Colour and Light, by James Gurney
If you've looked at The Dimensions of Colour, it won't surprise you that I'm very pleased that James Gurney's new book "doesn't contain recipes for mixing colours or step by step painting procedures" (Color and Light, p. 9). Much much better, it shows how an artist of his calibre thinks about colour and light.
Any single book on this subject can only be an introduction, but what an introduction this is! The book is very generously illustrated with his own works, plus those of many of his favourite past masters. These images fully justify their place by showing us what it is possible to achieve, especially from the imagination, by those who are willing to go beyond a simplistic approach to "colour theory".
Gurney admits that when he set out to write the book, he himself at first underestimated the complexity of the subject (p. 222), and that he had to research aspects of physics and visual perception more deeply than he had previously. I suspect it's no coincidence that some of his most perfectly realized imaginative paintings, including the sleeping dinosaur on the cover and Titanoboa on p. 165, are from 2009.
The modern books and websites recommended by Gurney for further reading (pp. 220-1) will probably be the most accessible resources for the next steps in your explorations, but it may be worth mentioning that many of the older texts he lists are available for free download or reading online:
Chevreul, Michel Eugène, 1839. The principles of harmony and contrast of colours ... (1860 Eng. tr. by Charles Martel).
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang, 1810. Goethe's Theory of Colours (partial English tr. of Zur Farbenlehre by Eastlake, 1840).
http://edoc.hu-berlin.de/ebind/hdok/...xml?part=thumb (German edn plates)
Guptill, Arthur L., 1935. Color in sketching and rendering.
http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015009248579 (read online)
Hatt, J.Arthur H., 1908. The colorist.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=3f_VAAAAMAAJ (US access only)
Hawthorne, Charles Webster, 1938. Hawthorne on painting.
http://www.archive.org/details/collectionofnote00hawt (NEW LINK WITH PDF)
Minnaert, Arcel G.J., 1954. The nature of light and colour in the open air.
http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015065972997 (read online)
Munsell, Albert H. 1905. A color notation. An illustrated system defining all colors and their relations by measured scales of hue, value, and chroma.
http://www.archive.org/details/acolornotation00munsgoog (1st edn)
http://www.archive.org/details/colornotation00muns (5th edn, 1919)
Munsell, Albert H. 1913. Color balance illustrated.
Pollock, Montagu, 1903. Light and water, a study of reflexion and colour in river, lake, and sea.
Rood, Ogden, 1879. Modern chromatics, with applications to art and industry.
Ross, Deman Waldo, 1912. On painting and drawing.
Ruskin, John, 1843. Modern painters, Volume 1.
http://www.archive.org/details/modernpainters01rusk (1888 edn)
Ruskin, John, 1857. The elements of drawing. With 8 illustrations drawn by the author.
http://www.archive.org/details/elementsofdraw00ruskuoft (1920? edn)
I'm quite certain that Color and Light will mark the beginning of the end for the simplistic approach to color that still predominates in art teaching. If you are an art or design student, get this book, study it, and then pester your teachers ceaselessly until THEY study it.
At the moment you can buy Color and Light from Better World Books for only US$15.98, with free shipping in the US and only US$3.97 worldwide.
Edit: James Gurney's comment on Dimensions of Colour!
"David Briggs is none other than the mastermind behind the website "Dimensions of Color". It’s one of the best resources on light and color on the Internet. I owe much of what I’ve learned on the topic to Mr. Briggs. ..."
- James Gurney
Painting coloured illumination from the imagination
I posted this little tutorial yesterday in another thread for someone who was having trouble with making up the effect of coloured lighting, and thought I'd post it here as well, so it won't sink out of sight.
With Linear Dodge you can easily "clip" the upper limit of your RGB gamut and start getting strange results; if that happens you just need to keep your colours a bit darker.
Bear in mind that the procedure applies directly only to this simple situation, and will lead you into trouble if you apply it blindly to more complex situations. Try instead to understand the reasons for each step.
Also bear in mind always that these tips are meant as aids to getting physically correct colour relationships when that is what you are after, not orders to get those relationships. Plenty of lovely painting styles do not use "correct" colour and lighting, or correct perspective or anatomy, for that matter.
questions about uniform saturation
hi and thank you again for taking the time to answer these questions. as per your suggestion in the email, i will post them here so everyone can benefit. these were the major points of confusion that i forgot to ask.
in faber birren's book 'creative color' he mentions, "the most beautiful of all formal color gradations that is known" as the "uniform chroma scale-which have the same apparent color content but which differ in lightness and darkness." is that in fact, the same thing as your described "uniform saturation shading series?" (if its not, how are they related as to what happens in nature?)
if so, he also suggests an "easy" method of making one of these scales by mixing a tint, a tone, and a shade of the same hue and then intermixing them for in-between steps. if this is the case it raises questions.
1. doesn't much care still need to be taken with the tint, tone and shade to ensure they are constant in color saturation amongst themselves? this doesnt just happen naturally, right?
2. assuming you have step 1(question 1) done correct, is he implying that all in-between steps will then be balanced, saturation wise, inherently? if so, by that logic, couldnt i do away with mixing the tone all together and just use the tint and the shade to make the tone? and if not then it would seem this whole approach falls apart a bit.
3. lastly, if i use red, add black and then a bit more red again to bring it back on the saturation line, couldnt i have just used less black to begin with or is it not the same thing? how does this affect step one?
ok, sorry, i guess there is one other thing as well. so what is the proof/evidence that this is actually true and that saturation doesnt decrease or increase in the shadows? im guessing the shoddy results of just color sampling images isnt enough.
thank you thank you, very much appreciated.
uniform saturation series
thanks for the quick reply.
Originally Posted by briggsy@ashtons
... but does this example, starting out with some colors that arent so crisp and saturated to begin with, not work just as well? this reads very natural and as uniform object colors also, no?
"Always keep the lightest dark darker than the darkest light".
I'm really glad you brought this up Valentino, because this particular piece of advice is doled out far too often on these forums. It's not just that it's wrong factually, it's also very bad teaching to hand out simplistic "rules" instead of encouraging analysis and understanding.
You're perfectly correct that the rule only applies under certain conditions. The brightness of any point is the brightness of the illumination multiplied by the reflectance of the surface. It should be clear from this diagram that the rule can not possibly hold if there are dark and light local colours involved, unless the contrast between the illumination in the light and in the shadow is very high. If the rule has any validity it is as a statement of aesthetic preference, not physical fact.
It would be better to say "Always make your lighting so contrasty that the lightest shadow is darker than the darkest light". At least that would make the limitations of the "rule" more obvious.
I don't agree that painting your subject as it appears, ignoring the rule, will make it "appear flat" or create an "oddly looking shadow". All it will do is cause the pattern of lights and darks in your picture to differ a little from the pattern of light and shadow. That's it!