Sunday 28 April 2013


I'd like to tell you about "COLOUR" by Victoria Finlay in pictures as far as possible.  I'll scatter little digital grafitti sketches on the way through, with my artwork inspired by the book at the end.  The graffiti sketches illustrate the colours that Finlay investigates as she travels all around the world to find their origins and history. 

This is a paperback, not a Kindle book, and fortunately the print was of a size I could read.  I bought it for Dev at Christmas, but I had sneaky plans to read it myself as soon as possible.  And what a joy it has been, especially after my problems with my March book.  Finlay is a journalist, and she really knows how to write a readable book on an unusual topic.  

If, as an artist you are interested in colour - and how can you not be - then you will love this book.  It's even better than I expected, and how often can you say that of a book?

The first decision I made was that I was allowed to write in it.  I know I'm a big girl now, but the rules of childhood start to echo in the brain as soon as a pen gets anywhere near a book, but I was strong and scribbled as much as I liked.

From this photo of the contents page you can see the structure of the book.  I realised that each chapter stood alone, and that I didn't need to take them in order, and I numbered the order of the colours as I read about them.

I planned to read about one colour at a time and alternate the book with a novel, but I became so involved that I couldn't stop and read the whole book before moving on to my May novel.  But it is the type of book you can pick up now and then to read about one of the colours.

The preface is fairly technical and a little hard going, but very worth the effort of reading it to set the scene for the book itself.  This is such good writing and easy reading - Victoria Finlay is a reporter and knows how to interest the reader.

I also decided to mark any sections that I would want to refer to again, and you can see from this double page spread what happened nearly all the way through!  You can also see the wonderful bookmarks I seem to use - torn pieces of post-it notes and a paper serviette - no matter how many I have painted or been given.

Black and Brown are dealt with together in the same chapter, and these were my fifth choice of colour because I thought, quite wrongly, that there wouldn't be too much of interest in reading about these colours.   What do I know!   I would never have expected to be reading about Egyptian mummys in the section about Brown.  

Obviously the subject of charcoal came up in the Black chapter, and I didn't know that the ancient charcoal willow is quite a different tree from our popular weeping willow which was only imported into the country in the eighteenth century. 

There is a surprise in every chapter.  I've been reminded of things I knew -  I did know that the cochineal I used to use for making pink cake mix was from an insect, but I was surprised that it was so interesting to read about the cochineal bug.  I also learnt things I didn't know, enjoyed the stories she told and was surprised that a writer could make me chuckle so much just talking about colour.

The section on Yellow, entranced me, with its stories about saffron.  I knew saffron was yellow and often wondered how Saffron Walden in Essex got its name - sadly there are no Essex saffron fields now.  The images Finlay brought into my mind of saffron fields in other parts of the world are still a pleasure in my mind.

The saffron fields of purple flowers open for one day only and must be picked in the morning, the yellow pistils most carefully removed and the purple flowers thrown away.  Even the heaps of discarded flowers must be beautiful.


I think perhaps you've got the message that I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  It is the best non-fiction book I have read for many, many years.  I do recommend it to anyone who enjoys non-fiction and who may have wondered about the history of colour.

Now for my artwork inspired by the book.  When I thought about representing the book in a single painting, I realised that although I enjoyed all of it, the chapter that had left a lasting impression on me was the first one I read - Ochre, in all its different shades of colour, and particularly the cave paintings of Australia.

I have a number of books about folk art and the art of ancient civilisations.  In one called simply Folk Art I found a picture of a cave painting about 3,000 years old at a site near Darwin, Australia.  What surprised me most was the use of blue paint which contrasted so well with the ochre of the rocks.

This is not a copy of the cave painting, it is inspired  by it, and is a combination of digital background with the collaged fish drawn with brown Pitt Artist's pen and coloured with Inktense pencils.  I wanted to use the blue and ochre together for the contrast. I have used the general idea of the fish, but adapted their shapes to make the picture my own.  I'm quite pleased with it, and it will be a happy memory of the book.


  1. I don't need to add this book to my wish list as it has been there for some time after Amazon recommended it. Your enthusiasm is infectious Jez, this one will definitely be coming home with me very soon!

    I really love your art - who would have thought that blue would work so well - it's gorgeous!

  2. Wow this sounds like quite the interesting read!! Being a color freak I can certainly enjoy all the colors you've presented in such a unique way!! Great little painting digital of the fish!! Love it all!

    Hugs Giggles

  3. With my preference for anything bright I would never have choosen ochre to start with. With the blue and white I really do like the color in your artwork! Well done!!! ♥
    The book is added to my wish-list. I think I have to turn at least 120 now... :)

  4. Now I want to read that going to have to start a wishlist on Amazon lol...and I thought I was doing so well :D
    I totally adore the cave painting you created as I too am fascinated by aboriginal art :D XXX

  5. This really sounds like a great book. Love that you got so much out of it. That fish inspired painting is just gorgeous!:)

  6. your fish are so lovely. I've just requested the book from my library. thanks for the tip1

  7. Aloha Jez...this sounds like a book for me...thanks for the fantastic review of Colour and the beautiful interpretation of ancient cave paintings...

  8. A wonderful review, Jez and certainly a book for me! Your fish 'cave' paintings are beautiful and illustrate how perfectly ochres and blues compliment each other. Did you see the series on tv, BBC4 I think, Art in 3 Colours (red, white and blue)? I think you would enjoy it. Great April read!

    Janet xx

  9. Oh this sounds a must for me, I love history and colour of course and the way you described it makes me want to read this one so i am off to put this in my wish list. I also love the combination of your colour in the paintings of fish they really do have the feel of folk art very cool Dxx

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed your book review. Unlike my definitely dated entry, yours will be fresh this year and many years to come. Who can argue with color, right? Blue and Ochre have always been favorites of mine. But those fish are pure joy. You did a fantastic job. BTW, sorry I'm so late visiting this month.

  11. Great review have added this book to my must read list. Your art work is beautiful, I am in awe.Wonderful.
    Jen x

  12. What a great review! I'm glad you enjoyed your book and I'm off to add it to my wishlist. I love your artwork, the colours are fantastic x

  13. wow Jez what a fabulous book, I am sat smiling at your enthusiasm for it. As soon as I post this I am adding it to my amazon wishlist...Not sure i can bring myself to write in it though....why not? i have no idea, like you i think its a childhood thing or respecting and looking after books lol
    Great cave painting, love that the colour book inspired you to do something like that.

  14. This is such a brilliant review. It really inspired me to get and read this book! I loved your art work too - gorgeous design. I am new to ARC, but I feel really privileged to be among so many talented and interesting people. Thank you for sharing your art with me.

  15. I must admit I tend to read more non fiction books than I do fiction. After reading your enthusiastic review I am pretty sure I will be reading this book very soon. Annotating books is really hard to do at first but once you start it is hard to know when to stop. LOL I find that anyway!
    I love your cave painting, those colours certainly work well together and do evoke memories of the Aboriginal art I have seen in the past.

  16. Sold! Seriously your review is so enthusiastic that this book has gone straight to the top of my wishlist. The author should employ you as her PR chief :) Love your cave painting, it's fantastic, and all your graffiti sketches.... I really enjoyed reading this review very much

  17. Wow - it sounds like you really enjoyed this book! I love your artwork - the blue and ochre work really well together. x


Your comments make my day, and I always enjoy visiting your blogs.
I have been shown how to remove moderation and yet avoid spam, so there's now no moderation and no word verification either.

I love to look at blogs that are new to me, but if you are on Google + I am sadly not able to comment, even though I do want to.