Reading List

All of the books in this list are currently in my own collection and are highly recommended

  • Martyn Rix: The Golden Age of Botanical Art. Kew 

My latest addition is one I have been after for ages. The Golden Age of Botanical Art by Martyn Rix is an absolute joy. Highlighting the works of artists from the very beginning of the golden age of the art form, martin brings us right up to date. Stunning artworks and a beautiful binding makes this a classic from Kew Books.


  • RHS Botany for Gardeners

This is a great point of reference for gardeners and artists alike. Written in a clear, classification style as is so typical of the RHS, this book provides everything you need to know about a plant's botanical pointers. A beautiful book in itself, this stylish volume is also packed full of botanical illustrations.

  • RHS Latin for Gardeners 

As with Botany for Gardeners, this book is a superb point of reference for latin terms and titles for plants. A beautiful and essential addition to your reference library 

  • Margaret Stevens: Handbook of Plant Forms for Botanical Artists, (2013)

Margaret Stevens, in association with the Society of Botanical Artists has edited a new version of the classic publication by Ernest. E. Clark. The original drawings and notes of Ernest E. Clark have been included here along with beautiful botanical paintings by contemporary artists and students from the society's Distance Learning Diploma.  A beautifully presented book and one which I will turn to again and again.

  • Rory McEwen: The Colours of Reality, (2013)

This is a truly fabulous book and one which I was really looking forward to getting my hands on. This book is beautifully presented and covers Rory's youth, early years and success as both skilled musician and botanical artist.
Each page is gloriously photographed, and there is no skimping on the amount of artwork on display. Produced as a companion to the much anticipated Rory McEwen exhibition at The Shirley Sherwood Gallery at Kew, there is much to enjoy here. A real page turner.  

  •  Sarah Raven, 'Wild Flowers'. Bloomsbury. (2011).

A real doorstop of a volume that has taken Sarah two years to research. If you are seriously into wild flowers this is the book for you. it has it all, sumptuous photography, over 500 plants in eight habitats and  gorgeous presentation, all accompanied by Sarah's knowledgable and approachable writing style that really covers everything you would need to know

  • Reader's Digest, 'Nature Lover's Library: Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Britain'. Reader's Digest Association. (1997)

One of a series of books including one on trees, this book is a classic directory of wildflowers and their habitats. For anyone interested in identifying wild plants in Britain, this chunky little book with its beautiful illustrations, dissections and photos gives an excellent account of the traditional uses, introduction, growth habit and habitats of each plant.

  • Shirley Sherwood, 'A New Flowering: 1000 Years of Botanical Art. Ashmolean Museum. (2005).
A New Flowering: 1000 Years of Botanical Art (illustrated edition)
This is a true classic. A beautiful 'coffee table' book that is a real inspiration for anyone interested in the botanical art form. An illustrated collection of works from the Oxford libraries and Dr. Sherwood's own, highly acclaimed collection. Pieces date from the 11th Century with the drawing of a thistle right up to 2002. A contrast of old and new, demonstrating how the demanding range of skills required to produce such beautiful and precise work have not altered in time. A real treat.   

  • Billy Showell, 'Watercolour Flower Portraits', Search Press. (2006).

With a background in fashion design, Billy has a unique approach to botanical art. Her work is immediately identifiable as it has a contemporary look with, 'wall appeal'. Billy has written this book with her role as a tutor in mind. There is plenty of tuition, with worked examples using Billy's wet into wet techniques and loads of advice on drawing, looking and, of course, equipment. As Billy is an SBA Course tutor, this book is a great addition to the course textbooks.    

  • Ian Sidaway, 'Colour Mixing Bible', David and Charles, (2002).
 Colour Mixing Bible

This is an absolute must. This book will give all the colour mixing advice you could ever wish for. Different mediums are included as well as illustrated examples demonstrating the theory into practice. A practical guide that you will refer to again and again. 

  • Billy Showell, 'Watercolour Fruit and Vegetable Portraits', Search Press (2009)

Watercolour Fruit and Vegetable PortraitsIn this book Billy tackles fruit and veg subjects. As with the book of flower portraits there are plenty of practical examples and projects to try with step-by-step guidance. Although some of the pieces look a bit daunting, Billy really does give you the confidence to try. It is always important to learn from early pieces and Billy gives us her example of a bit-of-a-dodgy Strawberry using a new medium. Nice one Billy, it gives us all hope!    

