The phrase “made easy” in a book title should always be a sign to be wary. It usually means either exactly the opposite or that the subject is being treated at a superficial level suitable for those who only want to skim the surface. Even as beginners’ guides, such books are rarely suitable for someone who has a serious interest that they want to pursue further.
It’s therefore nice to be able to recommend something that breaks this mould. No, this isn’t a book that will teach you flower painting in a few days; indeed, it’s one that will repay a fair amount of study but, if you’re new to this style of painting, it’ll take you quite a long way. Covering flower and foliage types as well as colours and brushwork, the book is set out as a series of one- or two-page demonstrations with plenty of information in the form of extended captions that are straightforward to follow and form a more or less natural progression. Each one also links in to others, which are cross-referenced. Although this can lead to quite a lot of jumping around pages, it keeps the basic structure simple, which is the main aim of the book.
Flower painting and the Chinese style were in many ways made for each other. The unfussy, slightly loose style and simple colours of Chinese painting match the need for an interpretive approach to flower painting where the main requirement is not for a detailed botanical record.
Brushstrokes are important in Chinese painting and a whole leaf, petal or stem will often be handled in a single one. The book is therefore structured round them, with a whole chapter devoted to each of the seven main ones, a variety of flower and foliage types being demonstrated using each.
This is a book whose scope and depth are perhaps belied by its title. At 160 pages, it also represents good value for the amount of information provided.
Year published: 2004
List price: £14.99