Opening this book at random, I was rather surprised to discover that Lesson 7 is “A Flower”! However, it turns out that the approach really is as basic as that and the previous lessons have included a mushroom, an apple and a leaf.
This is by no means a bad thing, although if you were expecting a guide to the rather technical style of botanical illustration, you’d be disappointed. It’s a quibble, but I can’t help feeling that Botanical Painting would have been a better title. Anyway, having got that out of the way and established what the book is about, is it any good? Well, if you want to start painting botanical subjects (and not just flowers, either), Valerie really will start you from the beginning. I don’t think I’ve seen such a basic primer as this and certainly not one that works in so much detail. If you’re struggling with the subject and need your hand held, it’ll be held firmly here and you won’t feel that you’re being pushed along faster than you can or want to go.
Each lesson is basically a demonstration, but there are slightly more words here than is sometimes the case and Valerie explains everything very carefully. Each lesson ends with a Critical Assessment which analyses what might have gone wrong along the way. A teacher who was there in person would be able to look at your work and this is a creditable attempt to do the same thing off the printed page.
The final lesson, A Botanical Plate, is longer and more detailed and brings together everything you’ve learnt so far. I think the plate referred to is the illustrative style I referred to at the beginning, though I have to confess I’m not sure. The subject is a plant, with flowers, leaves and stem, in a pot and, again, I rather think something like “the whole thing” might have been a better heading.
Quibbles aside, this is an excellent attempt at a guide to paint plants for the complete beginner that achieves most of what it sets out to do and which, if that’s what you’re looking for, should fit the bill admirably.