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Botanical Painting with Watercolour

Botanical Painting with Watercolour

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Botanical Painting with Watercolour

2.5/5 (3 evaluări)
269 pages
2 hours
Sep 30, 2014


The characteristics of watercolour naturally complement botanical art and this beautiful book shows you how to make the most of this versatile medium. It starts by guiding you through the complexities of painting flowers, with advice on materials and colour mixing, using colour to achieve translucency and clarity, building confidence with step-by-step examples and the importance of observation and botanical accuracy. It then creates detailed and beautiful compositions for the more experienced botanical artist. This new book has ideas and tips on composition and how to include animal life and is structured by season to include a range of flowers and plants. Beautifully illustrated with 186 colour illustrations.
Sep 30, 2014

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Botanical Painting with Watercolour - Daphne Hicks



This book is primarily intended to inspire the beginner to ‘have a go’ at botanical drawing, but I hope that more experienced artists will also find a little something extra to add to their skills.

If you are intimidated by the prospect of beginning on a blank piece of paper (as indeed many artists are), choose your subject carefully. Find a flower or a plant that gives you a ‘buzz’, whether in its colour, its shape or its texture. Pick a subject that really speaks to you, that says to you ‘Draw me!’ If you come to love using watercolours as much as I do, and enjoy the experience of learning, persevere with your botanical work and you will derive great enjoyment from watching the painting develop beneath your hands, be it crimson Holly berries against dark green spiky leaves, or delicate spring flowers such as Primroses, Daffodils and Tulips.

The thrill of producing beautiful pictures with these glowing colours offers immense pleasure and satisfaction. Happy painting!

Daphne Hicks, 2014

Mouse with Berry. This was fun to do, and good experience at achieving a variety of textures with soft fur, translucent berry, and shining eyes!

Wild Flowers. Delicate wayside flowers need a light hand with fine lines, but this does not necessarily mean pale colouring, it is still important to show strong shadows and depths to define the plants. Adding a pencil sketch of the mouse and grasses adds interest without dominating the study.



How it All Began

As a child born in a market town on the edge of the Yorkshire Moors in the 1940s, I was very fortunate to have easy access to rambling countryside on my doorstep. I was one of four children and we were used to the freedom of packing a few biscuits and a drink in an old canvas satchel and going off up the Vale early in the morning, only returning when our stomachs told us it must be lunchtime. My bag also held a pencil and notebook to take notes and make little sketches, and possibly an empty jamjar just in case I came across a caterpillar or a butterfly or some other sample. We knew exactly where the Primroses and sweet scented Violets would be growing and picked them without restriction in those days. How lucky we were, growing up with such treasures as Early Purple Vetch, Bugle and Cowslips, which we gently pulled apart to sip the sweet nectar from inside the flowers. Who taught us to do that? I really don’t remember – it was just one of those things that country children knew. There were ‘hosts of golden daffodils’ to be seen at Farndale and Rumsgill, and at nearby Spring Wood a carpet of Bluebells, Wood Anemones and Wild Garlic. In another area drifts of dainty white Lilies of the Valley could be found, their scent leading us to their hiding place. We knew where to find mauve and yellow wild Iris growing around a pond, and in summer the hedgerows were full of pink and white wild Roses, soon to be followed by the glossy red hips which we gathered with my mother. These we took to a collection point in the town to be weighed, in return for a few coins. The hips were sent off to be turned into Rosehip syrup, which was made available through the new Health Service’s local clinic, to be spooned into babies and young children to provide vitamins in those hungry post-war days.

Dog Rose (Rosa canina) can still be found in country hedgerows and is delightful to come across in its wild state; it may be pink or white.

