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Billy Showell's Botanical Painting in Watercolour


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Table of Contents

Introduction 6
Materials 8
Getting started 18
Working from life 20
Observation 22
Drawing 28
Using a brush 44
Painting techniques 54
Troubleshooting 82
Painting detail 88
Adding pattern 110
Creating texture 118
Painting multi-headed flowers 130
Painting from enlarged photographs 136
Colour and colour mixing 140
Composition 178
Stretching and finishing 186
Glossary 190
Index 191

About the Author

Billy Showell graduated from St Martins School of Art with a B.A. in fashion design, but was irresistably drawn to painting and illustration. In 1993 she set course for a career as an artist and now paints, illustrates and teaches botanical painting in the UK, USA and Australia. She lives in Tunbridge Wells, UK with her husband and two sons. Billy has been awarded five Certificates of Botanical Merit from the Society of Botanical Artists. Her paintings are collected the world over and many are available as limited edition prints. Full details of all her awards and commendations can be found on her website www.billyshowell.co.uk


Dec 2016 Billy Showell has written a number of books on flower painting but these have so far concentrated on the less formal flower portrait. Where this one differs is that is approaches it entirely from the technical side. You'll look in vain for specific examples. As well as avoiding repeating what has already been said, this method fills the inevitable void left by the specimen-led way of working. It is not, however, a primer in flower painting. For all the attention given to negative shapes, brushwork and colour mixing, this is not a book for the complete beginner. In order to tackle the discipline of botanical illustration, you need to be competent and confident with your style and your materials. Informative, practical and rewarding, this meets a long-felt need.
*The Artist*

This is a beautifully presented book, lovely to look at, but even better than that every page is full of clearly written, simple to understand information and techniques about the subject. It covers everything from the choice and use of materials to a range of drawing and painting skills which cover every technique one would need to paint any type of plant or flower. The techniques for handling watercolour, the flow etc would be useful for anyone learning to use this medium in any form, not just botanical paintings. I found the section on colour mixing particularly good and very comprehensive, especially the mixing blacks chapter. It is one of the few books which actually acknowledges that mistakes happen, even to the best, and explains various methods of correction, and also that it takes practice to achieve these type of results. I wish it had been available when I started with botanical illustration several years ago, I think life would have been a bit easier, in short its a fabulous book, extremely informative and beautiful to look at.
*Anne Chalkley*

A beautiful and comprehensive book for both beginners in botanic art and for the more experienced artist. There is something here for everyone.
Billy Showell has produced beautifully illustrated examples throughout the book accompanied by explicit text with highlighted tips and hints. The introductory chapters allow the novice artist to identify the materials needed and to use them as a course in developing botanical painting skills. The chapter on troubleshooting is helpful too and especially for the beginner. The more experienced artist will find it an essential reference book for observation techniques and ideas on composition. Colour mixing is explained in detail and forms the largest section of the book and could be produced as a separate book in its own right. Techniques with identified examples for painting detail, texture and patterns are included and ideas on multiple flowerheads as well as methods for painting from photographs.
The glossary is useful and the index logical so that specific topics are easy to find.
The principles and practices described and illustrated could be applied at any level to all water colour artists
This is an essential book on any artists bookshelf!
*Mary-Christine Levett*

Stunning and beautiful book – I love it!
Yet another stunning addition to my Billy Showell collection and an absolute must for anyone with a desire to master botanical paining. Highly recommended and well worth the money.  I was so excited to receive this book and I have certainly not been disappointed. This is a beautifully presented book with stunning art work.  Every single page offers hints, tips and techniques with an amazing level of detail.  Whilst it shows some more advanced techniques, beginners should not be put off and the help and ideas offered is exemplary.  I can’t wait to try out some of the new ideas offered such as using lifting preparation and I absolutely love the colour mixing charts.
*Hazel Walters*

Discover many step-by-step studies in this wonderful book, illustrated throughout and learn how to paint the plants you love - there is a wide range of flowers, foliage, fruits and combinations of flowers. The Contents include Getting Started, Working From Life, Observation, Drawing, Using a Brush, Painting Techniques, Troubleshooting, Painting Detail, Adding Pattern, Creating Texture, Painting Multi-Headed Flowers, Painting From Enlarged Photographs, Colour and Colour Mixing, Composition and Stretching and Finishing. It provides tips and techniques throughout such as how to keep stems fresh when painting from life. This book is like a how-to of all the things you have ever wanted to paint - how to remove a bloom for instance or how to create a prickly surface or which brush to use. The medley of daffodils is fabulous and the purple and blacks are sumptuously captured. A great guide for all who love botanical painting.
*Karen Platt -yarnsandfabrics.co.uk*

Exquisitely presented and beautifully painted, if you ever wanted something to encourage you to start botanical painting, this would be it. For such a specialist, technical subject there’s a surprising number of books on botanical art. I’m not talking about flower painting in general – there are even more of those! – but ones that specifically identify themselves as belonging to the genus of scientific representation. We could quibble over how many are actually that deeply technical. In its pure form, botanical illustration is used to aid identification and has very specific requirements. For a start, you don’t paint a single example, but rather include specific characteristics that a worker in the field would look for. This may then be used to identify an existing species in an unknown location, or maybe a new one altogether. I’ve always divided botanical art into three genres. We start with flower painting, where the purpose is to produce something that looks like what it’s meant to represent without necessarily getting every petal perfect, and where the flower itself may not be the main subject. Then there’s the flower portrait (Billy Showell’s previous speciality), where detail becomes more important and the subject may be a single stem. Finally, there’s botanical illustration, which we dealt with above. This book adds, I think, a new dimension: botanical art that goes into considerable detail, but isn’t obsessed with total scientific accuracy and can be a record of the single example you have in front of you. As such, it’s ideally suited to the artist who isn’t a scientist but nevertheless enjoys at least some of the perfectionism that goes with full-on illustration. The book is a joy to handle and very thoroughly illustrated, going into plenty of detail regarding the stages of completing a painting. This includes not only step-by-steps, but also examples and technical exercises that deal with things like water droplets – which are well outside scientific work. It’s inspiring, enjoyable and very thorough.

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