Archive for category Author: Michael Lakin

Beginner’s Guide to Botanical Painting || Michael Lakin

This is another of Search Press’s mashups, combining material from 2010’s Ready to Paint Botanical Flowers in Watercolour and 2012’s A-Z of Botanical Flowers in Watercolour, bringing together the best from both.

If it’s possible to teach beginners something that takes a lifetime to master, this comes at least somewhere near to achieving its aim. There are 13 pre-printed tracings (familiar from the Ready to Paint series) with their detailed demonstrations. Alongside and really rather well integrated with this elementary process is the more detailed information from the larger book. This includes an explanation of Michael’s six-stage process for flower painting that does a lot to remove the confusing mystique that surrounds the subject. There are also exercises for further development once you’ve mastered the basics.

As an introduction to realistic flower painting, this is really rather good.

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A-Z of Botanical Flowers in Watercolour || Michael Lakin

I wish someone would call a halt to this A-Z thing with flowers. No one seems to do it with other subjects and, if there weren’t things called Zantedeschia or Zinnia, they wouldn’t do it here either. I know that books need some sort of ordering and that this is the simple way, but it’s also becoming lazy, and leading to a template-style approach, too.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a beautiful book and, if the single-stem, detailed way with flower painting is what you want, this is an excellent way into it, being much simpler than other books, which tend to go into a lot more detail and maybe overwhelm.

The approach that Michael Lakin adopts is to complete each demonstration in two spreads. This is a concise way of doing it, and also gives you a consistent set of demonstrations, meaning that, once you have the hang of the layout, it will hold for everything else. It does, though, mean that you will have to fill in quite a lot of the gaps for yourself. The first two pages will show you the main details of the flower in question together with the drawings and the colour palette. Turn the page and you get a set of instructions for the painting, and an illustration of the finished result. There are no step-by-steps and whether you think the book is for you will very much depend on whether you think this is a good or a bad thing. There is a lot of information in the introductory sections and it should be said that these avoid repetition of the basic stuff later on, though, even if they are general rather than subject-specific.

Botanical illustration is a complex and highly technical subject for which it is difficult to write an introduction, so much having to be learnt all at once. Michael, however, makes a good stab at keeping things as simple as possible.

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Flowers (Trace & Paint) || Wendy Jelbert, Michael Lakin, Fiona Peart, Wendy Tait

This is a bind-up of material that has previously appeared in four of the Ready to Paint series. Apart from the portmanteau price, which is pretty good value, the different here is that, instead of tracings, you get outlines pre-printed on plain paper that are really quite difficult to transfer. If it’s this aspect that you really want, then I’d recommend giving this a miss and shelling out for the original books. However, if you think you can dispense with the outlines, then the executions are very nicely done and you can certainly learn a lot about flower painting – I’ve recommended at least two of these before.

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Botanical Flowers in Watercolour (Ready to Paint) || Michael Lakin

I think you could say that, with this really rather surprising addition, this imaginative series has come of age. Botanical illustration isn’t normally regarded as something for the beginner, and yet these books, with their pre-printed tracings, are surely firmly in that camp. Aren’t they? And yet this works, completely. The answer, I think is that there’s a degree of flexibility in the format and here it bridges the gap between the beginner and the intermediate painter and makes accessible something that can be tricky to get started with.

Once again, by freeing you from the problem of getting the draughtsmanship right in the first place, Michael Lakin is able to concentrate on demonstrating the use of brushwork, colour and shading for producing detailed flower portraits. There’s still a lot to learn, of course, and six demonstrations, detailed as they are, won’t teach you everything you need to know, but by the end you’ll be able to decide whether it’s worth progressing and buying one of the many larger books on the subject.

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