Book Review: FloraBunda Style by Suzanne McNeill

FloraBunda Style

I’ve been asked to review this book by the publishers, Design Originals, and have been provided with a preview copy. Other than that, this review is independent and I haven’t been paid for it.

Florabunda Style is billed as the next generation of zentangle, and the author should know, as she has written more than 200 craft and hobby books including the popular Zentangle series. With the rapid rise in popularity of colouring books for adults, this book seems ideal for those that are looking to create their own illustrations to colour and benefit from the relaxation that that affords.

The FloraBunda aesthetic is based on simple nature inspired doodles. The book is printed on high quality artist paper, and readers are actively encouraged to draw in the book with plenty of white space to practice in around the examples. The paper is of a sufficient quality to decorate with markers, pens, coloured pencils, watercolours and more. As well as providing more than 200 different designs the book also includes a selection of craft projects with step-by-step instructions. The reader is actively encouraged to experiment, have some fun, be eclectic, be whimsical and above all have some fun.

The book opens with a chapter on the various tools that you can use to draw the elements as well as colour them in. The following chapters follow a similar pattern, opening with a preview of all the designs, step-by-step instructions to draw them and examples of finished artwork by other zentangling experts. There’s a basic guide to plant anatomy, and every element of a typical plant is included, including stems, vines, tendrils, flowers and seed heads. There are tips and tricks scattered throughout the text, as well as snippets of encouragement to develop your own style and creativity. The book finishes with both a visual and written index of all the designs and projects. The author has a chatty style of writing, and even if you don’t dare draw in it, the book is well worth the read in it’s own right.

Now down to the nitty gritty. First off, I tested the paper.

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The paper is slightly off white in colour, so isn’t glaring even under direct lighting. It feels smooth to draw on with all the pens I tried above. There was some slight bleed through with the Sharpie (as I would expect), but none at all with the fountain pen or fineliner. However, the alcohol marker not only bled through, but all the detail was lost as it spread into the paper – so I wouldn’t recommend using ProMarkers or similar to draw/colour with. There is a top tip at the start reminding you to test your preferred pen on a page corner first.

Coloured pencils worked beautifully, with enough tooth on the paper to catch colour without scratching or leaving annoying white bits. Blending colours was also a breeze. Adding water to Derwent Inktense pencils was delightful, with the water staying where you put it, gliding the colour easily over the paper, and drying quickly without being too absorbent. All of which would suggest watercolour paints would work just as nicely. Distress Markers also went on smoothly, with no bleed through even if a couple of layers of ink were added.

Next – usability. The book is bound in such a way that it lies open easily without you feeling the need to break the spine each time you turn to a new section. The text is easy to read, with clear headings and captions so you know where you are. All the contributing artists are acknowledged, and websites listed alongside if you want to go and view more of their work. The design index is a piece of genius (I would say that though, I included much the same in my own tangle patterns book), though it doesn’t give any page references if you wanted to go back and find the step-by-step instructions. That said, it’s a great ready-reference for all your plant parts and styles.

Now onto relevance. The introductory pieces on pens/media and the colour wheel are fairly ubiquitous in these kind of books, but here they are incorporated into working examples that take away the yada-yada-yada feeling you might otherwise get. Is it really the next generation of zentangle? McNeill has brought with her the step-by-step layout of her zentangle books, so they feel familiar to those already zentangling. As a result, it does feel to be a natural progression to more free-flowing drawing and equally accessible to those that have only ever doodled up to now. The projects also are accessible and practical, with most only requiring items that are normally in a craft room, and only a couple requiring more specialist equipment (e.g. a pyrography project).

A few other facts: there are 128 pages, the book is 8.5″ x 11″ (practically A4 for the non-US based readers) and is as heavy as expected for the high quality pages. It’s not a pocket book by any means, but would happily slip next to your laptop in your messenger bag/briefcase/art-media-on-the-move bag. RRP  $19.99, £12.99 or $24.99 in Canada. It’s printed in full colour and photos show every brush and pencil stroke (and colour slippage over the lines) which suggests editing has been (blessedly) light. Publication date: October 2015.

Overall, I think it is a beautifully conceived and executed book, and will encourage even a reluctant artist to have a go. There’s enough new material and concepts to keep a keen zentangler engaged and inspired, and the practical projects will keep the mixed media enthusiasts involved as well. I think the RRP is excellent value, and the book well worth buying.

You can pre-order the book on Amazon by following this link.


Of twelve eligible entries, two winning entries have been selected at random to receive a copy of the book using random.org. Winners have been contacted by email, so watch your inbox!


13 thoughts on “Book Review: FloraBunda Style by Suzanne McNeill

  1. I enjoy reading your blog – you have a easy writing style. Please enter me into the drawing for the Suzanne McNeill Florabunda book. My favorite tangle is Da-Kris and I like Micron pens the best.

  2. Would love a chance to win this book – your review makes it sound wonderful. The tangle I’ve been playing around with most lately is Cadent.
    marilynrobin at gmail.com

  3. An excellent review, Neil. Very interesting to think of a progression beyond Zentangle and more in the direction of free doodling. Like Carla above, I really enjoy reading your blog – there is always something of varied interest here and you are articulate and engaging to read. Please enter me for the draw for the book. My favourite tangle is Planateen because it looks like Chinese roofs! I use Zig Millennium pens and Derwent Inktense pencils for colouring.

    Shoshi

  4. I enjoy your blog, and the book review made me want to see a copy of the book. Sounds interesting, so I’m hoping I win!

  5. I enjoy your blog too, good comments and articles. My favorite tangle is possibly Narwal, because of the 3D swirly quality.

  6. Thank you for the opportunity to win Suzanne’s newest book, Floribunda. My favorite pattern is Huggins and my favorite Zentangle artist Helen Williams. Of course, Pigma Micron pens are my favorite tools. I hope you choose me, Neil. Thanks again.
    kelliepage@att.net

  7. Just started tangling again after a fairly long break. I’d love a change to win this. My favourite tangle pattern (currently) is Cresent Moon and I use Sakura pens.

  8. Love your blog Neil and your review very meticulous! Thank you for the chance to win Suzanne’s latest book. I love Narwal too!

  9. Thank you. You do a very thorough book review. I would love the opportunity to win this book. I see several tanglers have mentioned their favorite tangle. I love so many of them I’m not sure what my favorite is at this time!!

  10. I love the writing style of your blog. I’d love to win the Suzanne McNeill Florabunda book. My favorite tangles are Hollibaugh and variations of cadent. I use micron pens, Prismacolor color, and watercolor pencils as well as Derwent Inktense pencils for coloring. Congratulations on a wonderful and well-written review.

  11. Thank you, Neil. I really appreciate the thoroughness of your review. I use many different media, so I was most appreciative of your (in my experience) unique and helpful testing of the properties of the book pages. The progression from traditional Zentangle to a more free-flowing style is very appealing. I would very much love a copy of this book.

  12. Thank you for this very comprehensive and helpful review which tells me a lot about the book. There is such a plethora of similar books about at the moment so this is really useful. I have just discovered your blog and love your patterns, I am working my way through some of them and hope your book is still available!
    My favourite tangle is Hollibaugh and I like Sakura pens, though I am currently trying Zig Millenniums.

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