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The Kew Book of Botanic Illustration
Christabel King

Search Press
6 July 2015 / ISBN 9781844489473
How-To Books/Art

Reviewed by Rachel A Hyde


If you are an admirer of those beautiful plates in books on botany then here is a book that shows you how to produce them. The author is a celebrated botanical artist at Kew and has submitted work to Curtis's Botanical Magazine.

I am used to books on art talking about using “artistic license” and your imagination to produce works that hold up a mirror to the real world, but do not exactly reflect it. In this book plants are copied exactly and are scientific illustrations as much as they are “art” in the purest sense. This is not a book for the novice painter, but rather for somebody who is proficient in their chosen field and wants to try their hand at botanical illustration. Several types of paint are looked at, including watercolors, pen and ink and pencils and a suggested palette is given, along with suggestions for brands. There are sections on deciding what materials to use, choosing a subject and working from life, as well as working with a hand lens or microscope, correcting mistakes and what not to do if you want to be a good botanical illustrator (rather than just an artist). I have not tried my hand at this type of work so am no expert on it, but most topics I can think of are covered, including depicting different types of plants, what to take to work in the field, preserving specimens and using a shading guide as well as advice for beginners. I have not previously seen a work like this, and was fascinated to see how it differed from ordinary “art” while still being beautiful to behold. At the back are several of the artist's works from Curtis's Botanical Magazine to show how it can look, as well as useful glossaries of both botanical and artistic terms.

If you cannot find a good range of art materials locally try for a list of suppliers.

UK Reviewer: Rachel Hyde's work can be found in Sewing World, Sew Hip, Popular Crafts and other magazines. Her craft blog is Green Thoughts
Reviewed 2015