Color Choices – Making Color Sense Out of Color Theory, by Stephen Quiller is a visually inspiring book for painters, especially landscape and still life painters.
Does it actually make “color sense out of color theory”? I’m not so sure, but I’m also not sure if that matters.
Stephen Quiller has created his own color wheel, and that helps to demonstrate the qualities of color. However, if you’re new to painting or color theory, just focus on the outer wheel, not the additions towards the center.
It will probably show you how the color wheel really works.
With Quiller’s color wheel, the variations — cool to warm, and one color to the next — can make more sense than the color wheel they tried to teach you in first grade art class.
For people working with dyes, this book could be pure gold.
However, this book was (mostly) written for fine art painters.
Almost unique among art book authors, Quiller lists specific colors (by brand name) so you can work with the exact same colors he does… and hopefully achieve similar results.
I’ll admit that, though I’ve owned my (now paint-stained) copy for over ten years, I’ve never read the whole thing. I’m a real “show me, don’t tell me” kind of person.
But that’s something Quiller does pretty well: He’s included a variety of truly lovely paintings — in a variety of painting media — that illustrate different limited palettes (using just a few, carefully-chosen colors) and their results.
The text…? Well, if you just love listening to lectures and you can’t get enough information about color theory, you may devour every word in this book.
I just wasn’t that interested. Maybe I will be, someday.
And frankly, for those of us who wear reading glasses, the text is fairly small to accommodate the spaces around the large, lavish and juicy examples throughout the book. So, you’d have to really want to read the text.
I guess I’m just not a color theory enthusiast. I want to see what colors look like, against each other. Fortunately, Quiller has lots of examples, from monochromatic paintings to pastels to rich, crayon-box colors made more vivid with acrylics.
In fact, most of Quiller’s illustrations feature watercolors or acrylics. If you’re working in either of those media, this book may be especially useful.
If you’re new to acrylic painting, I suggest Quiller’s Acrylic Painting Techniques, instead. It includes an overview of his approach to color and — for some artists — that may be enough.
On the other hand, if you’re an advanced artist working in other media — including collage — Quiller’s Color Choices book may be the resource you’ve needed to explore new color combinations and approaches.
- Lots of detailed color theory: history, examples, and illustrations.
- Lavish illustrations using a wide variety of palettes and approaches to color.
- Brand names and exact color names of products make it easy to replicate Quiller’s effects.
- Very useful for teachers from middle school through university level art. You’ll find some great inspirations for your lesson plans.
- Despite the vivid book cover, I’d categorize most of Quiller’s interior illustrations as “pretty” and “calming,” not deeply energizing.
- Text reads like a university textbook… which it might be.
- For me, much of Quiller’s work succeeds due to composition more than color, though color is often a key element.
Though my review may sound a little ho-hum, I really do keep this book within reach in my studio.
If you’ve wanted to delve deeply into color theory, this is an important book to own, if only for the unique Quiller Color Wheel that folds out.
In addition, if your goal is to paint pretty watercolors and landscapes with a sense of profound serenity and deep beauty, Quiller’s book is excellent.
Anthony Thieme, by Judith A. Curtis (published by the Rockport Art Association) is an inspiring tribute to one of America’s greatest landscape painters.
I bought the book partly because my mother* had studied with Thieme (as she always called him) around 1935-36 in Annisquam and Rockport, Massachusetts.
However, I also fell in love with Thieme’s use of light and shadow.
The cover of the book (above) is an example. Among many artists, Thieme was respected as the “Master of Sunlight and Shadow.”
(Note: I scanned that book cover since I couldn’t find it online. Oh, I’d bought the book, new, but you can see from the evident wear, it’s been read often!)
The photos of Thieme’s artwork, inside this book, are rich and juicy. For me, they’re an example of some of the best landscapes and seascapes. His colors are authentic, and a reminder that color is a key element in any composition.
My mother always included something red — usually a cadmium red or red-orange — in every painting. She used that area to energize and balance each painting, so the eye never lingered on one spot too long. I’m pretty sure she learned that from Thieme.
Despite my enthusiasm for the paintings in this book, my mother said, “I’m sure some of these prints were from old paintings that needed a good cleaning as they are dark. Thieme’s work always had much clean sparkle of sunlight to them.”
Whether or not the book’s photos show the paintings as glorious as they were when painted, they’re still magnificent.
Thieme’s life story is fascinating, albeit sad.
He was born in Rotterdam, Holland in 1888, and — as a child — he was not encouraged to become an artist. So, around age 17, he went to Dusseldorf (Germany) and studied art there for three years. Then, Zurich (Switzerland) attracted him, and — from there — he and a companion decided to walk to Italy, painting as they traveled.
It was the beginning of a life of adventures and art.
During the following years, Thieme explored the world. His stops included Naples (Italy), New York, Rio de Janero, and Paris.
From 1929 until 1943, he directed the Thieme Summer School of Art in Rockport, Massachusetts. One of his favorite subjects — painted as many as 400 times — was Motif #1, and Thieme’s paintings helped to make that landmark famous.
Though Thieme felt that Rockport was his true home, he continued to travel abroad. For him, the passage of time and the pace of modern life were challenges, made even more brutal by his personal experiences.
In May 1940, Hitler’s forces had bombed Thieme’s childhood home of Rotterdam. According to my mother, he “lost much family in those terrible years.”
