Watercolour Plant Art – 20 prints to paint and frame – Nikki Strange

Watercolour Plant Art - 20 prints to paint and frame - Nikki StrangeSynopsis: Learn to paint your favourite botanicals in watercolour through 20 visual step-by-step projects, plus a handy 25-sheet sketchpad with outlines of all the designs

A modern twist on watercolour flower painting – learn to paint your houseplants in the comfort of your own home.

London-based designer Nikki Strange takes you through 20 highly visual step-by-step projects. New and budding artists can learn to paint beautiful leafy balms, exotic flowers, succulents and more, so you can create a modern artwork that you’ll love to display in your home, use as stationery or proudly give to your friends and family. 

The process of studying and recreating each plant is described in clear step-by-step instructions, accompanied by stunning photography and a clean, contemporary design. In addition, a 25-sheet sketchpad with outlines of all the projects faintly printed on the pages is attached to the book for you to draw and paint on, so you can get started right away.


Why I Like It
This is an absolutely delightful book, in effect two books in one, a visual step-by-step guide plus a 25 sheet sketchpad with outlines of the projects. 

The content includes: 

Getting Started – which is a very helpful section including;
Being a better artist

Watercolour pans & inks
Colour, including creating a colour wheel
How to mix greens which is really helpful for the projects in the book
Ways of working
Botanical Projects –  which includes detailing the materials, the watercolour inks and colour mixes, plus step-by-step instructions and photographic illustrations of how to create each plant with the option of either creating it yourself or using the pre-drawn sketch.
Included are the following examples:
 Palm Leaves
– Monstera
– Banana Leaves
– Barrel Cactus
– Mini Orange Tree
– Eucalyptus
– Spotted Begonia
– Inch Plant
– Snake Plant
– Purple Shamrock
– Succulent
– Chinese Money Plant
– Rubber Plant
– Dried Flowers
– Fern Frond
– Calathea
– Anthurium
– English Ivy
– Palm Leaf & Abstract Background
– Decorative Wreath

 Watercolour Plant Art is not only a delightful way to relax, but also a wonderful way to start creating your own watercolour prints of your favourite plants. Highly Recommended!
Watercolour Plant Art – 20 prints to paint and frame – Nikki Strange – published by Search Press
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Urban Sketching – Step by Step – Klaus Meier-Pauken

Urban Sketching - Step by Step - Klaus Meier-PaukenTechniques for creating quick & lively urban scenes

Synopsis: Join the growing movement of reactionary artists and learn how to capture our fast-paced world in this inspiring book by popular artist and author, Klaus Meier-Pauken.

With useful advice on the basic materials needed, Urban Sketching Step by Step then moves on to honing essential drawing techniques from tone and colour to perspective and composition.

The huge collection of creative exercises will help you build your skills, see your surroundings with a new artistic eye and draw lively sketches of your city or town that reflect its character.

Whether you are looking to discover your own sketching style, or to build on your existing knowledge, this book is packed with material to get you creating your own dynamic works of art.


Why I liked this
There is so much to love in this inspiring book, it’s like a conversation with the author Klaus, as he shares his knowledge and advice in such a helpful way.

As you will see from the list below, the content is very comprehensive, including:

Urban Sketching- Sketching in the city
– Equipment – everything you need to know about the best equipment to use, and it is really is just a few materials.
– Quick sketches as essential training
– Lines and surfaces in your drawing
– Pencil, ink or colour?

Spatial perception in the city
– Selecting a scene in public places
– Perspective: horizons, position lines and vanishing points

Composing a harmonious sketch
– Arranging people and objects in space
– Foreground, middle ground and background
– The illusion of spatial depth
– Bringing your picture to life
– Shading and textures
– Light and shadow
– Getting your message across
– Tension and dynamism
– Using colour

Bringing individual elements to life
– Buildings and architecture
– Trees and vegetation
– People
– Cars, buses and trains
– Surfaces and materials

Capturing typical locations in sketches
– Streets, alleyways, courtyards and squares
– Landscapes, parks and gardens
– Details
– Canals, rivers and the sea

Afterword The magic of particular places

But it’s not just the really helpful advice in this book that makes it so special, throughout the book there are delightful and exquisite sketches created by Klaus himself, featuring cities such as London, New York, Paris and Venice.

On every page there is encouragement and advice on how to create perspective accurately, introduce texture and shading, how to bring people into the picture, draw water and so much more, as well as the 18 step by step exercises.

