiller Color Wheel" (laid out by Stephen Quiller obviously) has a slightly different arrangement of colors. Without getting into too many details about it, one of the things I found fascinating was the arrangement of colors such that if yellow is at 12:00 on the wheel, a grey scale bar can be put beside the wheel going from white at the top (aligned horizontally with yellow) to black (aligned with purple) and represent the relative brightness of the colors in horizontal alignment with the grey scale.

This book really gave me a stronger eye for the hue of a color. More on that later, but a preview is that I had 2 color wheels on my desk. I had never noticed it before, but the hue of the colors on each of them varied a bit. I have since retired the color wheel that I consider to be less accurate. This "gift" so to speak, from this book, is probably the most valuable lesson I learned.

It also goes over in detail the traditional color schemes: monochromatic, complementary, harmonious, split complimentary, and triadic. Although I knew about all of these before, Quiller goes over them in a bit more detail and talks about strategies in employing them. I found this additional perspective to be fairly interesting.

What I liked:

First, this book gave me motivation to use my own paints (P3 mainly) to experiment with putting together my own reference color wheel. The color value chart on the side of the color wheel is another part I really liked. I'll be doing more posts on that later.

Second, this book got me to experiment more with color. I've got a few swatches of color mixing that I used to get a better handle on how colors mix together.

Third, Quiller does a good job of reinforcing the need to feel one's way through the project. He's a big proponent of connecting with his subject and channeling that feeling of connection to make the production really come alive. I found it to be a good balance between discipline and freedom that he portrays. Subtle and unclear perhaps, but I appreciated it nonetheless.

What I didn't care for:

Straight up, this book is geared towards "2D" artists, and many of the examples are primarily done in an impressionist style with watercolors. This makes it a much more challenging exercise to translate it into miniature painting. The impressionist part is probably less challenge. Watercolors on the other hand behave very differently from acrylics.

Second, the color printing quality was somewhat lacking. Different color wheels presented in the book in different places have different hues. Now whether this was intentional or not I have no idea, but as a student to the book, it was frustrating to say the least.

What I would have liked to have:

Honestly I think this was a good book. It required a bit of heavy mental lifting on my part to really absorb it, but this book inspired me to experiment with my own paints in a way that no other book or class or piece of advice has ever done before. If anything I would have just preferred to have a stronger feeling that the color printing quality was consistent throughout the book.

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