Inky Loose Iris Flower

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!

Bearded Iris Photo by Principeiris on Pixabay.com

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?

Inky Iris by Lynne Furrer on 98lb mixed media paper 9×12 inch

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Where It All Began

These pears are the first watercolor I ever did and it’s still hanging on my dining room wall. Entitled “Fruition”; the memories are like deep, entangled roots and I’ll never sell this piece (but prints are available!) 

Here’s How it Happened

In November 2011, I took a watercolor class to learn techniques to apply to my digital photography. Instead, I fell in love with the magical and mysterious flow of pigment and paper. I was smitten and could not stop. For 5 years, I painted only watercolors and branded myself as “Watercolor Bloom”, a name that suited me at the time. I went through many phases including a “purest” stage where I only used long lasting, archival pigments vs. something like Opera Rose which is a fugitive (fades quickly) color. I quickly abandoned that practice because curtailed my need to discover and explore; it was too restrictive. There were just too many lovely colors begging me to pick them off the shelves and give them a spin! Which I did in plenty.

I settled primarily on Holbein’s watercolors. The pigments are rich and saturated. The caps were easy to screw off and on…something that discouraged me from using other brands. Holbein doesn’t have it all though. Daniel Smith has the most gorgeous, bluish Payne’s Grey – almost indigo… I keep that in my stash.

Alizarin Crimson was hands down better in Winsor Newton, but Holbein has a gorgeous deep, ruby red called Carmine. Some colors I could not see any difference and I stayed with Holbein for those colors. I made color charts and more color charts as a way to get to know each color; highly recommend.


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