I particularly loved the sentiment in the Afterword, when Klaus describes his own favourite places,

‘Despite the wealth of fabulous buildings in Paris…. I always find my attention is drawn to the less spectacular rows of townhouses found in certain quarters of the city. Time and time again, I find myself enchanted by towering walls, narrow windows, fitted with ornate grilles and shutters and firewalls capped by multiple chimneys resembling the pipes of an organ……. In Venice it is the façades and interiors that catch my eye in all their diversity, beauty and perfection, as well as the carefully proportioned walls that surround the city’s squares and connect them to all those narrow alleyways to produce a wonderful spatial sequence’

If you are inspired to try urban sketching yourself, this book is a wonderful companion. Highly Recommended!

Urban Sketching – Step by Step – Klaus Meier-Pauken published by Search Press https://www.searchpress.com/book/9781782216834/urban-sketching-step-by-step

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Photography: History. Art. Technique – Tom Ang

Photography: History. Art. Technique - Tom AngSynopsis: Fully updated and presented in a striking slipcase, this fascinating all-in-one guide introduces you to the art, history, and culture of photography, and shows you how to get the very best from your photographs.
A comprehensive guide to all things photographic, Photography opens with a gallery of more than 30 of the key figures in photography, from 19th-century pioneers to famous photographers working today. The gallery provides fascinating contrasts between such diverse genres as art photography, reportage, portrait, and wildlife photography. The book then tells the story of photography, from its “garden shed” beginnings to the rise of the “selfie” today.

The second half of the book introduces cameras, accessories, and software, explaining what they can do and how to use them, then shows how to take better photographs by mastering the technical aspects of your camera; experimenting with composition, colour and light; and digitally enhancing your photos. Inspirational masterclasses covering all genres of photography – landscape, portraits, wildlife, architecture, art – also provide you with an opportunity to apply your newfound skills in a clear and practical way. The section also gives expert advice on showing your work and how to become a professional photographer yourself.


Why I Like This
First, as with all DK books, this is a beautifully presented book, even more so because the photography is absolutely stunning, and the book is beautifully presented inside a slipcase, with an illustration like a camera, making it even more special.

The content is comprehensive, including:

Gallery of Photographers – A-Z of some of the most influential photographers
The Story of Photography – From the dawn of photography to the digital revolution
Photographic Tools – The camera, Camera Accessories, Setting up a Darkroom, B/W processing and printing
Elements of Photography – Art of Composition, Using Colour, Working in Black/White, Using Lenses, Filters
Taking Successful Photographs
Working with Digital Images
Taking Photography Further

What this book gives is both information and inspiration, from the factual to how to create the most stunning photography. With a passion for photography, I particularly loved the section on the elements of photography – how to experiment with composition, colour and light, and the masterclasses covering all genres of photography – landscape, portraits, wildlife, architecture, art.

Photography as a discipline has evolved in so many different ways, and students in school and college will find this a very useful reference book. From a historical perspective this is also a useful source of tracing the development of photography.

Whether you are interested in photography yourself, or wish to gift someone with a delightful gift this is a wonderful addition to the collection of anyone interested in photography. Highly Recommended!

Photography: History. Art. Technique – Tom Ang – Published by DK https://www.dk.com/

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Find Your Flow – Sarah Gregg

Find Your FlowThe Simple and Life-Changing Practice for a Happier You

Synopsis: Flow is an optimal mental state that you can control, create, and experience every day. Once you learn how to master flow, your happiness will flow quickly and effortlessly as you use strategies to gain control over your life, focus on what matters most, and motivate action toward your goals and dreams.

In Find Your Flow, life coach and neurolinguistic programming practitioner Sarah Gregg reveals a powerful four-step journal system that can be applied to your everyday life. All it takes is a few minutes a day to help you find your flow through:

Morning grateful flow—wake up happy as you start your day, writing words of gratitude and creating a positive mood that lasts all day.

Forward focus—identify your priorities for the day to bring a sense of harmony and balance between what you must do and what you want to do.

Total flow—script your ideal day to spot opportunities, stay on course, and defend yourself against distraction.

Night time reflection—lean into the lessons that are showing up in life, spot opportunities to find more flow, and celebrate the powerful small steps you’re taking each day to create meaningful life changes.

Let Find Your Flow be your practical guide to awaken and strengthen your authentic voice so that you can make your signature impact on the world, inspire others, and reach your full potential.


Why I like it
One of the first reasons for liking it, is that this is a beautifully produced book! The cover and the inside illustrations encourage you to want to pick it up and discover the contents. I have always been interested in the work of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Sarah says her journal system for flow integrates the three core conditions that Csikszentmihalyi found necessary for flow to occur:

Clear Goals (I know what I am doing and why)
Optimal level of challenge (I will complete my goal to the best of my current ability so that it stretches my skills)
Immediate Feedback (I understand what successful progress toward my goals look, feels and sounds like)

It is these three core conditions along with feeling positive and reflecting that she has discovered are important for finding and staying in everyday flow.

