Tuesday, 26 June 2012

White Iris

The photo for this lovely iris came from a book called 'Iris' by Claire Austin, and the photos in the book are by a remarkable photographer, Clay Perry, who specialises in photographing flowers and gardens. His wife is a knowledgeable plantswoman who worked with him on Clays's own book called 'Fantastic Flowers'. Any garden book that I come across with photos by him, is a must for me as they provide endless inspiration in the winter when my own garden is dormant. I am not sure that the finished painting is botanically correct, but that is not my primary concern. I just loved the colours and hope the finished piece of work is exciting to look at.

In this case, I started with a full drawing of the flower as I wanted to make sure that I got the proportions correct, and I wanted to see that the angle of the position was pleasing.

I gradually built up the petals using combinations of Windsor and Pthalo Blue, Quinachridone Rust, Indian Yellow, Ultramarine Violet and the like. I was working on my favourite Fabriano paper, 35 x 45 cm rough. I concentrated on trying to get the  fold down the middle of the front 'standard, correct and to describe the the undulation and crimped edges of the 'falls' to illustrate their delicacy. All this without too much tight detail!!

I then added the 'beards' to the right and left 'falls' It was partly this lovely blue/purple beard that caught my eye in the first place. I also wanted to try to put some darks into the heart of the flower, as I did not want the finished image to be too wishy-washy. Not always easy when the flower is predominantly white.

I then proceeded to add the background to the painting. I filled each area with similar but stronger mixes of the original colours, wet into wet and then used pieces of clingfilm  pressed into the wet washes to give me a very free texture, hopefully in total contrast to the carefully painted flower. My intention was to use this freedom, to loosen the overall painting somewhat.I also used white gouache at this stage to put highlights into the petals, and to brush this out over the edges of the petals in places to give me lost and found edges. Finally a little splatter with the white gouache....but only a little and quite controlled , and the painting was finished


When I look at all these photos together, I do think that the painting has some merit without a background, just as a flower study, but I do like doing the backgrounds, so I hope you do not think the final stages were a step too far!! I think the photo of the finished work does make the iris look paler than the actual work.

If you are interested, the flower with which I started is a standard dwarf bearded iris called 'Sarah Taylor' . I am sure Sarah is or was a lovely lady, but it does seem a very prosaic name for such a beautiful bloom!


  1. Hello Yvonne:) This is so beautiful! The white gouache makes it so soft. The colors are perfect. I realy love this!

    1. Thanks, Renate. Yes, I do like the gouache, but I think the purists would be a bit disapproving, but it works for me!

  2. First rate work. I particularly enjoy the way you juxtapose your beautifully drawn and painted bloom with the loose background. Gorgeous.

    1. Thanks Mick, I am glad the mix works, it was exactly what I was striving for. Glad you enjoy looking.