Botanical Palette: Color for the Botanical Painter


From the creators of The Art of Botanical Painting, here is the essential guide to achieving perfect color in your paintings

The Botanical Palette, published in association with the Society of Botanical Artists, is the first instructional guide to focus entirely on the art of color in botanical painting. Each chapter in the book looks at a specific color, providing expert advice on how to achieve the right color in both painting and colored pencil work. The detailed step-by-step...

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From the creators of The Art of Botanical Painting, here is the essential guide to achieving perfect color in your paintings

The Botanical Palette, published in association with the Society of Botanical Artists, is the first instructional guide to focus entirely on the art of color in botanical painting. Each chapter in the book looks at a specific color, providing expert advice on how to achieve the right color in both painting and colored pencil work. The detailed step-by-step demonstrations reveal exactly how each flower painting is built up, from the initial stages to the finished illustration.

>The Botanical Palette also includes special project features in several of the demonstrations. Each project offers a simplified drawing of the finished work that students can trace and use as the basis for their own painting. By using this basic model, they will be able to focus more closely on achieving accurate color portrayal.

In addition to beautiful botanical paintings throughout, a superb gallery of paintings by members of the Society completes the book and provides additional inspiration. Featured artists include: Valerie Baines, Susan Christopher-Coulson, Brigette Daniel, Paul Fennell, Susan Hillier, Jennifer Jenkins, Barbara McGirr, Vicky Mappin, Susan Martin, Kay Rees-Davies, Margaret Stevens, Ann Swan, Sandra Wall Armitage, Brenda Watts, and Janet Wood.

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Editorial Reviews

Maureen Mackey
“...You do not need to be an artist or have artistic tendencies to appreciate this gift. Enjoy it simply for its visual thrills and for its insights into ‘the harmonious and often calming link that pulls a picture together.’”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061626678
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/16/2008
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 542,220
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Margaret Stevens, who wrote and coordinated this book, is the Society's president and a founding member. She holds numbers RHS medals, including the prestigious Gold Medal. While working as a freelance artist and illustrator she has also taught botanical painting to adult students for more than 20 years, and this book reflects her awareness of their challenges when using color and purchasing paints. Previous publications include a practical guide to drawing flowers, as well as The Art of Botanical Painting.

The Society of Botanical Artists was founded in 1985 to bring together artists of repute in this field. Members include winners of prestigious awards, including the Royal Horticulturaly Society's Gold and Silver-Gilt medals, and their work is held in collections worldwide.

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Read an Excerpt

The Botanical Palette
Color for the Botanical Painter

Chapter One


For artists working in pure watercolor, white is a non-color because they depend on the whiteness of the paper to provide the highest and brightest tone. Painters in gouache or other media rely on zinc or titanium to supply their body color. In spite of the absence of color, it can be a real challenge to capture the subtleties of reflected light and shadow that enable the image to come to life in a three-dimensional manner.

A lot depends on the time of day when the painting of a white flower is started, assuming you are not working in an unchanging north light. Sunlight will warm the petals with a golden reflection that would not be apparent on a cloudy day. This may seem obvious, but it is surprising how factors that contribute to the overall appearance of the flower can easily be overlooked. The room in which you are working will also have a bearing on the tints that are visible; walls, curtains, and even your clothes, are likely to be reflected, albeit in the smallest degree. These are the hints of color that need to merge with shadow tone. Unless the artist makes the most of these nuances of color and tone, the flower will look flat and would be as well illustrated by a good line drawing. For the less experienced painter, it is helpful to draw the flower in some detail as a preparatory exercise, carefully noting the shaded areas and the depth of tone needed to give form.

Artists arrive at their favorite mixes by trial and error, and never is it more important than for the gray tones on any flower, particularly a white one. If you paint the project onpage 20 based on Lilium auratum 'Virginale', you might like to try your own gray mixes instead of the Light Red/ Ultramarine mix used in the demonstration on page 16.


Lilium auratum 'Virginale'

Margaret Stevens PSBA

This perfect flower is best admired at twilight when it seems to glow with a magical quality. I grow it in flowerpots near my front door where it cannot be missed. Because this study was painted for reproduction, I have strengthened the shading. Had it been solely for exhibition, slightly lighter tones would have been appropriate.

Stage 1

I made a very light outline drawing with the minimum of detail.

Then I looked for areas on each petal where there was a distinctive yellow tint. For these I used Transparent Yellow, strengthened where necessary with Aureolin.

The shaded areas were worked using a delicate mix of Light Red and French Ultramarine, which produced a transparent gray. Occasionally a tiny amount of Glowing Violet was added to the gray tint.

The four lower leaves were washed with Schmincke Olive Green for the palest leaf or a very diluted mix of Sap Green with Perylene Green. When these were dry Sap Green was applied to the top and lower right leaves, making sure the veins and highlights were left clear, While the paint was still damp some shading was added to the top leaf, using a stronger mix of Sap Green with a little added Perylene Green. This was carefully blended using a damp brush. The same mix with more Perylene Green was used to start modeling the lower right leaf. The lower stem was glazed with pale DalerRowney Olive Green, shaded with Perylene Green.

Stage 2

Concentrating on the flowers, I started with the lowest one on the stem. This had been the first to open and showed signs of aging. The petals were thick and textured, with fringed areas and little raised spots that demanded careful attention. They are an integral part of the mechanism for attracting pollinating insects.

I strengthened the shaded areas using the same gray mix, sometimes adding a little Sap Green or Transparent Yellow, You need to look very bard at this stage to pick up every nuance of color, whether it be reflected or showing through from behind a petal.

Signs of decay were added using a little Burnt Sienna, For the stamens, I used Transparent Yellow, shaded with Gold Brown on the filaments. The anthers were washed with Gold Brown, and detail added to them with Burnt Umber.

I used Sap Green to carefully paint the negative spaces on the fringed area. The style and stigma were washed over with Sap Green mixed with a trace of French Ultramarine, then shaded with a stronger mix of the same.

The little speckles were emphasized by shading on the lower side with the gray mix. Then I scattered pollen using Gold Brown and a touch of Transparent Yellow, The middle flower was treated similarly, but more time was spent on fine detail. I picked out the negative spaces using Sap Green with a size 3 brush.

Transparent Yellow mixed with Sap Green was shaded into the central veined areas of the right-hand and lower petals, and the area around was shaded with the pale gray mix over Transparent Yellow that had been applied at Stage I. This was done with a fairly dry brush, which created texture. Speckles were lifted out and shaded on one side to bring them into relief.

A touch of Light Red added to the gray mix on the lowest petal was brushed on with a dry brush, following the contours of the petal. The stigma was both sticky and shiny, at the peak of its life.

The top flower required more Transparent Yellow and Light Red in the gray shading mix. The stripes running up the back of the petals were painted with a mix of Sap Green and Transparent Yellow, then shaded with a touch of Daler-Rowney Olive added to the Sap Green.

The same colors were used for the stamens and stigma that was used for the middle flower. A glaze of Sap Green with a little Light Red was applied over the two large bottom leaves and the same colors with added Perylene Green were used for the small central leaf.

The Botanical Palette
Color for the Botanical Painter
. Copyright © by Margaret Stevens. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2009

    This Captures Colors, Color Mixing, Importance of Base Drawing, and Possibilities of Variable Texture as well as Lighting and Shading.

    Well-organized into easy-to-understand, how-to-color mix well, and the importance of the base drawing. Many palettes are presented. There is a wide variety of excellent watercolor illustrations in the book separated by color categories. Color palette also includes lighting and shading techniques.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted June 15, 2009

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    Posted November 26, 2009

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