The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair.
art design inspiration reading

Reading: The Secret Lives of Color

Dear gosh and dear golly! I’ve changed my blog theme (appearance) again!

The last one wasn’t up long, only since the end of April 2018, but I wasn’t in love with it. I was really in love with my last theme (the one with the pink & green leaves at the top and the black background), but it was no longer being updated, so I was forced to find something new.

I searched high and low through the various WordPress themes, uploading and trying them out. Yesterday, I found the theme Elegant Writing and, after spending the last hour modifying it, I think I am finally satisfied with the look.

It’s amazing how the look of a blog can make you not want to post on it. Not that I’m necessarily going to post super often on this blog because The Pragmatic Historian is taking most of my time, but I still need an outlet for the random stuff of interest to me. So, then …. on to a proper post.


The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair.
The Secret Lives of Color by Kassia St. Clair.

Here’s the book I finished reading this morning after a month of reading it bit-by-bit. “The Secret Lives of Color” by Kassia St. Clair provides histories of specific colors in an artist’s palette. Because it covers history, I will be discussing this in an upcoming post on The Pragmatic Historian, but what I wanted to point out here was the design of the book.

I am in love with polka dots and check out that cover! It’s a white field containing polka dots of many colors. That alone was enough to make me pick up the book. However, the inside is also a visual artist’s dream.

Each chapter is devoted to a color family, i.e. yellow, blue, pink, purple, black, with a spread of two pages of a blend of the overall color introducing the chapter. Each specific color, whether amber or cochineal or absinthe or puce or Payne’s gray or taupe, is illustrated through the use of color bands on the edge of the pages. That makes the book a symphony of colors.

 

The edges of the pages in The Secret Lives of Color.
The edges of the pages in The Secret Lives of Color.
The two-page color spread introducing the green chapter in The Secret Lives of Color.
The two-page color spread introducing the green chapter in The Secret Lives of Color.

I have got to wonder how difficult it was to reproduce these colors for the layout artist and printer. The author was careful to try to pin down these colors in her prose, however, she was also clear that certain colors (we’re looking at you, taupe!) have shifted over time. Or, rather, our concepts of what these colors should be has shifted.

This is an excellent book for artists and others who are interested in where colors (as in pigments) come from and how colorants have developed over time. When I read about how ink was created, it made me want to try to make some. Yay, inspiration!

This book reminded me of Christopher Moore’s “Sacre Bleu: A Comedy D’Art,” which, though fiction, explores artists and the colorists who supplied them with their pigments. I actually recommend reading both books fairly close together in time because they speak to each other.

 

 

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