I’ve always thought watercolor with its ephemeral nature was ideal for painting flowers. I’ve used that medium for years to create a loose style of floral art. Then ink entered the picture with her saturated hues and tempting transparency. But, what to paint?
I thought a bearded iris flower might be a good subject. It stands tall with petals called standards. Then, there are draping petals folding away from the standards, dropping downward like a frilly skirt. They act as landing strips giving insects a can’t miss runway directly to the pollen container called a beard. It’s that fuzzy little shape that’s usually a bright color like radiant orange! Lastly, there’s a strong stem with translucent paper-thin decaying spurs which at one time were green and protected the petals until they were ready to bloom. These dying buds are full of texture and color, key ingredients for loose paintings!
I started with a quick, loose sketch of these 4 main parts which form the essence of the flower. Then the moment of truth…to paint her! To be honest, it took me 3 tries before I found the style I like. I tried it on watercolor paper in small (5×7) and medium (8×10) size, but the winner was a 9×12 inch sheet of mixed media paper. I think this flower needs room to strut her stuff! The larger format allows for more expressive paint strokes and happy accidents.
I used 4 colors of ink and lots of my favorite additive – water. I treated the ink just like I do watercolor. The difference? With ink, it’s super saturated color and you only need one or two layers. To get this kind of saturation with watercolor you need to build up several layers. Both the ink and watercolor paintings I create are done alla prima, i.e. giving it all I’ve got in one try. Waiting overnight for drying and such is just not my style. Of course, we always go too far at times and it gets muddy, so learning when to feel that nudge and stop is worth listening to.
This was such a fun challenge to myself, I videotaped painting her and I think there might be a course coming soon… Are you in?