Tag Archives: watercolors

A Color Manual Ahead of its Time

271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800 Page Book watercolor history color books Before technology made color automatic, creating the perfect hue required a rather systematic approach.

Prior to the days of RGB values and hexadecimal strings, humans used creative means to create color options. Depending on the medium, artists might have mixed paints and in some cases, added water to achieve lighter tones.

A Brief History of Watercolor

The concept of watercolor may be as old as time itself but it didn’t become a well-known, consistent art medium until the Renaissance.

Albrecht Dürer was considered the father of the trade. He was a German painter who had much influence throughout Europe in the 16th century. Often times, Dürer chose to use watercolor when bringing landscape settings to life.

In an age when art was held with high value, watercolor quickly became a popular art medium. It became so popular, that in 1692, during the Golden Age of Dutch Painting, a man by the name of A. Boogert wrote an 800 page color manual, by hand.

A Medieval Color Manual

271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800 Page Book watercolor history color books Predating Pantone (the modern-day authority on color) by nearly 300 years, Boogert compiled a comprehensive account of how to achieve different colors when adding water to paint. He explained how using one, two or three parts water would create three varying tones of the same hue. He organized each page by meticulously positioning varying shades of the same color.

This book was recently brought to light by medieval book historian, Erick Kwakkel. He noted that another scholar knew of the book’s existence and he only gave it a platform in the limelight because of his personal notoriety.

Ancient Art Trumps Modern Convenience

Regardless of how it came to the world’s attention, the book entitled, Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, is causing art enthusiasts to take note. While the concept of the book does not seem groundbreaking, it is causing a multitude of 21st century RGB-HEX artists to imagine the painstaking amount of work and attention that went into deciphering and mixing hundreds of hues.

271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800 Page Book watercolor history color books It would be nice to say that this book greatly contributed to how we use color today. In reality, the book was collecting dust before Kwakkel came across it a few weeks ago in a French database. Even though the book may have been the “most informative color guide of its time,” it was not widely distributed. Since the book was written by hand it has been assumed that the manual never made it into wide circulation.

Nevertheless, A. Boogert’s color manual recently made a splash. Upon its unearthing, much of the art community paused and shared thoughts about what it would be like to mix colors without technology.

Read more Segmation blog posts about historic art.

Color Symbolism in Medieval Christian Art

Art in Ancient Egypt

William Blake English Romantic Artist by www.segmation.com!

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Katsushika Hokusai – Creative Japanese Artist

Katsushika Hokusai (1760- 1849) was an artist whose life demonstrated the joy found in hard work, continuous learning, and perseverance. This Japanese artist went by many names throughout his life, each of which reflected a different period of artistic transition. His most well-known name is Katsushika Hokusai; a name associated with the most famous of his pieces.

Katsushika Hokusai’s love of learning about and producing art began at the age of six. Most experts believe that Hokusai’s relationship with art began as he watched his father add artwork to the mirrors he made. Throughout his adolescent years Hokusai was exposed to the world of art while working in a bookshop and as an apprentice to a wood-carver. At the age of eighteen, he was accepted to an art studio called Katsukawa Shunsho which practiced the wood block print style called Ukiyo-e.


For a decade Hokusai immersed himself in the Ukiyo-e style, which focused on creating images of the courtesans. In 1779, while still studying at the Katsukawa Shunsho studio, he published his first prints. These prints were published under the name Shunro to reflect both the studio and its founder.

When Shunsho, the studio’s master artist, passed away, Hokusai began to study other styles of art, including European styles. His dabbling eventually led to his expulsion from the studio since many of the styles he studied rivaled Ukiyo-e. Hokusai was embarrassed by this event, yet, his embarrassment only served to motivate his development and inspire his artistic career.

At this point in his life Hokusai began expanding his subjects to landscapes and the daily life of individuals from all social levels. This was a breakthrough not only for Hokusai, but for the Ukiyo-e style as well.

He became associated with Tawaraya School of art and thus adopted the name Tawaraya Sori. Under this name he published brush paintings and illustrations for books of humorous poems.

By 1800, at the height of his career, he had adopted the name Katsushika Hokusai. Hokusai published two collections of landscapes: Famous Sights of the Eastern Capital and Eight Views of Edo. At this point, Hokusai had begun to attract his own students.

This period of Hokusai’s life is also marked by stories that testify to his fearless and self- promoting character. One of these stories describes Hokusai painting a portrait of a Buddhist Priest that was approximately 600 feet long. It is said that he painted this enormous piece by using a broom and large buckets full of ink.

Another story tells of Hokusai competing against other artists of his day in the court of the Shogun Lyenari. Hokusai won the competition by painting a blue curve on a piece of paper and then chasing a chicken, whose feet had been dipped in red paint, across the curve. When asked to describe his piece, Hokusai explained it as the Tatsuta River with red maple leaves floating in it.

In the early 1800’s Hokusai went through many stylistic transitions and took on several different names. Under the name Taito he created the Hokusai Magna as well as other art manuals. This endeavor attracted more students. The twelve volumes he created included lessons and thousands of drawings of animals, religious figures, and everyday life.

In 1820 he changed his name again, this time to Litsu. Under this name he painted several pieces that made him forever famous in Japan. These works include Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji and The Great Wave off Kanagawa. During this time he also began to direct his work towards detailed images of single flowers and birds.

In 1834 he changed his name yet again to Gakyo Rojin Manji, which translates as “the old man mad about art.” This was an incredibly fitting name for Hokusai at the time. During this stage of his life, Hokusai believed strongly that the work he had complete before the age of 70 didn’t amount to very much. He felt that he was only beginning to understand structures and how to make images come alive in his paintings. He prayed for a long life that would allow him to continue learning.

In 1839 his studio caught fire and was destroyed. Still, Hokusai continued to paint. At the age of 87 he painted Ducks in a Stream.

True to his continually inquisitive personality, Katsushika Hokusai lay on his death bed in 1849 praying for more time to become a better painter. He is remembered for his incredible talent, but also for being a man passionate about art who found joy in the struggle to learn and become more than what he was.

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Katsushika Hokusai

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