Close Examination: Artworks and Photos of Flag Irises

In April and May 2020, during the worst of the Coronavirus, I stayed inside and started painting irises from photos, not the way I usually like to work.

These photos of yellow and white Flag Irises were taken in 2017 at a nearby pond.Yellow & White Flag Iris in MayYellow and white Flag IrisI tried to combine the two photos into one image but had trouble figuring out the structure of the plant.

Watercolour painting of yellow and white Flag Irises by a pond; 16″ x 12″. Watercolour painting of yellow and white Flag Irises; 16" x 12"Although this photo was blurred I fell in love with the movement of these purple Flag Irises.Although this photo was blurred I fell in love with the movement of these purple Flag Irises.Again in the painting I was confused about which petal belonged to which plant.

Watercolour painting of purple Flag Irises on watercolour paper, 12″ x 16″. Watercolour painting of purple Flag Irises, 12" x 16"As I liked the overall look I decided to try again in my sketchbook, only this time I picked a different photo for my third iris.

Purple Flag Iris run through the photo app Stackables with the Cracked Sepia formula which has messed around with the colour but highlights the structure.Purple Flag Iris run through the photo app Stackables with the Cracked Sepia formulaThis attempt worked much better but I still had problems determining the configuration and number of petals.

My sketch book, a watercolour painting of purple Flag Irises by the water, sketch book opened to 5 1/2″ x 17″. My sketch book, a watercolour painting of purple Flag Irises by the waterWorking from photos is very different from working from life. In life I can move around and examine the plant. With no other angle than the one in the photo, I found the structure of Flag Irises confusing.

I looked up the parts of an iris and found that they have six petals BUT the names of these various parts were different than anything I was familiar with. There was the ‘standard’, the ‘style arm’, the ‘style crest’, the ‘falls’ and the ‘signal’ or ‘yellow patch’ where the ‘beard’ is located in Bearded Irises.

Later I found another illustration with more familiar labels: the ‘standard’ is the ‘petal’, the ‘falls’ the ‘sepal’ and the ‘style arm’ is the petaloid.

Using my own photos I did an ink sketch which I then tried to paint using Fluid Acrylics. They’re certainly a lot brighter than watercolour, and less transparent, even when mixed with lots of water. Iris bits and pieces labelledI guess I’ve figured it out now and when I get back to my studio and working large again all this close examination should pay off.

More of the Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: Close Examination.

3 responses to “Close Examination: Artworks and Photos of Flag Irises

  1. Useful tips for painting irises so that they look botanically correct. I know one botanic artist and it seems quite a different process to the way I paint. I like your first painting the best.

    • I haven’t done much work in watercolour for over 25 years. This time of Covid has not been great for me but looking back over the last five months I see that these small works are giving me something to look forward to when I get back in my studio.

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