Monday, August 13, 2012

Book review - Brave intuitive painting / Flora Bowley

Title: Brave intuitive painting - techniques for uncovering your own unique painting style
Author: Flora Bowley
Info: 128 p. - 2012
Rating: 7 / 10

I'm torn in my review of this book as I was torn in getting it in the first place. I had never heard of Flora Bowley until Amazon recommended her book to me as it does with dozens of others, because Amazon knows what an artsy book addict I am. Yes, these are the dangers of the internet, too much access to potentially interesting stuff. ;-)

The reason I was torn  about getting it is because of the content of the negative reviews of the book and I wasn't sure if I would like it. I did however immediately fall for Flora Bowley's painting style and I figured that if I didn't like the book for what it said I would at least have a book full of beautiful pictures of Flora's work.

Well, let me start by saying that the book indeed looks absolutely scrumptious. The photographs are just dreamy and the layout is gorgeous and of course Flora's work does most of the prettifying in itself. It's so colorful and indeed bold. But...I could have done without the many pictures of Flora herself. Flora in several yoga positions, Flora at work in her studio, Flora on a swing and the ones that almost made me laugh out loud: Flora jumping ecstatically into the air!

I'm sorry. I'm sure Flora is a wonderful person and I do like her voice in the writing of the book which sounds really well meaning, but all this Flora was just a bit too much. It was a bit...well, a bit blogsy really (I know that's not a word, but you know I've used it before, my blogsy people).

I'm still not sure if this book does or doesn't deliver what it promises. Techniques for uncovering your own painting style. Hmmm. What it mostly does is deliver Flora's philosophy on painting. I think I can summarize this philosophy as follows: be brave, do what feels right and there are no mistakes, oh...and work big. Flora repeats this at many turns in many different words (although this book is not very wordy when you consider that a lot of pages have about a paragraph on them) and it's an important message, but after a while I think you get the point. Follow your own voice when it comes to painting.

As for techniques the book is not very generous with them and remains very basic. I think anybody who wonders about Flora's own techniques in painting (how does she do it?) will be very disappointed. It's almost as if she went out of her way to avoid people from copying her style. Some tools are mentioned and the different marks that can be made with them and there is a very concise introduction into color theory. There are some exercises to get you going and some of those are quite interesting and fun too and I'm going to try some of them myself.

I think this book has the same 'problem' that a painting class I took a few years ago had where the teacher kind of let you figure it out all by yourself. It's not that there were no assignments, it's just that they were very open to interpretation. It will work perfectly for people who are not afraid to dive in and experiment. There's no real guidance, no real explanation of what to do or how to do it. It's diving of a cliff straight into the deep end. That's good if you are that kind of person, but if you need more information on materials, more smaller exercises to get to know your instruments and just plain painting techniques and skills, this may not be the book for you.

I remember in my painting class some people just kind of standing there wondering where the hell to start. Not everybody gets that you just start by starting. If that's the kind of person you are Flora's book will be too 'open', too unstructured. I know that's exactly what she intends and I get it, but it may not be for everyone (then again, what book is?).

All in all I think she could have been way more generous with her information, but I also get why she wasn't. And that's why I'm torn. I don't think it's a book I would recommend to anyone who wants to get into painting for the first time, because they would be lost at what to do. I also personally don't really care for the spiritual approach she gives, but that's a matter of preference in way of working. It might work for you to dance or do a yoga exercise during your painting sessions.

As a picture book it is absolutely stunning and that's why it still gets 7 out of 10 from me, but as content goes I would not give it more than 6 or 6.5. As a final word I do give her a thumbs up for effort and ... she did inspire me to put up a big canvas on my easel, because her work itself really is inspiring.