Using her own experiences Sarah shares how she has changed previous habits to embrace this new way of living her life. Each of the key stages she mentions starts a new section in the book which also uses different coloured paper. The key stages are:

Morning grateful flow
Forward focus
Total flow
Nighttime reflection

Throughout the book relevant research is referenced and presented in an easily assimilated way, from the works of other practitioners to the techniques used by elite athletes. The full detail of this research is available in the Notes section of the book.

At the back of the book there is a section where you can start your own journal focusing on the four steps mentioned above.

This is a beautiful and thought-provoking book, a perfect way of starting to do things differently in 2020. Highly Recommended!

Find Your Flow – The Simple and Life-Changing Practice for a Happier You – Sarah Gregg Published by Rock Point 


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Hashtag Authentic – Sara Tasker

Hashtag Authentic - Sara TaskerFinding creativity and building a community on Instagram and beyond

In Hashtag Authentic, social media guru Sara Tasker provides tips, advice and guidance on how to turn your personal Instagram account into a profitable creative outlet.

Since setting up her Instagram account (me_and_orla) while on maternity leave in 2013, Sara has become a celebrated influencer and iPhoneographer, and through her calm, atmospheric and authentic style has garnered legions of followers. Here, Sara presents the lessons she has learned along the way.

Sara’s nurturing voice and enchanting photography provide guidance on:

Storytelling, with tips on finding your own visual style and personal niche.
Making pictures, including composing for Instagram, finding the best light and getting the most out of your camera phone.
Archiving your life, with tips organized by themes like Craft & Making, Family & Pets and Food & Ingredients.
Sharing your world, detailing the keys to Instagram success and beyond.

Hashtag Authentic is both an inspiring manual and an interactive tool for finding an online voice, growing a tribe and becoming an influencer.


Hashtag Authentic by Sara Tasker, White Lion Publishing, rrp £16.99

Why I Like it
Although the book may initially be described as being about how to turn your personal Instagram account into a profitable creative outlet, there is so much more in this carefully constructed and delightful book. Sara’s voice can be heard throughout this book in a very honest and authentic way, sharing her personal experiences and giving valuable advice about visual storytelling and improving your photography skills and much more.

There are thought-provoking exercises including Identifying your favourite parts in a day, Naming Your Visual Style and Listening to Yourself, there is also essential advice about staying safe on line and the need to recognise that there is a life outside Instagram. In fact some of the most inspiring parts of the book are about Storytelling and Making Pictures which has a relevance to anyone interested in photography, or seeking to be more creative.

I particularly liked the chapters about The Simple Secrets of Composition and Chasing Light , which are packed full with really helpful practical advice and inspiration.

Whether you want to create more thoughtful Instagram posts, improve your photography, take time to journal, or inspire your creativity this is a wonderful gift to give to yourself, or another fellow creative. Highly Recommended!

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The Writer’s Creative Workbook: Finding Your Voice, Embracing the Page – Joy Kenward

The Writer's Creative Workbook: Finding Your Voice, Embracing the Page - Joy KenwardSynopsis: The Writer’s Creative Workbook is a practical and insightful guide into the joyful craft of mindful writing.

Focusing on the transformative process of writing and conscious creativity, this beautifully illustrated part-manual, part-journal explores the holistic value of writing for writing’s sake.

Author Joy Kenward invites story-tellers, poets, travel-writers, journalists and letter-writers – in fact anyone curious about the ancient wisdom of mindfulness and its relevance to the modern creative voice – to embrace affirmations, meditations and Buddhist wisdom.

With practical exercises and astute notes on dissolving creative block, planning, time, and caring for your words, this is a must-have companion to help any creative wordsmith flow, flourish, and be mindful.


Why I like it
Most days I am reviewing books, either fiction, or non-fiction and while I am reading I am often fascinated about the structure of the book, how it is written and how it will develop; but there is always joy when the skill of the writer is such that it transports me away from that observation into becoming completely absorbed in the characters, the location and the story as it unfolds.

If you want to develop your own writing style and are looking at 2020 as the year to finally make this happen, The Writer’s Creative Workbook could be an inspiring place to start.

Joy has created a workbook set out over ten chapters, that can be used as a ten session course. Throughout the book there many opportunities to stimulate your creativity. In a very supportive style her questions encourage reflection, discovery, and creative ambition as well as an opportunity to recognise the joy that writing can bring both to the writer and the reader.

