Archive for category Subject: Flowers

The Watercolour Flower Painter’s A-Z || Adelene Fletcher

This was originally published sufficiently long ago that I haven’t reviewed it here before. It was always a good book and has stood the test of time well. The idea of a series of demonstrations, each occupying a single spread and running from Agapanthus to Zantedeschia, means that a wide variety of types, species, shapes and colours are included. Even though the demonstrations are necessarily concise, the instructions are thorough and will certainly be enough for anyone with a reasonable amount of experience (I’m leaving you to define “reasonable” for yourself as everyone wants something different).

Re-publication has brought this under the umbrella of Search Press’s relationship with Kew, and this is no bad thing. Kew are a world authority and don’t issue their imprimatur lightly, so there’s considerable added authority here. The crispness of the illustrations also suggests re-origination, so there’s really rather a lot to like here.

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Jean Haines’ Atmospheric Flowers in Watercolour

Jean Haines’ work is approaching a form of abstraction. Extreme looseness and the extensive use of washes has led to images that are more about shapes and colour than they are about form. In the wrong hands, this leads all too easily to confusion, and not just in the mind of the viewer – the artist themselves can lose sight of their vision and thus the ability to communicate.

This has not happened with Jean and the paintings here are always recognisable even if they are about as far from botanical illustration as it is possible to get. At the same time, the essence of not just flower, but species is retained and you get the sense of a plant growing in the wild, dancing in the breeze and seen with the lack of distinction brought on by distance. When Jean is painting figures, it’s natural to say that she captures character and soul. While that’s not such an obvious factor with flowers, it’s hard not to make the comparison. This is what flowers are about more than what they are.

But this is also a practical book and we must therefore ask the questions: can you re-create this and would you want to emulate the highly individual style of another artist? The answer to the first is simple: Jean is very good at explaining her working methods, so the lessons and demonstrations are admirably clear. Technically, it can certainly be done. As to the more creative question, well, if you follow the book, you’ll end up with a copy, but you’ll also learn how to see, think and interpret, so you can develop your own approaches. I think that’s an entirely reasonable aim and falls well within the scope of what the book is about.

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10 Step Drawing: Flowers || Mary Woodin, Animals || Heather Kilgour

This new series presents what we might call a quick route to drawing. Each of 75 projects includes nine outline stages, plus a final one where the colour is added. What is most useful is the simple shapes with which each begins. If you’re new to drawing, getting this right can be the hardest part and represents the foundations on which the finished result will stand or fall. Anyone with experience will probably find the rather regimented steps that follow exasperating, but do please move along there – this isn’t for you. Beginners should find the process much more reassuring and the routines easy to follow and get to grips with. The fact that the colouring-in is one stage with little more instruction that “colour it in” isn’t ideal, but these are books about drawing, not painting, and you’d need at least another 10 steps to cover this fully. Stop quibbling. The method and results are really quite attractive.

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In Bloom || Rachel Reinert

This simple guide contains outlines that will enable you to practise flower painting quickly and easily. The subtitle refers to “florals”, an American term I have always understood to refer to more elaborate flower arrangements, rather than single blooms or stems. Here, however, it is the latter that are to the fore, which is good if you are a beginner in the field.

The subtitle also refers to drawing and what you’re presented with is a series of increasingly detailed printed outlines with the instructions in short captions. As an exercise in copying, it’s fine, but I’m not sure how much you’d actually learn by working through its varied contents – there’s no question that the covering is comprehensive.

Of more use are the last dozen pages, which deal with colour and do manage to pack a good amount of information in. I’m not sure, though, that this would justify the price of the book, or that there’s information you couldn’t get – albeit in a less concise form – elsewhere.

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The Paint Pad Artist (Watercolour Landscapes || Grahame Booth/Watercolour Flowers || Julie King)

This new series builds on the theme of the hugely successful Ready to Paint books and provides outlines pre-printed on watercolour paper. I’ve looked for a watermark, but can’t find one, so it’s very much a take-it-as-it-is option. This shouldn’t matter, however, as these are very much aimed at the beginner and, as long as the material doesn’t have any particularly difficult characteristics, just having it there ready to use should be fine. You still have to provide your own paint and brushes, of course, but there’s a handy list of What You Need in the concise but informative introductory section to each book. Given the level of skill this is aimed at, getting the right balance between thoroughness and not being so detailed as to be off-putting is a difficult thing to judge. The decision here has been to start on practical work as soon as possible and develop skills there.

The core of each book is a series of six projects with detailed step-by-step-illustrations. There’s plenty of hand-holding and a very real sense of having a guide and tutor at your shoulder throughout. A nice touch is the suggestion of making copies of the outlines so that you can practice and repeat the exercises without the pressure of having to get it right first time or waste the material provided. This is advice any newcomer would be advised to follow as (spoiler alert), art isn’t something you can pick up in a few minutes.

There’s much to like here, quite apart from the approach and presentation. The books are spiral bound inside a substantial hard cover and the attention to detail includes an elasticated band that holds the whole thing together in the manner of a portfolio. It’s very professionally done and makes the student feel both taken, and that they’re taking it all, seriously.

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Painting Flowers – a creative approach || Siȃn Dudley

This is not a book about painting flowers. I think it’s best to clear that up at the outset. What I mean is that it isn’t about how to paint botanical illustrations or flower portraits. If the details aren’t exactly correct, every stamen in place or the species immediately available for identification purposes, that’s fine. This is what the creative approach of the subtitle is.

What we do have is a book about creating stunning images using flowers as the main subject, but as a jumping-off point. What the non-specialist sees is shapes, colours and hues. Names and identities are unimportant and what matters is the infinite variety of possibility that flowers present. They can be indoors or out, alone or in arrangements, solitary clumps or jostling for space in a meadow. Light, shade and weather will change the way they appear. In this world, nothing is ever the same twice, no ideal specimen has to be found to create the perfect illustration; it’s all about creativity and paint.

If you’re fascinated by flowers but put off painting them because of the sometimes overly scientific approach and the fact that true enthusiasts know the exact names of everything, this is for you. It revels in its subject and makes the most of the properties of light, colour, watercolour and art.

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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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