The Botanical Palette || Margaret Stevens

in association with the Society of Botanical Artists

The basis of this book is an idea so simple and original that it’s hard to believe it hasn’t been done before. It’s flower painting arranged by colour. Of course, why didn’t I think of that? Horticultural books quite naturally arrange flowers by type because that’s how gardeners look at them, but we’re not gardeners; well, not in this context, at least. We’re painters and we approach things by colour and design and taxonomy is irrelevant.

The inspiration came from students of the SBA’s Distance Learning Diploma Course, who apparently confessed to having problems particularly with some of the strong colours that can appear in flower painting and all credit to Margaret Stevens who didn’t respond by replying, “well really, call yourself an artist?”, but set about an approach to solving the problem.

The Botanical Palette is the successor to the previous Stevens/SBA book, The Art of Botanical Painting, which was an thorough and in-depth look at serious flower painting that made few compromises to the flower portrait approach but came with a quiet authority that made it one of the most important guides to a popular and well-covered subject.

This new volume has a more relaxed feel about it and, while retaining the quality of painting and writing that characterised its predecessor, newcomers to the art of recording flowers and plants rather than just using them as another painting subject should feel welcome and unintimidated by the seniority (for want of a better word) of the instruction here. If you’re serious about flower painting, this is a very good place to start because you’ll be taught correctly right from the start. Not that this is a beginner’s book: you need to have a fair amount of experience in handling paint before you start and it is encouraging that publishers are beginning to discover that books that don’t start right from the basics have a strong market.

At £25, this isn’t cheap, but it’s substantial in every way. The backing of the SBA gives it authority and the illustrations, by a variety of the Society’s members, are all top-class. The reproduction is faultless and it’s printed on a decent, heavyweight paper that allows the printing ink to work to full depth and produce the strong, clear colours without which a book of this nature would, frankly, be worthless.

Collins 2007

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