A definitive and practical guide to creating botanical art. This book is the basic text book used by the SBA's Distance Learning Diploma Course
Suitable for: Artists with some experience and skill in drawing and painting who are very interested in painting flowers, fruit and vegetable
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - I commend this book to all those interested in botanical art. It's a book to be appreciated.
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: UK - Collins (1 Nov. 2004) | USA - Smithsonian (November 1, 2005)
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The Art of Botanical Painting from Amazon.co.uk
The Art of Botanical Painting from Amazon.com
This book was written by Margaret Stevens GM, PSBA. As an botanical artist, she has received 13 medals from the RHS including the Gold and Silver Gilt Lindley medal for work of special educational interest.
She is also a Past President of the Society of Botanical Artists and an experienced teacher within adult education.
The book was written in association with the Society of Botanical Artists - many of whose artists contributed botanical artwork for the book. Consequently, it's excellent at showing you the standard of work required to become a member.
At the time, Margaret was also the Founder and First Course Director of the Distance Learning Diploma Course in Botanical Art run by the Society of Botanical Painting - for which this book is a core set text.
Another essential read is my 2009 interview with her - A Making A Mark Interview with Margaret Stevens - in which she discussed the Diploma Course.
I bought a copy of Margaret Stevens' excellent book and practical instruction guide "The Art of Botanical Painting" (produced in association with the Society of Botanical Artists) in 2005 without realising that this book had been created in tandem with the development of the the SBA's Distance Learning Diploma Course and has become its basic set text.
As such it's an essential "must read" for all those contemplating starting the course.
My overall impression is that this book is a very worthwhile purchase for anybody contemplating the course - plus it is also a very useful introduction for anybody wanting pursue botanical art.
I think one of the things it does best is to convey a sense of the community of botanical artists and the standards and principles which they hold dear and which underpins the quality of work they achieve.
Each botanical artist approaches their art in their own particular way - and diversity is certainly not frowned on because all are committed to representing the plant in the best way they can.
A further advantage is that the wide range of images in the book demonstrates very clearly the standard of work achieved by leading members of the SBA.
My only reservation about it is that a number of the tips and techniques are generic and applicable to all and yet are scattered throughout the book. Speaking personally I'd have liked to see them all in one place with maybe reminders throughout the rest of the book. After all if it's worth saying it's probably worth saying twice!
The nature of botanical art
The book starts with a very useful summary of the way in which the painting of flowers has developed over the centuries which provides a useful context for both society and contemporary botanical art. It's great to see examples of art from people like Ehret and Merian
Various essentials are discussed (pencils, pens, erasers, paper and other supports, media and brushed).
While the comments made are very useful I'd have liked this section to have been expanded to cover all the equipment and generic approaches which botanical artists use in the pursuit of their art. Instead really useful comments are spread around the book and I think it's possible that some of the more generic tips might be missed.
Over time I've learned about the various ways artists manage to get plant material to behave and the crucial importance of having a fridge which is big enough to store the current subject matter - not to mention all the other bits and bobs which are jolly useful to have to hand. My latest on this front was a shaving brush as a substitute for a drafting brush - as demonstrated by Sue Vize last Wednesday!
Plant Anatomy - I found this just right, enough detail to be helpful and not so much that one felt overwhelmed by lots of latin names. I found the two diagrams about Inflorescences and leaf shapes to be particularly helpful and will make my walks a lot more interesting in future!
Drawing techniques - It was interesting to note in reading the book how many artists did a full drawing before they tackled a painting. This being a drawing in its own right rather than a drawing as a guide for painting. This section focuses on basic approaches to drawing flowers (as opposed to 'how to draw') - including techniques such as hatching, stippling and how to tackle foreshortening. The eye opener for me was the diagram of the camellia with the numbered petals demonstrating in what order they had been drawn.
Susan Christopher Coulson provides the demonstration for working with coloured pencils.
To draw is to see............Observation and the three "P"s, Patience, Practice and Perseverance should be your guiding principles
Watercolour painting techniques
This is NOT a "how to paint using watercolour" book. It's more about looking at HOW to apply watercolour techniques to botanical art.
It outlines a range of tips and techniques for painting botanical art using watercolours.
There's a good description of drawing with a brush when working on vellum or other non-porous surfaces.
This section made me want to go and paint leaves! Coverage of the twin topics of foliage colour and mixing greens is excellent with instructions for both watercolour and coloured pencils.
What could be seen as a dull subject is enlivened by also includes a leaf library compiled by Vickie Marsh SBA which usefully lists all the pigments used in the order they were used, examples of different leaves painted using a limited palette and an example of how a collection of sample leaves can be enhanced using calligraphy.
I'm fascinated by the fact that SBA members, when asked, came up with dozens of mixes for achieving different shades of green!
To be a successful botanical painter it is essential to come to terms with mixing greens. All too often good work is spoilt by lack of care when portraying foliage
This provides examples of flowers associated with different hues - and the palette used to describe them.
I learned what 'botanical grey' means!
This section is especially useful and states some simple but essential rules. The approach in this chapter is to take several different examples of different types of composition. What makes each effective is then explained.
All too often the novice painter will dive in without sparing time to consider the layout, which should be pleasing and harmonious......remember to adapt your compositions to your your subject matter.........Composition is really flower arranging on paper
Flower Portraits in Watercolour
This comprises a series of step by step demonstrations by different artists about how different challenges were tackled and how the work was developed. Each contains lots of small but significant tips. I'd have found it even more helpful if these had been highlighted in some way.
I wasn't expecting Painting in Gouache however this chapter highlights how effective this can be.
Working in the Field
This section served to highlight for me a use for the hotel mini bar which I had not appreciated before - they're apparently ideal for keeping specimens fresh!
This section also provides a clear insight into the value of sketchbooks and working sheets for identifying and recording colours in the field.
Botanical art is not just about flowers and Painting Fruit and Painting Vegetables are also covered by the book.
Examples of work by SBA members are used to convey points about different approaches and what makes a painting effective.
The latter chapters consider practical matters relating to:
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