Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Color Choices - Book Review

This book by Stephen Quiller was published in 1989 so is likely to be found only as a second hand book.

This is another key book I used to study color, and the second in my series of three books. Quiller is a painter and uses color very successfully as seen in the many examples of his points throughout the book. For the painter, Quiller has a color wheel that is terrific, with 68 specific colors that are keyed to their pigmented names. For the painter, he gives specific examples of paints by brand names for watercolor, acrylic and oil. Dyers may find this useful as well.

His book was where I learned about mixing colors and the degree of warmth or coolness in reds, yellows and blues. That you can't just mix any blue with any yellow and get the green you want.

For a fiber artist like myself, the examples of why some neutrals appear deadly dull and some are vibrant goes beyond specific paints. Now that I work with inks, his advice on how to obtain subtle but lively neutrals comes in very handy. One of the most useful aspects of the book are the many studies illustrating different effects from small color changes.

He gives 5 basic color schemes with lots of studies, diagrams and completed paintings to illustrate each of them. The book also has a number of exercises for the reader to use to develop one's own sense of color, which for Quiller is a matter of seeing.

Quiller also provides guidelines for developing one's own color style and discusses dozens of color masters over the ages to examine how they used colors. The book concludes with a chapter on color usage by Master Colorists across the ages including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner, Blake, Van Gogh, and up to O'Keeffe, Wyeth, and concluding with Wolf Kahn.

This was the book that taught me to consider the emotional impact that I wanted a piece of work to achieve, and to structure my color palette for the piece around that. For example, I had long wanted to do a piece on the salt water marsh and tried for several years to create one. None worked. I kept trying to do it with marshy, muddy, realistic colors. Quiller's book helped me see that the color of mud did not convey the sense of mystery and wonder that I felt for the marshland. So the piece I created is a Blue-Orange complementary color scheme.

Next time I will add to this review of books. The third book on color will be by Betty Edwards who wrote Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain.

Dear reader, thanks so much for reading and please let me know if these book reviews are interesting or valuable to you. If they are I will keep posting about the books I find helpful in my early development and today.



  1. Yes, please keep posting your book reviews. I work exclusively with fabric paints,but I love and learn from any color masters. Quiller is new to me, so thanks for the review.

  2. This book sounds really interesting. I need to read something like this to help me work with color better. I might check my library for this book. Thanks.

  3. Sherrie and Karen, thanks for posting. Really appreciate knowing that the information is valuable. Nancy

  4. I've enjoyed reading the book reviews and am pleased that they are not just "quilting books"!
    Could you consider also listing the ISBN numbers of each book?

  5. Susan, thanks for reading and the great suggestion. I will include in the next posting. Nancy

  6. Wonderful book review - it sounds like the very book I have been looking for.
    It is still available - has it. their prices are cheap + no postage charges world wide.

  7. Helen, thanks for writing and letting us know that the book is available, and available in the UK as well. That is great news.
    Thanks for reading and posting.