When it comes to the arrangement of flower painting books, you pays your money and you takes your choice. Do you want them alphabetical for reference, by colour for handy palette selection, or seasonal for easy access to what’s around at any particular time? We shouldn’t be unkind, because the publisher has to do something and all these are perfectly valid and what really matters is the quality of the instruction.
The sales blurb for this begins: “This stunning book follows the rhythm of nature through the year”, and I wouldn’t disagree with any of that. It is stunning and there’s also a sense of originality and wonder in what is, let’s face it, a crowded field.
Open any art instruction book at random and it’s usually fairly easy to pick out the structure: general introduction, materials, techniques, basic exercises, demonstrations. It’s a convention because it works and you break away from it at your peril. Sandrine and the production team at Search Press have taken quite a risk here, because this doesn’t have an obviously linear structure. Rather, the technical pieces, such as Drawing a Rose, or discussions of colour (Drawing and A Viridian Palette) appear within the body of the work. This could very easily break up the flow but, sensitively handled, puts what sometimes amount to thought pieces right next to the subject they relate to. It also makes the book subtly immersive and I think it’s one you’d probably want to read right through before breaking out the paintbox and then going to the section covering the season you’re in right now.
Style-wise, Sandrine works with individual subjects – these include fruit and leaves as well as flowers – rather than larger arrangements and she paints them with quite a lot of, but not obsessive, detail. She’s not afraid of a wash when the result demands it. This makes the book eminently accessible and the overall sense is of immersing yourself in the subject and a feeling of being enveloped, informed and entertained. And that’s quite an achievement.
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