Reviewed by Elaine Allison
Published: 10th October 2019 by Octopus Publishing Group, Ilex Press
In this charming book Harriet seeks to present a new relaxed style of botanical painting by in her words, ‘breaking the rules a little bit’. In so doing she has moved away from the essence of botanical art and into the field of flower painting. Something she alludes to in her introduction.
To clarify the difference between the two disciplines:-
‘Botanical art strives towards scientific and botanical accuracy whereas flower painting is focused more on the overall effect of the image and much less on scientific accuracy.’
The finished paintings, although lovely, are not botanical art but flower painting and for those people looking for a step by step approach to botanical art this is not the book for them.
Having said that, this book is beautifully presented and contains a great deal of information for those new to watercolour painting. In her chapters on materials, watercolour basics and choosing a pallet of colours there is very good guidance to help advise those new to the medium.
This is helpful as there is so much to choose from on the market and having this measured advice could help the new artist choose materials with care and avoid expensive errors.
The section on the ‘Anatomy of a Flower’ might have been better represented in pencil for clarity as it is difficult to distinguish some of the different parts. Also unfortunately, there is not a similar anatomy section included for foliage and some of the terminology is botanically inaccurate.
In her chapter, on ‘Botanical Brushstrokes’, Harriet clearly demonstrates the different methods and the outcomes of using watercolour on paper. She shows how these can be used to represent different parts of the plant and the results you can achieve when painting petals, leaves etc. Her overall style is minimalist but beautiful.
The paintings are a delight and the colour rendition is very good and clear. There are 21 different step by step guides to painting flowers, and 7, similarly detailed, focusing on foliage. Each demonstration page includes a miniature image of the subject plus variations of colour and form. These are utilised in the final chapter, ‘Decorative Botanicals’, to create a variety of floral decorative pieces including wreaths, arrangements, house plants, borders and plant based patterns.
New Botanical Painting is a lovely book which presents many creative ideas to those who love the freedom of flower painting. It is reasonably priced, with clear images and it full of useful information. It is just a shame that the title is misleading.
EA September 2019