One of my favourite parts of the book is the chapter when she considers Fiction – Another World. As she describes,

We don’t need a definition to enjoy reading fiction, and we don’t need any excuse to enjoy writing it. Fiction opens up all the imaginary worlds we could wish for.They may be worlds very like our own, or they may be visions of entire fantasy. In the best stories, the reader feels they have been taken by the hand and walked through the world of the story, seeing and hearing it in their mind just as clearly as their own day-to-day life.It can be great fun to create settings – wide landscapes, tiny rooms, oceans, forests – and to place fascinating characters there. Welcome to wonderland

Beautifully illustrated by Ruth Allen, and full of suggestions, prompts, and space for you to write, The Writer’s Creative Workbook is a delightful exploration of how to find your voice, and develop your own unique way of writing and above all enjoy it!

Highly Recommended!

If you enjoyed this, you might also like to look at our reviews of the following:

The Writer’s Eye – Amy E. Weldon Observation and Inspiration for Creative Writers

The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal – Julia Cameron

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Botanical Illustration from Life – Işik Güner

A visual guide to observing, drawing and painting plants 

Synopsis: Observe, draw, paint, explore and master the art of botanical illustration.

Award-winning botanical artist Işik Güner shares her passion for drawing and painting living plants from around the world. Her work is both artistically accomplished and scientifically accurate, and will inspire you to master the skills you need to produce your own botanical illustrations from life.

• Discover how to select, preserve and position your specimens.
• Develop your understanding of perspective and composition.
• Learn the techniques of drawing and watercolour painting.

With the help of Ekin Özbiçer’s striking photography and numerous illustrations by Işik and other renowned botanical artists, this visually stunning book bridges the gap between science and art and will inspire artists, illustrators, botanists and plant lovers in equal measure.


Why I like it

Işik Güner is incredibly talented, it is very easy to see why she is an award-winning botanical artist. 

Supported by Ekin Özbiçer’s stunning photography and numerous illustrations by Işik  and other botanical artists, Botanical Illustration From Life is an absolutely beautiful book.

There is so much helpful advice and detail, the content includes the following key stages: Start,Observe, Draw, Paint, Explore, Master and each section is packed with fascinating information.
Start is about the history of botanical illustration and its importance in the recording of plants. In Observe there is detailed information about how to observe plants in their habitat and how to select which plants to preserve and draw. In Draw, there is detailed guidance on how to draw; from the correct posture, and materials to the precise detail of how to draw. There are pages and pages of detailed examples about perspective, composition and drawing. The Painting chapter is equally detailed, illustrating how to mix colours, create colour contast, perspective, texture and finally the actual act of painting. In Explore Işik takes us outdoors searching amid stunning scenery for examples and how to identify species.

The Master stage gives helpful advice about finding your own style and how to master your own technique, including inspiration from other artists.

This is an absolutely wonderful book, full of inspiration and encouragement. Highly Recommended!

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The Flower Fix – Anna Potter

Modern arrangements for a daily dose of nature

Synopsis: Blousy blooms, speckled branches, rich foliage and delicate petals; nature has the power to inspire and energise, calm and soothe, focus and still. Anna has harnessed this magic with 26 tailor-made combinations of flowers to bring a floral boost to your home, no matter what your mood.

With easy-to-find seasonal blooms, found items such as twigs and dried fruit, and any assortment of containers, discover how simple it is to bring a little bit of nature’s mystery into the everyday. Spanning all seasons and including both larger installations and smaller, simpler projects, there is something for anyone looking to play, experiment and create atmosphere with flowers.

Get your daily flower fix with these and more inspiring arrangements:

  • Inspire Playfulness is a spring arrangement to bring joy, featuring lilac, roses, ranunculus, poppy, narcissi and forget-me-nots.
  • Flowers for Gratitude is a mix of summer’s bounty to inspire thankfulness, including garden rose, daucus, echinacea and chocolate sunflower.
  • Find Beauty in the Everday is a colourful arrangement to bring a fresh perspective, featuring autumn foliage, hydrangea, dahlia, crab apple and rosehip.
  • The Shape of Self-Expression is a circular wreath design to express individuality, with holly, lamb’s ear, yellow holly berries, twigs and dried seedheads, and ivy berries.

Each project lists the equipment, flowers and foliage needed to start the project along with step-by-step instructions. There is also a guide to basic flower arranging.

Be led by the flowers, foliage, stems, follow their shapes and form, feel their weight and heft to create versions of these gorgeous arrangements that are uniquely your own.
The Flower Fix presents wild inspiration and modern arrangements by Swallows and Damsons florist Anna Potter, with beautiful photography by India Hobson.


