Watercolour Flowers || Janet Whittle

Janet Whittle has an approach to flower painting that is refreshingly original and really rather attractive. Rather than follow either the route of botanical illustration or the flower portrait, she combines the rather formal “floral” so beloved of American artists with a relaxed style that captures the essence of flowers rather than their every detail. It’s difficult to sum up, but try to imagine a tightly packed bed filled with blooms and you’ll have a rough idea.

The key to Janet’s style is negative shapes, all those parts which aren’t the main subject and, although these are not the main tenet of the book, you’ll find yourself learning a lot about them if you just follow what she does. The other thing she’s very good at is combining quite bright colours so that, even though the result is quite vivid, they don’t clash.

Always the problem with a very individual style is that to emulate it looks like copying and you’ll probably want to use this book for the information it provides on getting shapes and colours right rather that the overall result. However, this alone is worthwhile and Janet gives copious information on using tints, shading and gradation to produce flowers that look as if they’re actually growing rather than just being representations on a piece of paper.

This isn’t really a book for the beginner because you do need a reasonable facility both with the medium and the subject to take full advantage of it, but it’s one that would ideally suit someone who wants to take flower painting beyond that first stage and maybe even as a stepping stone to more formal work later.

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