Archive for category Subject: Flowers

Drawing Nature: a complete guide || Giovanni Civardi

The bind-up reissue of Giovanni Civardi’s excellent guides continues. Here, you get seven volumes on the subject of nature, covering scenery, light & shade, basic techniques, flowers, fruit & vegetables, pets, perspective and wild animals. Is all of that nature? Well, stretching a point, it does give you a thorough amount of reading around the subject. It’s perhaps a quibble, but you also get the Drawing Techniques volume in the Figure Drawing bind-up and you can’t help suspecting it may make an appearance in future collections too.

If you’re a fan of Giovanni, you’ll probably have all the original volumes anyway, so purchasers of these reduced-format collections will perhaps only buy one, so a bit of thoughtful curation maybe doesn’t go amiss. However it goes, you get seven books for a little under two quid each, which is thumpingly good value even if there is a little duplication.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Contemporary Flowers in Mixed Media || Soraya French

When a publisher uses the word “contemporary” in a title, it can all too often mean “we’re not quite sure about this one, it’s a bit off the wall and perhaps not quite what we had in mind”. Mixed media can have multiple meanings too, from the artist using a bit of gouache or maybe pastel here and there to frankly alarming amounts of collage.

It’s therefore a pleasure to be able to report that this is a thoroughly thought through guide to flower painting that fits well into the Impressionist wing of the art and sometimes even borders on abstraction. These are flowers as they appeal to the emotions rather than as botanical specimens. You’d expect no less from Soraya French. “When working on personal projects”, she says, “I am careful not to let the analytical side stifle the intuitive process”. Amen, I think we can say, to that.

Although this is a relatively short book, it packs in a lot of analysis, wisdom and creative ideas, all concisely expressed and thoroughly illustrated. There are musings (I think that’s the right word) about the properties of media: watercolour, gouache, acrylic, inks and oils as well as dry media, and quite a lot about colour, light and palettes. This is entirely appropriate as the book itself is the proverbial riot of colour that’s often applied to gardens.

The whole thing is about exploration, both creative and technical – Soraya talks quite a lot about mediums, for instance, but also examines shades, tints, complementary colours and colour harmony.

I honestly think this is, as much as anything else, a book that will lift your spirits (and don’t we need that right now?) as much as teach you about painting. I’m not a flower painter, but I’m itching to have a go just looking at it.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Colours of Nature || Sandrine Maugy

This is not a new book, having first appeared in 2013, but its reissue is timely and it’s something that really shouldn’t be out of print.

There are all kinds of guides to colour, from the mixing swatch-books to highly technical volumes that are really of more interest to the scientist than the artist. This one is firmly practical and written for those working with pigment to create end results, which are the main, indeed only, focus.

What colours do, especially in relation to each other, is of prime importance and a basic understanding of their properties is essential if predictable and reliable results are to be achieved. This doesn’t necessarily mean a crash course in chemistry, although that’s behind a lot of what happens on the palette and the paper. An author who can understand that and translate it into the language and requirements of the artist is someone to be treasured.

Sandrine works through each of a wide range of colours individually as well as explaining some basic techniques for botanical painting. She also names specific brands, but recommends alternatives as well. You don’t have to throw away the contents of your paintbox in order to work with her prescribed choices, which is very welcome – this is about you, not her.

Each colour choice is accompanied by a detailed floral demonstration that pays particular attention to the colours used – how and why – for each part of the subject. It’s particularly useful to be able to see and understand why a particular mix is appropriate at any particular stage and where they all fit into the overall result.

This is a very thorough guide to a complex subject, but one which is told clearly and concisely and, above all, in language the artist will readily understand.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Watercolour Mixing Techniques For Botanical Artists || Jackie Isard

Books on flower painting abound, as do colour mixing guides, but this is the first time I have seen something as specific as this. It is, it should be said, very thorough, but without being exhausting and the detail (which is considerable) is entirely practical. Jackie is clearly fully on top of her subject.

A lot of mixing guides consist of little more than colour swatches and these, while useful, can leave you gasping for air. Here, there are remarkably few and they’re surprisingly small. You can, though, see what you need to and the whole point is that they do not dominate. The purpose of the book isn’t to present you with an exhaustive – or exhausting – list of what you can produce, but rather a selected set of examples of what you will need. What you will see are images of flowers, leaves, stems and berries, each clearly annotated with information about the colours used. Enlarged details are included where they are needed.

Despite its relatively limited extent, this is a comprehensive guide that includes not just mixing information, but the use of colour for tone, shading and to highlight detail. Everything is in just the right place and the book wears its considerable level of technical information very lightly indeed.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

1 Comment

Islamic Art Meets British Flowers || Hadil Tamim and Adrian Lawson

This is one of those fusions that either works brilliantly or falls horribly flat. In Hadil Tamim’s sensitive hands it is, thankfully, the former. Of Palestinian heritage, but having lived in Reading for the last two decades, she is well-versed in both traditions in a neat symbiosis of the two.

Using British architectural design as the basis for cartouches, but with the vibrant colours of Islamic tradition, she creates images which are unique, yet also not alien, certainly to this English eye. It’s also worth remarking that anything less than excellent reproduction could mar an otherwise excellent idea, but Two Rivers have, in their usual way, stepped fully up to the plate.