Why I like it
The Flower Fix is a beautifully produced book, the flower arrangements are absolutely gorgeous, and the photography is stunning! This is a book to read from cover to cover, every page has fascinating information, or helpful advice.

Part 1 of the book is full of projects with Anna’s narrative about how she created the arrangements with step by step guidance. Part 2 is an essential guide to basic flower arranging; notes on colour palettes and how to use colour; and a flower glossary listing the colour, seasonal availability and vase life of each flower. If you are new to flower arranging reading Part 2 first will help you understand some of the processes in the projects in Part 1.

What I love about the project approach to flower arranging was the insight into Anna’s thoughts which absolutely fascinating and encourages you to take a more thoughtful approach to your own flower arrangements.
This is a really special book, an absolute inspiration to anyone who loves flowers and floral displays. Highly Recommended!

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Paint Yourself Positive – Jean Haines

Colourful Creative Watercolour

Synopsis: Jean Haines’ first-hand experience of the energising and life-enhancing effects of painting makes her a perfect example of how watercolours can work for you. 

Bestselling international author and artist Jean Haines’ new book takes readers on an exciting journey through painting. Not just a book for artists, this is for anyone looking for a way of enhancing their life and mood through paint. It’s also a way into art for people who have never painted and may even have been told they ‘can’t paint’ at an early age. If you love the idea of sitting down and playing with colour and paint as a distraction from the stresses of modern life, then this is the book for you!

All of Jean’s books have promoted the life-enhancing effects of painting, and this is especially relevant in Paint Yourself Positive. Whether you can already paint or not, the aim of the book is for you to create in a way that you find pleasing, increases your self-confidence and leaves you feeling energized. Jean will very soon have you wanting to pick up a paintbrush and start to paint and loving every second of it.


Why I like it
Paint Yourself Positive is full of beautiful images, quotes and exercises designed to uplift and enrich you. Jean also includes one of my favourite stories, The Starfish Story, which is inspiration in itself. As well as tips and techniques, every page sings with colour and positive encouragement, from her personal reflections through to each activity. 

Some of the content includes: Why paint ourselves positive? Making changes, The power of colour, Being positive, The power of you, Building confidence, Reaching goals, Life plans, The value of a positive wish list, Positive creative energy and much more.

Each watercolour example is fluid and surrounded with the key steps, whether you are an experienced artist or have never painted before, this book will encourage you to experiment.

This is a glorious book and as Jean says. “Painting doesn’t have to be serious, it can be joyful, bringing with it a fabulous sense of positive energy’  Highly Recommended! 

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Anna Mason’s Watercolour World – Create vibrant, realistic paintings inspired by nature – Anna Mason

Anna Mason's Watercolour World - Create vibrant, realistic paintings inspired by nature - Anna Mason

Synopsis: Learn to paint with Anna Mason, using this inspiring, practical watercolour guide.

Anna Mason’s vibrant, detailed and uplifting watercolours have earned her worldwide recognition. In this, her second book, she goes beyond flowers to explore her inspirations from across the natural world, including fruit, birds and animals. The book gives you a very personal insight into Anna’s way of working; with clarity and warmth she will help you find inspiration, choose scale and composition, see things correctly and work with discipline and flow until you produce fabulous work of your own. Packed with advice and inspiring finished pieces, this gorgeous book guides you through her method of working with four beautiful step-by-step projects: a blackberry, an autumn leaf, a sunflower and a garden bird. Each project contains a traceable outline. The book is suitable for beginners or for more experienced artists looking to refine their style or try new techniques.


Why I like it
This book is glorious in every sense, from the beautiful cover to the absolutely stunning paintings throughout the book, this is something to bring joy on the dullest of days. Simply to sit and turn the pages is a wonderful source of inspiration, but the detail is outstanding. it’s easy to forget that they are paintings, her paintings are so realistic you want to touch a petal, or bite into an apple. In the Introduction Anna shares her take on her world, ‘Those precious moments, the kind that makes you stop in your tracks and feel grateful to be alive are what inspire my watercolours’ . 
Throughout the book she shares her inspiration tips and her love of gardening.

This beautiful book is packed full of helpful advice, how to garden, how to photograph, and how to paint from those photographs, how to understand colour, form and texture. Anna also describes in detail her 5 stage painting method, how to draw as well as helpful advice on selecting brushes, paper and paints. Four projects are broken down into the key details. The final chapter is about Improvement and also the importance of taking a break from your painting to gain a new perspective. 

Anna also has a second book, equally inspirational, The Modern Flower Painter –  Creating Vibrant Botanical Portraits in Watercolour
Both books would be a wonderful source of inspiration to any artist whether a beginner, or more experienced, Very Highly Recommended!

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