Thieme tried to balance that tragic backdrop with the exhilaration of modern living. Sometimes, fast cars weren’t enough to escape the ugliness and disappointments of encroaching modernity.
Thieme continued to paint at a remarkable pace, always finding ways around life’s obstacles and seasonal challenges, and shrugging off criticism from fellow artists. (Some called him “the puddle painter.”)
This book documents much of his originality. For me, it’s a reminder of the near endless creativity of dedicated artists.
I mean, really, he cut a hole in the floor of his car so he could stand up and paint landscapes in it, when winters were bitterly cold.
That’s an inspiring story, and just one of many in this book.
Much of the book is simply color prints of his paintings. The commentary with them is especially helpful. Though a picture may be worth a thousand words, a few pointers here and there — about using a flat sky or an all-blue palette for distant landmarks to provide a sense of depth – make a world of difference.
Thieme’s life and work have been overlooked by many art students who choose the more facile path and study more famous artists.
Whether or not the paintings are darker than they should be, this small book is a steady source of inspiration, and a reminder of why I paint.
*My mother was Muriel Joan Bernier (1919 – 2010), a 1940 graduate of Massachusetts College or Art. She was a protegee of Ernest Major, and a noted New England landscape and portrait painter.
Acrylic Painting Techniques: How to Master the Medium of Our Age, by Stephen Quiller, is a juicy and inspiring book for acrylic painting enthusiasts.
Many people know Stephen Quiller for his color wheel and color theory. (If you don’t, this book may be an especially happy discovery.)
In this book, Mr. Quiller applies his brilliant use of color and contrast to acrylic painting. It’s a much-needed addition to any acrylic painter’s library.
The illustrations alone are worth the cover price. Quiller really gets color.
Many artists have difficulty working with acrylic paints because the colors can be so vivid. Toning them down so they look like oil paints… well, sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
A better approach is to make use of those unique, acrylic colors and turn them into the asset that they can be.
In Chapter 1, Mr. Quiller talks about acrylic painting supplies. This isn’t the same old list of supplies; he takes you into the realms of supplies and features you may not have known existed.
Then, he turns the usual book design on its side and answers the most popular questions in a Q&A format.
With that out of the way, the author summarizes his color wheel and the best color combinations — using a limited palette — to achieve various effect.
After that, he talks about creating textures with acrylics. That’s another area in which acrylic paints excel, and oil paints have no chance of competing.
In other words, this book isn’t about making your acrylic paintings look like they might be oil paintings — though you could use Quiller’s approach towards that goal — it’s about making the most of acrylic paints’ unique benefits.
Though I generally paint with oils, I keep this book for the color ideas. Since the book focuses heavily on the “show, don’t tell” approach, I can just flip through the pages and find answers and inspiration… regardless of my painting media.
And, when I do take out my acrylic paints — usually for mixed media work but sometimes for plein air paintings as I travel — this book is invaluable.
In my opinion, this book belongs in the basic library of any serious acrylic landscape painter.
Paintings of Maine, selected by Carl Little, is a delightful collection of paintings by a variety of artists.
The subject is always Maine, from Ogunquit to Lubec and from the Bucksport mill to the lakes of Moosehead and Sebago.
Over 100 paintings show readers why artists are drawn to Maine. This book — a 2006 sequel to the 1991 book of the same name — includes works as diverse as Charles Codman’s 1836 painting of the original State House in Augusta, to James Aponovich‘s 2005 view of Blue Hill.
Each beautifully reproduced panel displays exactly why the state has inspired so many people to take up a paintbrush and capture the landscapes on paper or canvas.
Extensive text shares insights about the artists, their works, and the places in Maine that are represented in this collection.
If you love Maine and want to see how other artists have captured its magic in paintings, this is a good book to own.
If it’s a book you’re collecting, buy it new. If you’ll be using it as a reference book, a used copy is probably fine, as this book’s high-quality paper and printing help it stand up to frequent use. Also, most of the full-page prints in this book (and many of the smaller ones) are good enough to frame.
The Art of Abstract Painting by Rolina van Vliet is an excellent guide for any painter who’s interested in moving in abstract directions.
It’s especially helpful if you’re stuck in realism and want to break out with more juicy, vivid or personal statements.
For me, this book’s interior illustrations are interesting but not inspiring. In fact, I like the cover illustration far better than what’s inside.
However, I rate this book highly because of the information and inspiring text inside.
For example: On Page 36, van Vliet explains how to move from reality to abstraction with your work. Her six suggestions take the artist from gentle, “Leave out details” to extreme, reducing the entire work to a few outlines and shapes, or even composing the work on your own.
Frankly, that’s brilliant. No matter how stuck I am in realism (or Tonalism or Impressionism), this list includes something that will move me out of my painting rut.
Generally, I don’t buy a book like this unless the interior photos are juicy and inspiring. This book is an exception. The illustrations show a wide range of approaches to abstract paintings. While few will be inspired by all of them, you’re likely to find at least one or two (or more) that you’ll look at and say, “Yes! That’s the kind of art I want to create!”
For anyone trying to wrap their brain around what makes abstract paintings abstract — and what makes them work — this book may be all you need to take your art from realism to abstract, almost effortlessly.
The Art of Abstract Painting offers over 160 pages of information, tips and inspiration.
I recommend it if you’ve been working with abstracts and haven’t a clue why they’re working for you (I’ve gone through phases like that) or if you’d like to expand your work into the field of abstracts.