Sunday, October 18, 2009

Book Report: The Elements of Color - Johannes Itten

I found this book truly fascinating, it was the first time I had been exposed to the concept of colour from an artistic/design rather than scientific viewpoint.  He provides a complete overview of how we perceive colour, how artists over the ages have used colour in their expression and how colours relate to one another in our perception.

The book can essentially be divided into three themes:

1. History of the use of colour by artists - this intertwines the volume, each chapter is illustrated with references to works that use the concepts he is describing - although this shortened version sadly lacks reproductions of the actual paintings he refers to. On visits to art galleries I now find myself looking for examples of the techniques he refers to.

2. The construction of the colour circle and how colour affects people physically and psychologically:  e.g.
  • Colours diametrically opposite on the colour circle mix to grey
  • If you stare at say Blue for a long time and then close your eyes the image still retained by the brain will be the exact opposite colour on the colour wheel: Orange.
  • A person in an orange room will consistently perceive a higher temperature than a person in a blue room, even if the actual temperature is the same
3. The theory of colour contrasts and how they can be used in art:
  • Contrast of Hue
  • Light-Dark Contrast
  • Cold-Warm Contrast
  • Complementary Contrast
  • Simultaneous Contrast
  • Contrast of Saturation
  • Contrast of Extension
I find it hard to summarize this book, it is very concise in its presentation in any case, however, I feel it opened my eyes to how colour is used all around me in decoration, advertising, art, ...  I return to it frequently to review the ideas presented, a single reading is not enough to fully assimilate the concepts described.

1 comment:

  1. Great review of the book. It was recommended for OCA's Painting 1 also. I did some of the exercises from it during the course and they were very useful.