The Watercolour Flower Painter's Handbook || Patricia Seligman

Flower painting is probably the most widely covered subject in art. Whether you want paint flowers in the landscape, flower portraits, still lifes or detailed botanical studies, you’ll be able to find at least one book covering that aspect in some detail.

Given its rather small format you might be forgiven, then, for passing this one by, but that would be to miss what is, in fact, a rather original approach. At its simplest, this book doesn’t actually tell you how to paint flowers at all. There’s some basic advice at the beginning on choosing materials, keeping a sketchbook, learning to look (which is basically about flower structures and shapes, lighting and composition) and a section on mixing colours. All of this is done in 28 pages and, good though it is, a lot of it is likely to be familiar, so it’s commendable that it doesn’t occupy are more precious space!

The rest of the 144 pages (what this book lacks in size it makes up for in length) are taken up with 13 artists talking about their individual approaches to painting flowers and specific aspects that interest them and it’s worth listing them all to give you an idea of the variety you’re getting:

Peggy Macnamara: Slow Studies
Jane Leycester-Paige: Wild Flowers As They Grow
Marene Hill Donnelly: Sketching In The Field
Sharon Himes: Experiencing Nature Through Sketching
Iris Edey: Love Affair With Nature
Ann Blockley: Interpreting Flowers
Freda Cox: Floral Abundance On Every Page
Lizzie Harper: Closely Observed Flowers
Olivia Petrides: Observing And Recording Nature
Carole Andrews: Painting Flowers: Life & Light
Sally Robertson: The Art Of The Contour Line
Ann Smith: Exuberance of Scale
Tracy Hall: Learning Through Detailed Sketching

The book is very attractively presented as though taken from an artist’s sketchbook, but this is not done to an extreme where it becomes mannered or gets in the way of what it’s trying to put across. The loose placing of the illustrations (the pages are not designed to a rigid grid) gives an impression of a profusion of material – which indeed there is. It’s subtitled “Step by step demonstrations and practical advice”. Although the former aren’t a major feature, there’s no doubt that there is plenty that’s of very practical use in here. It’s probably not a book for someone just starting to paint flowers, but it’s one to enjoy if you’ve already got a bit of experience and you should pick up a lot of useful tips, too.

Year published: 2005
List price: £12.99

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