The book that changed my life

The book that changed my life

itten art of colour

Johannes Itten as his colour theories in the Art of Color is one of the key influences in my ideas about colour. In fact I would say he is my grand master as Itten is a colour genius.

As a student we had his Elements of color as a text book which is a pruned down version of the more expensive but complete book. I found that once I was introduced to his ideas on colour theory I just had to have this larger more comprehensive book. At the time it was out of print and I scoured everywhere for it. Eventually one day I had a phone call from a book seller (there was no internet with online searches then) and my day was made. 25 years ago I paid $150.00 and that was a lot of money then. I was not well off at the time but forked out the money without hesitation and have not regretted it in the least.

This is a huge hefty book of pure colour theory and I mean pure color theory. There are no short cuts or brief explorations. The approach is logical, scientific and detailed. Itten’s skill is that he discusses both objective and subjective colour exploring all the nuances and relationships in detail. If you invest in this book and work though every exercise I don’t think you would regret it.

I remember a semester of colour exercise after colour exercise, week after week, in my first year of art school but it paid off in droves. When I say this book changed my life it did as doing these exercises literally changed my eye for colour – although at the time I belly ached about them as I think everybody did! I finished the semester with a thorough understanding of colour, a subject that was fearful to me was now a joy and I was given the means of expressing myself using colour. How else can I describe an experience that not only gave me a language but the tools too.

If you are interested in colour at least check out Itten’s books in a public Library and if so inclined put aside some time and do the exercises for this is a case of it is in the doing that you learn not just the looking.


  1. Wow, Sharon, your post brings back such wonderful memories for me. Also for me, there was a Color Theory class in college that “Changed Everything”…but it wasn’t based on Itten, it was based on the color studies of Joseph Albers (whose wife, Annie, was a very important “art weaver”, by the way…that provided a fiber connection for me). Going through the exercises–transparency, vibrating colors, making colors look like they are receeding or coming forward, etc.–just by mixing cyan, magenta, and yellow paints, plus black and white–taught me more about seeing color than anything else has before or since, although I do think Michael James’ color workshop could be as important.
    I am going to check out the Itten book if I can find it for cheap…what a great way to refresh the eye!
    Thanks, as always, Sharon….

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