We stained our fingers purple gathering elderberries and blackberries for pies, and once my mother made Gale beer with yeast, not knowing how potent it would be. (We all remember the shock when the bottles, which were fermenting in the cellar, blew their tops off with a loud report like gunshots! I seem to remember that what remained of the beer was poured down the drain without being tasted as my mother was a fairly strict Wesleyan Methodist, and nothing other than communion wine or a small port and lemon at weddings was to pass her lips.) We learned to identify edible types of fungus to bring home, but I was rather squeamish when my brother broke open huge puffballs to reveal the insects scurrying around inside. Hazelnuts were plentiful and we filled our bags with them. I also enjoyed finding the little rough cups in the grass with the smooth shiny acorns nestling inside, and I still have one today in my workbox where it has stayed all these years.

Scratches and scrapes from climbing trees and sliding down steep banks were commonplace, and we learned by experience which insects would sting and bite and which berries were good to eat – and which should be avoided. We knew where we would find tiny wild strawberries growing on a bank by the path. Intense and sweetly flavoured, hiding under their leaves, they waited for us, a ruby-red reward for enduring a Sunday afternoon walk in our Sunday best clothes with our parents, when we would much rather have been climbing trees, collecting conkers or simply mucking about on our own.

There were no computers in those days to look up and identify the specimens we found, but country folk tend to have their own names for certain insects and plants, such as ‘Milkmaids’, ‘Soldiers’ Buttons’ and ‘Ladies’ Slippers’, with which we became familiar. Wild flowers wilt and die very soon after picking, as though saying ‘I’m not meant to be indoors’, and of course nowadays we all know the country code, and that what we find we must leave in its natural habitat.

My love of botanical art developed after I was given a small watercolour palette and brush as a child and I found joy in sitting down and painting some of the things I had gathered. It started as a hobby but soon became an all-consuming passion, which has stayed with me and played a major part in my life. If you find through this book a desire to sit and paint flowers, you will also find it is one of the most enjoyable and harmonious things to do. A daunting prospect to the inexperienced artist because of its precise and detailed nature, botanical art is nevertheless one of the most satisfying of accomplishments; great pleasure can be gained by sitting quietly with paper and paints and a sprig of blossom or a single bloom in a glass jar. One of my happiest early memories is of my excitement as a schoolgirl at having a couple of flower paintings accepted into my home town’s Art Club Exhibition. A write-up in the local paper gave special mention to my paintings, which ‘glowed like jewels, making one feel they could be plucked from the paper’. This has been my aim ever since: to reproduce on paper the glowing colours and graceful beauty that magically appear on bare twigs and stems in our gardens and hedgerows, and bring constant delight to those of us with a love of nature and the eye to see!

John Ruskin, the Victorian artist and critic, said, ‘If you can paint one leaf, you can paint the world.’ In other words, if you learn and understand the correct way to paint a simple subject, then you can move on to more ambitious things. His picture of a spray of crisply curled Oak leaves in the Ruskin Collection in Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery may not be one of the best botanical paintings, but it does illustrate how the structure of the leaf depends greatly on light and depth of tone to give it form, which is one of the most important skills botanical artists need to develop. Autumn leaves are wonderful to paint with all their russet hues, but for the purposes of this book I intend to begin at the beginning, learning to paint the fresh young flowers of springtime. We will then move on through the seasons, developing the skills needed for more difficult work. I will give examples of the basic techniques, with some step-by-step illustrations, in order to achieve a finished piece of work, beginning with advice on the materials required and on how best to mix pigments to obtain the colours you want. I will also demonstrate how shadow and form can be created by increasing depth and lifting out light.

Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca). A miniature painting like this is built up with lots of small brushstrokes, and is a good opportunity to become familiar with your fine brushes and find out which ones you prefer to work with.

Bindweed, Speedwell, Buttercup, Rosebay. A selection of wild flowers from hedgerows or meadows can make a simple but very effective composition. This one shows the plants from the Beverley Westwood (including rabbits) with the graceful architecture of The Minster as a vignette. The use of pencil sketches enhances the picture without being too obtrusive.

A Study of a Spray of Withered Oak Leaves by John Ruskin. In this study the light is shown coming down from the left, and the depths of colour and shadow occurring on the underside give form and substance to the structure of the leaves. Note also how the dark line on the underneath of the stem shows its rigidity. (Reproduced by kind permission of

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