There’s so much to say about colour, it is hard to know where to begin. Luckily I had a great teacher who taught me much about colour: such as the value of a restricted palette and making your own colours from a limited range of paint. She also taught me to paint an advanced colour wheel with shadow sections and black and white tones and even an ochre section, the point is the study of colour can go on forever, depending on how obsessed you become or how much you sometimes require the perfect project to rationalise procrastination. In all seriousness you learn so much from doing a complex hand mixed colour wheel and I was suprised by how often I looked at my colour wheel when I was first painting. I even went on to my own self directed colour charts by choosing for example a few favourite blues and adding white to each and then taking one other colour like a Naples Yellow or Cadmium Red to see how different each blue would behave. Or picking the petal from a Jacaranda tree in bloom and painting it’s exact colour, amazed to find how much yellow ochre I needed to soften down the mixed violet which, if memory serves, was made mostly from ultramarine blue and Cad. red. Paint matching skills also come in handy when moving house and can save you lots of expensive repair jobs. I pride myself on being able to mix an exact acrylic paint batch to fix up a damaged wall which was long ago painted some indecipherable colour like a pale greenish putty or aged Tuscan yellow. One thing I no longer buy is black paint for oil painting. I now make my own ‘almost black’ with say a Prussian Blue and Gamblin’s to die for Asphaltum, which along with Alizarin Crimson and Pthalo Green are my current obsessions. Lastly the value of making notes about your progression of colour palettes in your work is hugely helpful. It is so useful if you have a little note book that details the brand, the ratio mix and better yet a tiny patch of colour straight off the palette and smeared next to the note. You think you will remember what you did and how you got there but I certainly don’t and later wish I had bothered making notes. It matters to me more and more and as I now prefer a very limited palette and I go through phases with certain colors varying the ways I mute them, or increase their vibrancy. Scroll down for one of my favourite books on colour. ︎


Parisian Prussian Blue - Old Holland

Gamblin Asphaltum


This remarkable and beautifully written book remembers a time when red paint was really the colour of blood, when orange was the poison pigment, blue as expensive as gold, and yellow made from the urine of cows force-fed with mangoes. It looks at how green was carried by yaks along the silk road, and how an entire nation was founded on the colour purple.