Artist’s Toolbox

Book Review: Botany for the Artist, an inspirational guide to drawing plants

Author – Sarah Simblet, DK Publishing; First American Publishing 2010

I am inspired by all of, artist/author, Sarah Simblet’s books but with our Floral Show coming in April, I wanted to share my very favorite. The book opens with a brief illustrated history of botanical illustration, followed by getting prepped to begin your drawing; separate sections from roots, to flowers, to fruit and seeds include dramatic photographs and drawings. Each major section is further divided into observations, drawing studies, drawing class – taking you through steps to create specific elements and principles, plus technique, and Master Class – featuring the work of artists, past and present, discussing their approach to the subject in relation to the medium and intent of the work.

Sarah Simblet’s Botany for the Artist is beautiful, fascinating, and very instructive. I highly recommend it. The list price is $40.00, and I bought my copy at my old stomping grounds – Borders; Amazon should have it and usually at a discount. It is a must have book!

Author - Sarah Simblet




April is not far off – time to get inspired for the flower show!

april is not far off


Book Review:  Color Mixing Bible

Author – Ian Sidaway,  Watson-Gustily Publications;   Copyright 2002


Ian Sidaway opens his text by recounting a memory of his first box of colours, and how mixing colours usually ended in dirty browns. I think that most of us can relate to this experience! Sidaway’s goal, in Color Mixing Bible, is to negate that lesson and help you find, as well as understand, how to mix colours within the palette you usually use. His approach is economically sound, saving money when only buying colours you actually need, rather than buying colours you hope will prove useful in achieving the desired effect.

The short chapters that lead up to the directory are worth reading; they offer insight into the science, theory, history, and manufacture of the pigments we use. Although I generally know what not to mix together because it will get muddy, I never thought of why that happens (it’s not what you think, it’s much simpler) – now I know! Sidaway’s book addresses interests in more than oil paint or watercolour, and is just as valuable a tool for those who use pastels and coloured pencils.

The directory of colours is divided by medium: Oils, Acrylics, Watercolour, Gouache, Soft Pastels, Pencils/Inks, mixing Whites. The directories are not printed up “mechanically” with manufacturer’s representations of colour mixing but of Sidaway’s actual painted demonstration. Pastelists and Pencil artists will be especially delighted to find that the colour swatches display the textural strokes common to these mediums – results that are “true” to the nature of the beast.

His final chapters include simple palettes for what are entitled as subject mixes for different mediums, seasonal light, high-key and low-key colour, and warm and cool palettes.

I have used this book as a teaching tool for several years, it has become the only book I reference for my own work. It is still available through (list price $24.97 – Amazon $16.47) and worth adding to your reference art books. It is definitely for everyone who uses colour, beginner through seasoned professional.

You can get a glimpse of Ian Sidaway’s own work on his website: and you can see his travel sketchbook at:

An essential reference book for your Artist's Tool Box

Mixing colours - a view of a page from the book

A page from the visual directory




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