Thursday, March 17, 2011

Iris Portrait

Tags:  floral art - iris - blue flower - surrealism - oil painting - 6x8 - alla prima - original art

Back to oils and florals for a bit....

Pale Blue Iris & Pink Sky
8x6 inches
oil on board

I love irises.  They are probably my favorite flower, and I developed somewhat of an obsession with them during the time I was living in CT.  In late May through early June, I would cruise both my neighborhood and the downtown home gardens with my camera, taking photos of every beautiful variety I could.  Bi-colors, bearded, dwarf, native, cultivated....I love them all.  

As luck would have it, a neighbor a few doors down from us also seemed to have an obsession with iris, and each spring, his garden would have new cultivars to photograph and enjoy.  His wife told me that he had a special fondness for purple iris varieties.  This particular iris is from his spring garden last year.

I knew this would be a challenge to paint - all those creases and folds and subtle variations in hue and value could result in a major frustration.  I just approached it as nothing more than a series of abstract shapes.  A limited palette worked perfectly - cadmium yellow light, alizarin crimson and Van Gogh cobalt blue.  I mention the brand here because Talens/Van Gogh is actually a student-grade oil.  I didn't know this when I bought it, and the pigment is actually ultramarine blue.  However, its low tinting strength - normally a negative and one reason I don't use student-grade oils - turns out to be its best feature.   

It turned out better than I thought it would, and I purposely tried to keep blending and excessive brush-strokes to a minimum.  The background was done as the suggestion of a landscape - looks a little bit like a mesa...hmm.


  1. Wow this is really cool. It has a bit of that surrealist O'Keeffe quality to it.

    There's an iris farm a couple of minutes from my house. (So come visit soon.)

  2. yes! o'keeffe-ism (or is it O'keeffeistic ?)does come to mind. Love the limited palatte...had planned to draw iris today with graphite and a wash. Will keep your thoughts in mind!

  3. Hi Jala - I've always loved O'Keeffe's florals and the surrealism element to them, so I know that was the influence here. I'm definitely going to continue with this concept. Iris farm, did you say? Awesome!

    Hi Cindy - I really enjoy using limited palettes when I can, and they turn out not to be so "limiting" after all. Enjoy your iris work, and I'll look forward to seeing it on your blog if you post it.


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