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  • Publisher: Search Press
  • Edition: BC Paperback
  • Publication: 01 January 2020
  • ISBN 13/EAN: 9781782216513
  • Stock: 50+
  • Size: 216x280 mm
  • Illustrations: 400
  • Pages: 128
  • RRP: £14.99
  • Series: Kew Books
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The Kew Book of Painting Orchids in Watercolour


by Vivienne Cawson

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Book Description

Vivienne Cawson's luminous painting style and considered use of flat or patterned backgrounds gives her work a contemporary, beautiful feel all of its own. Published in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as a celebration of their annual Orchid Festival, this stunning book teaches you how to paint a selection of orchids in watercolour.

The book contains a thorough techniques section that guides you through Vivienne's decision-making, colour-matching and painting process. It teaches you how to capture form with speed and confidence, practise painting different leaves, flowers, and roots and create different textures with paint. The book contains exercises that will hone your skills and encourage your artistic intuition, followed by three complete step-by-step projects that feature a range of flowers in wild and still-life settings. The paintings feature touches of watercolour pencil and crayon, along with panels of gouache, which complement the delicate watercolours.

The book is interspersed with images from the Kew Art Collection, showcasing the rich variety and beauty of this much-loved family of flowers.

Table of Contents

Preface 6
Introduction 8
Tools and materials 10
Choosing complementary
elements 14
Inspiration 18
My approach 22
The world through your eyes 26
How to start 28
Understanding colour 34
My palette 37
Local and reflected colour 40
Using a range of tonal values 42
Matching colours 44
Basic watercolour tips and
techniques 48
Creating pattern and texture 52
Flower techniques 56
Leaf techniques 60
Root techniques 64
Composition tips 66
Project 1 70
Project 2 86
Project 3 98
Over to you... 127
Index 128

About the Author

About Vivienne Cawson

Vivienne trained in printed textiles at Leicester Polytechnic College. Her working career began as a freelance designer of printed carpets; during this period she began teaching art and design in Further Education, which then led to becoming Head of Department for Art and Design, working full-time in Further Education for 26 years in total. During her teaching career she painted and exhibited as time allowed. She began painting professionally in 2005.

She is a member of The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) and the Leicester Society of Artists (LSA).

She runs workshops at her studio, demonstrates to art groups and societies around the UK and exhibits at numerous national events. Her passion lies in painting flowers and portraits in watercolour.


Craft Focus

Perfect for spring, The Kew Book of Painting Orchids in Watercolour shows readers how to recreate these beautiful blooms. Written by Vivienne Cawson and published in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, the book covers techniques, decision making, colour matching and painting with exercises to help readers hone their skills.


I really enjoyed this book by Vivienne Cawson. Firstly, it appealed to my looser style of watercolour painting and I picked up some useful tips on mixing colours, especially greens, and expanding my palette. Her useful section on techniques has encouraged me to try the addition of water soluble crayons to my paintings to enhance and contrast colours. I particularly like the way Vivienne has written the book, interspersing information with useful tips and quotes and writing in a personal and friendly voice. Of course, the information about the various orchids is fascinating and an important addition to her text.

Paint magazine

You might think that painting orchids was a subject too specialised to be of general interest. They are, however, one of the most varied flower types and, of course, some examples are highly prized by collectors. Not all types are exotic, though, and there's a good chance you have some in your own garden or at least locally.

I realise I'm probably going to have to work quite hard to convince you that a book about a single flower type is one you'll want to read, but Vivienne Cawson helpfully comes to my aid. She is not, she explains in her introduction, a flower painter by nature: "My heart would sink when my tutor appeared laden with flowers of suggested that we go to the Botanical Gardens." Her background is textile design and geometric shapes, which means she brings a fresh eye to the subject. It gets more interesting when she mentions her influences, including Shirley Trevena and Elizabeth Blackadder, as well as developing interest in gardening. Suddenly, she has the materials to work with.

So, what we have here is a new approach to the subject that provides endless opportunities. The result is a book which is endlessly fascinating and which tells you far more about flower painting in general than you'd ever expect. Although this book is backed by Kew, it is by no means a botanical guide - which is something of a surprise in itself. Rather it's about colours and shapes - in simple terms, it's about the art, not the flowers. Now do you see why I'm getting a bit excited?

In practical terms, the introductory sections contain succinct yet thorough information on colour, tonal values, positive and negative space, shape, brushwork and a whole lot more. It's all thoroughly practical and there are plenty of examples and exercises to get stuck into. It's actually quite easy to forget you're dealing with orchids specifically as you learn about stems, leaves and petals - even roots - and how everything complements something else. It's all rather good fun, which is perhaps the most important thing. 

It all comes together in just three full projects, which should be enough unless you're really into orchids. The main thing is that you'll have had a thoroughly good time learning about colours, shapes, contrast and harmony - a well-tended garden, in fact.

Leisure Painter, February 2020

The striking beauty and huge variety of orchids make them a fascinating subject for the painter, and in her new book, The Kew Book of Painting Orchids in Watercolour, Vivienne Cawson shows you exactly how to paint them. 

Published in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew as a celebration of their annual Orchid Festival, the book teaches you how to capture form with speed. Well-planned exercises will develop your skills, encouraging you to practise different leaf shapes and colour palettes, and three complete step-by-step projects feature flowers in both wild and still-life settings. As well as watercolour, the paintings also include watercolour pencils, crayons and gouache. Images from the Kew Art Collection are interspersed with Vivienne's work.

The Artist

Orchids might seem like a rather over-specialised subject for a whole book, but they are one of the most varied species around and offer a wide variety of shapes and colours. As a result, this has plenty to offer the more general flower painter and Vivienne Cawson's methods of working and teaching have much to commend them. Whilst being recognisable blooms, these are not detailed botanical illustrations, in spite of the Kew connection, which might suggest they would be. Rather, Vivienne takes advantage of the opportunities variety has to offer and explores colour, tone, shape and setting in ways that have broad appeal and can be applied to any flower or plant. After discussions of palettes, leaves, flowers and even roots, there are three detailed projects where the quality of the illustrations makes following the instructions particularly straightforward. This is a book which promises much and delivers at every stage.

Crafts Beautiful

Paint inspiring, luminous orchids using this practical, contemporary guide from artist Vivienne Cawson, in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It teaches you how to capture form with speed and confidence, practise painting different leaves, flowers, and roots, and create textures with paint, before completing three step-by-step projects.

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