Although this is not an instructional book, Hadil does show and explain how the images were built up, and the architectural shapes adapted. You might not want to emulate her work completely, but it is full of intriguing ideas.

For each flower, naturalist Adrian Lawson provides a concise but informative commentary that nicely complements the images.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Watercolour Flower Portraits || Billy Showell

This worthwhile guide, which was originally published in 2006, has been reissued as a paperback. You can read the original review here.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Drawing Trees & Flowers || Margaret Eggleton and Denis-John Naylor

This is a bind up of two volumes that have previously appeared. You can read Trees here and Flowers here.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

The Kew Book of Painting Roses in Watercolour || Trevor Waugh

This is the second volume in this new series and it offers a perennially popular subject. I said of its predecessor on orchids that, while not perhaps the most obvious subject, those flowers nevertheless offered a wide variety of shape, form and colour. Well, the same is true of roses, but coupled with the fact that examples are available in just about every garden. Am I implying that this should have been the one that introduced the series? You know what, maybe I am.

Now that we have two volumes under our belt, it’s possible to take a broader look and it’s pleasing to say that, despite the Kew connection, these books are not heading in a botanical direction. That, while impressive, would be a shame because very few people want (or, perhaps, are able) to work in such precise detail. This, therefore, is primarily a Trevor Waugh book. If you’re familiar with his work, you’ll know that it’s primarily about colour and the feel, the character of the flower and not the minute details of its petals and stamens. I can’t claim to have audited every page, but I do not believe that the word “calyx” appears anywhere, and hurrah for that.

So, what you get are results that look and, above all, feel like roses. They have depth, both in terms of form and colour, they shimmer and, just maybe, if you catch them quickly, dance in the breeze. Simply, they’re a joy.

This is, of course, primarily a book about painting, not about roses. The usual preliminaries deal with colour and brushwork, with some deceptively simple exercises you really shouldn’t skip. These teach you far more than just elementary skills, even if that’s what they look like. For the reset, there are three full step-by-step projects that cover not only the whole flower, but also leaves, stems and the play of light. There’s nothing specific about perspective, but it’s in there – Trevor is very good at disguising the technical stuff and you’ll have got through it before you even realise it’s happening.

Is this perfect? Maybe. Is it too good to be true? Certainly not.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

Modern Watercolor Botanicals || Sarah Simon

Let’s say first of all that this is a very attractively presented book. That’s not to damn it with faint praise, but rather to emphasise just how much first impressions matter. As soon as I look at its gilt spiral binding and edge reinforcements, I just want to like it.

The content is a series of lessons and exercises in painting flowers and flower arrangements. There’s a standardised layout that makes following the instructions easy and each demonstration comes with plenty of step-by-step illustrations. Instructions are offered for three different skill levels: beginner, intermediate or advanced. I’ve always resisted this classification as one person’s beginner is another’s expert – I’ve spoken to professional painters who’ve said “I’m really only a beginner” and people who’ve been working for all of six months and can’t be taught anything new. Still, at least it offers you the opportunity to choose how much detail and hand-holding you want, even if at the cost of perhaps a little over-writing.

The basic outlines which, it should be said, have a strong graphic content, are traceable, so you can work with prepared outlines if you want. There’s also plenty of information about colour and materials. Yes, this has its limitations, but it’s also comprehensive and easy to understand once you get the hang of the format.

I wanted to like it and I do.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

The Kew Book of Painting Orchids in Watercolour || Vivienne Cawson

This book signals the beginning of a relationship between Kew Gardens and Search Press that can surely only lead to some pretty wonderful productions. Previous attempts with other publishers have tended to concentrate on botanical accuracy and an insistence on getting every detail absolutely right. For botanical illustration manuals, this is perfectly fine – essential even – but the new regime seems to come with a lighter touch, allowing a degree of interpretation more appropriate to the general art market. Put simply, this is a book for people who want to paint orchids, not study them, and that’s a good thing.

So, why orchids, which seems like a rather specialised subject for a first foray? Well, they’re one of the most varied species, offering a wide variety of different shapes and colours and not all of them are the exotic specimens of Victorian plant-collecting adventure stories (yes, I do remember one called The Boy Orchid Hunters by J G Rowe).

In simple terms, if you want to start flower painting, orchids are an excellent place to begin because of the opportunities they offer. Rather than being tied to a limited range of shapes and colours, you’ll be confronted by variety from the outset, developing ways of looking and working that’ll stand you in good stead later.

So, think of this as a flower painting primer. While it is not, perhaps a book for the complete beginner, as long as you have the basic watercolour skills, you should find it relatively easy to follow. The basic technical sections at the beginning are all flower-related, but still cover shapes, colours and mark-making. This means you’ll be working with petal and leaf shapes from the start, rather than abstract shapes, so it feels real immediately. Most of the work is with single specimens and props are limited to pots and vases – this is a book about orchids, after all, not flower arrangements – and this keeps the approach both simple and on track. Examples and exercises lead up to three full projects that demonstrate the range of possibilities available.

Don’t think of this as a book about a single plant type that’s only for the specialist. Look at it as one of the best flower painting manuals around.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

Leave a comment

  • Archives

  • Categories