  • Sara Midda 'Sketchbook from Southern France', published by Sidgwick and Jackson, (1990).

A real treasure trove of beautiful watercolour vignettes.This book was originally published with watercolour-type paper and was presented in a small format. I first came across this one about twenty years ago as a graphic design student and I am still finding new things to enjoy. It might be a bit tricky to find in the original format but well worth a look.   

  • Sara Midda 'In and out of the Garden', published by Workman (1981).

As above but this time in an English country garden. My copy is a newer edition but still a joy to look at. Each page has a gorgeous mix of Sara's watercolour paintings and hand rendered typography. 

  • Sarah Simblet 'Botany for the Artist'.

A great point of reference for anyone getting to grips with plant anatomy. Sarah is an artist herself and really presents the subject in an easily accessible way. Lavish colour photographs adorn the pages and there is a real emphasis on the importance of drawing and how to get it right.    

  • Margaret Stevens. 'The Botanical Palette'. 
    The Botanical Palette: Colour for the Botanical Painter

One of the DLDC textbooks but a great reference for anyone wanting to start botanical painting. There are loads of practical step-by-step projects to try and great advice on colour theory and composition.

  • Margaret Stevens 'The Art of Botanical Painting', Harper Collins, (2005).
The Art of Botanical Painting
Another course textbook but this one takes you gently by the hand through the stages of learning about botanical painting. Includes Pencil and Gouache techniques. This book really is the definitive guide to the SBA Distance Learning Course with guidance for each of the assignments along with practical step-by-step projects by the course tutors.

  • Mary Ann Scott, 'Botanical Sketchbook', Batsford, (2010).

Mary Ann was a student on one of the early SBA Distance Learning courses. This book really showcases the best use of a sketchbook and provides an excellent inspiration for anyone studying the subject. From modest beginnings, Mary Ann really came through and as a reader we can follow her progress.     


  •  Francesco Bianchini, 'Fruits of the Earth'. Bloomsbury

9780304294824: The Fruits of the EarthA classic charity shop purchase and a book that will be treasured. Again quite tricky to get hold of but an online search may bear fruit, (so to speak). This book is a real gem. Essentially an encyclopeadia of fruit and vegetables with some unfamiliar varieties in the mix. Really useful for identification as each description is clear, full but not wordy. Each page is aglow with the stunning botanical illustrations, demonstrating the practical use of the art form to the full.     

  • Marjorie Blamey. 'Flowers of the Countryside', Collins

Hate to be annoying here but this one came from the charity shop too. It really is worth while getting in there as you never know what you're going to find, (a bit like Forrest Gump and that box of chocolates). Here we get a stunning array of habitats and plants that are presented in the sketchbook style. Loads of information from plant anatomy to how to take good pictures is a real bonus and of course there are the full descriptions.  

  • Rosie Sanders, 'The Apple Book'. Frances Lincoln Publishers (Oct 2010)  

The Apple Book - 9780711231412
This one I actually paid for new, although it is a renewal of a book published in the 1980's.
This is a fine example of how horticulture and the art of the Botanical Illustrator can create something wonderful. A gorgeous book containing 144 of Rosie's astonishingly detailed watercolours. Each apple variety is lovingly reproduced along with depictions of the leaf, twig and blossom. All of the characteristics of the fruit are here from colour to texture. For the gardeners among you there is even the additional information of habit, shape, colour and even flavour. Good on you Rosie for trying all of them!!   

  • Siriol Sherlock, 'Botanical Illustration: Painting with Watercolours', Batsford, (2007).
Botanical Illustration: Painting with Watercolours (New edition)
Another good choice for anyone learning the trade. As well as an introduction to the early botanical paintings, Siriol gives really good advice on colour, giving worked examples for each. Again, as with many of the botanical books available there are plenty of Siriol's own illustrations and compositions to study. There is also handy tips on troubleshooting, getting the all important 'first wash' right and how to get good composition. Available as a paperback, this is a handy book to have around.   

  • Eleanor. B. Wunderlich. 'Botanical Illustration in Watercolour'. Watson-Guptill Publications. (1996).
Botanical Illustration in Watercolour
Another older publication that is a useful addition to the botanical library. Eleanor has a terrific style to her work that gives her paintings quite an ethereal quality. There is much to enjoy here and again there is plenty of advice on how to set yourself up properly with the right equipment as well as colour theory and composition. An oldie but a goodie.