Learn more about different mediums, the history of the word orange, and why a color index is useful today on Artist Strong.
I have a confession to make: I am an art book junkie. When I moved to Dubai from Massachusetts my suitcases were full of clothes. And books. Lots and lots of art books. Today’s Top 10 Takeaways is from
The Artist’s Color Manual by Simon Jennings.

In the past 200 years so many new pigments and colors have been created that artists now have two to three times the number of pigments once available to artists. (pp 12)

Artists have always used the tools available to them. Part of me wonders if there can be such thing as too many choices?

Prehistoric artists only used yellow and red ochre, black and white. We still admire and value this artwork today.

There is something to be said for limitation. My philosophy when it comes to my color palette? Less is more.

There are two sets of primary colors: one for light and one for pigment.

Additive primary colors are the primaries of light. They are red, blue, and green. When you mix these primaries together they create the color white. You can see white light separated into the many colors that create it when you look at the colors showing on soap bubbles or when you observe oil on water.

Subtractive primary colors are the primaries of pigment. They are red, yellow and blue. Mix them together to create a dark grey, almost black. (Technically, there is no such thing as black. Black is the absence of color.) (pp24-25).

Recommended Starter Palettes. (pp 31-33)

For oil painters: cobalt blue, alizarin crimson, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, raw umber, viridian, cadmium red, titanium white

For watercolor painters: alizarin crimson, yellow ochre, cadmium yellow pale, cadmium red, hooker’s green, french ultramarine

For acrylic painters: cadmium red, french ultramarine, cadmium yellow, burnt umber, raw umber, yellow ochre, titanium white

Generally speaking, if you are newer to painting and color theory, it’s best to work with a smaller number of pigments and increase the number of colors you include as you grow increasingly confident with color relationships.

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Medium: What is it?

It is a term to describe the art material used by an artist to create art; for example: oil or acrylic paint. Or clay. Or pencil. It’s plural form is MEDIA.

It is also a term that refers to assorted liquids and pastes you can add to paint to alter flow, transparency, or drying time. It’s plural form is MEDIUMS.

Confession time: All art teachers have little quirks and/or pet peeves. One colleague I worked with got really annoyed with every teenager who wanted to paint on mirrors (it really seems to be a thing). Another colleague had to label all of our resources in the classroom. Me? I don’t know why, but I hate when people misuse the plural forms of these terms. I’ll go now and hide, because I’m sure I need to re-read a bunch of blog posts and correct the very error I hate. 😉

“Color is a language…” (pp 42)

I love this quote. Color IS a language and helps us to communicate so much in our art. Color also provides important visual information in everyday life! Consider red: stop signs, stop lights, danger, christmas. The more we practice using this language the more clearly we can convey our message.

“The color orange is named after the Sanskrit word ‘narangah’ for the fruit.” (pp 60).

During my recent trip to India I learned how orange is a holy color. I saw people wearing a beautiful, bright orange everywhere I went. I’m really pleased to know the name derives from Sanskrit with this new appreciation for the color.

Learn more about different mediums, the history of the word orange, and why a color index is useful today on Artist Strong.

A glimpse of some of the statues at Parmarth Niketan Ashram, where I stayed.

Have two kinds of white paint. (pp 86)

It might be useful to have more than one kind of white pigment. I generally buy titanium white: it’s beautiful, thick, opaque. However after reading Jennings explain how zinc white is more transparent and thus good for glazing and creating tints, I want to take another trip to the art store!

Working in impasto with your oils? Holy cow watch out for those drying times!

Artist George Rowlett shares his work and process in this book. He likes to create very thick, impasto landscapes. He uses spatulas to apply the paint, actively choosing NOT to use paintbrushes. He claims a skin will form in about 1-2 weeks time (the topmost layer dries in a few weeks) but for the entire painting to dry? He says it takes 4-6 YEARS for the work to dry all the way through… (pp 114).

We can find pigment sources in our own kitchen and backyard.

Food coloring, mustard powder, chili powder, brick dust, sandstone, terra cotta, grass, rose hip, blackberry, coal ash… the sky is the limit! Mix them with a little acrylic medium and see what you can create! (pp 145)

A Color Index is a tool to help you know your colors better.

You can request a color index from your preferred paint manufacturer. Indexes help you see what the pigments really look like dried on canvas or paper. Jennings created one as part of this book.

Jennings goes into a details history of specific colors, how they work according to the medium, and interviews several artists about their use of color. I’m really pleased to have this book for constant reference. Where I move next, The Artist’s Color Manual will be fit into one of those suitcases.

Artists, how well do you know your colors? (Click to Tweet)

Be Creatively Courageous: Share a fun fact about color or something you like about working with a certain color.

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