Tuesday, 5 August 2014


This morning started with a very early start, and a quick snatch and grab operation to collect an iris seed head from the spot where we had photographed them the other day. Once collected, the stem, weighing a tonne was carefully placed in a bag and then hidden away in a satchel. Well, I say hidden, it wasn't a good attempt as the thing was so long, it stuck out. Ah well, have you never seen someone walking down the road with a big load of foliage hanging out of their bag before madam? Home, as quickly as possible.

Having got the thing home, it was time for the set up. A large jam jar was utilised to take the weight of the impressive stem and it did look quite majestic, with an equally large leaf to go with it. This has the promise of looking like a nice composition, if I can do it justice. The shine is amazing and the depth of colour equally so. Blues and turquoise enrich the fresh, greens and yellowy tones, whilst there are some nice dead bits to add contrast and texture.

It's a bit big this one.

Gloriously glossy and with a plethora of greens, a challenge awaits.

Of course, now we can identify the beast, although those huge fruits should be enough for any botanist. This is Iris pseudacorus, or the Yellow Flag, yellow iris or water iris so named as it is most happy growing in wet conditions. perfect for the job of naturalising a flood ditch then? Which is where I found them growing in huge numbers. 

Guerin Pierre Narcisse - Morpheus and Iris 1811.jpg
Morpheus and Iris by Pierre-Narcisse Guerin
Image c/o Wikimedia

The rich history of the iris dates back to ancient Greece, when the Greek Goddess Iris, the messenger of the gods and the personification of the rainbow, acted as a link between heaven and earth. Purple irises were planted over the graves of women to summon the Goddess to guide the dead on their journey. Ancient Egyptian kings admired the iris’s exotic nature, and drawings have been found of the flower in a number of Egyptian palaces. 

During the Middle Ages, the meaning of irises became linked to the French monarchy, and the Fleur-de-lis eventually became the recognised national symbol of France. The yellow iris is often stated to be the original inspiration for the Fleur-de-lis. The popular heraldic symbol, possibly dating as far back as the 15th century, is often associated with the flower of the Lily, but it has been strongly suggested that not only the colour, but the shape of the symbol have more in relation to the yellow iris. From their earliest years, irises have also been used to make perfume and as a medicinal remedy.


The Lilly
The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threat'ning horn:
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright. 
                                                                                                      William Blake

...or Iris

Vive la France

The golden Fleur-de-lis.
Iris or lily?

A comparison of the Yellow Iris and an image of the Fleur-de-lis

Image c/o Wikimedia

Right, back to the drawing board. First up, as always was to get some of the colours right with a few dabbles with the palette and some swatches. Lots of Winsor Lemon, and Sennelier Yellow Light was used along with my favourite Indanthrene Blue, French Ultramarine and Cerulean to make the greens. Ages ago, I got into the habit of adding touches of red to my green mixes, so this time, I used Light Red and Perylene Maroon to give a greater range.

Testing the greens, and some rough sketches.

Earthy browns and oranges
A withering seedpod
Working on a quick sketch page today.
More tomorrow.


Janene said...

Ha, I remember stealthily clipping some iris pods at dusk awhile ago...I am glad that I am not the only one. Your studies are coming along well, and it was interesting to read the history of the iris.

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

That's brilliant Janene. Freebie subjects are definitely the best. Looking forward to painting it.

shevaun said...

What a fabulous subject this will be!! I love all the stories about the iris too. I'm looking forward to seeing the results!

Sketchbook Squirrel said...

Thanks Shevaun, I'm enjoying this one already.