As a young painter, I turned to books for nearly every painting. You may know this already if you’ve followed or read my blog over the years. Not having formal art instruction my first 7 or so years of painting in oil meant that books were my go-to for instruction and inspiration. These books ranged everywhere from art instruction books and art history books, to art books with only full-page images of paintings. Even novels like Where the Red Fern Grows and The Little House on the Prairie series inspired my paintings.
It’s interesting to me as I look back and realize what was really helpful. One book that I remember vividly is The Oil Painter’s Pocket Palette by Rosalind Cuthbert (can we pretend she is Marilla Cuthbert’s sister? Ok, good.)
This book is great for a beginner! I often bring this book along to lessons now to share with my students. It’s simple, quick, and very intuitive. The first few pages even teach a bit of easy-to-understand color theory that I think is very helpful and one of the best quick guides for the basics.
It is a small book, 6×7.5 inches, which makes it handy and easy to carry around or pack with art supplies; I’ve even packed it in a plein air (travel) bag when I was just starting out. I buy it in a hardcover so I don’t have to worry about it being in my studio where oil paint seems to run wild. I like the sturdiness of a hardcover when I do need to pack it in a bag, too.
The core of the book is the easy-to-follow color charts. It saves a novice painter time and money (paint is expensive) while helping them achieve great color! For someone who struggles to learn how to mix color just by playing with it, or for the perfectionist, this is an excellent reference. As a professional artist now, I especially appreciate the technical notes about pigment qualities and attributes; that information is often overlooked by beginning painters, but is tremendously helpful to begin learning early.
Another advantage to the book I find (that isn’t really stated inside the book) is that it introduces a new painter to colors they maybe wouldn’t have been exposed to, beyond a basic set up of color. Not only are they introduced to those new colors, but they can quickly see and learn how to use them. With what seems like an endless selection of color choices at the art stores and online, this book helps new painters decide which colors they should try next, skipping colors that maybe aren’t as useful to own and work with. *cough* “Flesh Toned Paint” *cough*
Note: Because colors vary slightly from brand to brand, I find this book works and matches best with Winsor & Newton oil paints, although it would still be beneficial to pair with any brand of paint.
Happy color mixing! 🙂