Saturday, February 04, 2012

From Past Experience

One of the nineteenth century’s early authors and illustrators of coloured children’s books can still teach us a marketing lesson or two. Kate Greenaway took favourite pictures from her books ‘Under the Window’, ‘Mother Goose’, ‘A day in a Child’s Life’ and provided the outlines from the pictures in ‘The Marigold Painting Book’, for children to colour.

The original picture and poem that goes with this one come from 'Under the Window':

The finest, biggest fish, you see,

Will be the trout that’s caught by me;

But if the monster will not bite,

Why, then I’ll hook a little mite.

Here's another one in 'Under the Window':

Tommy was a silly boy,

“I can fly,” he said;

He started off, but very soon,

He tumbled on his head.

His little sister Prue was there,

To see how he would do it;

She knew that, after all his boast,

Full dearly Tom would rue it!

That’s nice, isn’t it? His sister, Prue, knew he’d hurt himself but she didn't try to stop him – she wanted to see what method he’d use. Still, that's typical of kids.

For this one, she only provided a detail in 'The Marigold Painting Book':


‘Scraps’ of her pictures were also created to stick into albums, clothes designed to match the illustrations, a Birthday Book, another painting book...

Here are some of her painting tips - for watercolours, I presume, but the same would apply if using gouache paint (ie artists’ quality opaque poster paint, which can be diluted until it’s transparent):

A good paint box should contain the following colours:

Ivory Black, Sepia, Vandyke Brown and Burnt Sienna.

Crimson Lake, Vermillion, Light Red and Yellow Ochre.

Gamboge, Emerald Green, Prussian Blue, Ultramarine Blue

The brushes must be washed clean, rinsed and dried after use. Never leave the brushes in water, and never lay them flat on the table. Take plenty of colour in your brush. Try first on a piece of spare paper to see that you have the right shade, and that your brush is not too wet or too dry.

Always begin at the top and colour downwards, from left to right (if you are right handed).

The edge of a colour may be softened with a clean damp brush.

For purple, mix red and blue. (My paint collection has Alizarin Crimson that I mix with Ultramarine Blue to make purple.)
For green, mix yellow and blue.
For orange, mix red and yellow
For grey, mix Prussian Blue, Crimson Lake and Sepia

Ultramarine Blue is the purest blue, but it doesn’t mix as well as Prussian Blue. It is useful for skies and for the grey shades in flowers.

All cold colours which are to serve as shadows to warmer colours should be laid on first, and generally warm colours over cold should be the rule. Blue is a very cold colour. Crimson Lake is a colder red than Vermillion or Light Red, and Gamboge is a colder yellow than Yellow Ochre. Orange is the warmest colour in nature, and blue the coldest.

If you are an illustrator, please tell us what other colours you think should be in a paint box.

Peter Taylor

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