Sunday, September 13, 2009

Learning & Growing--Purple Iris Floral Painting

About a month ago, I showed you a magnolia floral painting I had worked on as a change of pace from my usual landscapes (scroll down to August 11 or enter "magnolia" in the search box above to see it again). This purple iris painting is an older work, one of my first close-up florals. Among other things, I learned the value of perseverance from this project.
I can't remember anymore how long this painting was a "work in progress," or how many times I was tempted to scrap the project due to to the fact that some of the changes I tried made it worse instead of better. Works in progress are supposed to progress, aren't they? This one definitely gave me trouble.
Probably one issue with the painting was that I used someone else's photo. A friend (thank you, David Young) who is known for his breathtaking photos of people from around the world, sent me a packet of varied photos several years ago. I was inspired to try to paint this iris from one of his photos with a few adaptations to fit my own vision for the image.
Although I am quite pleased with the final result, I felt hampered along the way by the fact that I had not seen, touched, and smelled the flower myself. A wiser artist than I was would have at least sought out live purple irises somewhere to observe, sketch, and photograph. I will do that in the future. I know some artists can create excellent paintings strictly from photos of places, people, or natural things they have never seen in person. I am humbled by their skill. For me, I have learned that nothing can replace being there. In addition to various technical problems I had to iron out for this painting, it was difficult for me to bring the blossom alive on canvas--we had never actually met. The result--and sort of a solution--was to paint an image that is more stylized than natural.
Venturing outside my comfort zone can be a thrill. But when an effort to do or to learn something new seems too unpleasant or too hard, I try to remember this painting experience. Of course, some attempts fail. No shame there, I believe--the shame would be avoiding the new for fear of failure. But in the thick of any difficult struggle with a new venture, I recall the BATTLE OF THE IRIS and persevere. After all, I think this image turned out all right. In any case, I learned and grew as a person and as an artist from this project.
Question of the day: Have you battled any irises lately? What growth or learning resulted?


  1. What a beautiful painting!!! You are very talented.

  2. Love the painting Mary!! You did a beautiful job!

  3. I wish I could paint better and doing it from real life rather than photos would be the perfect thing to stretch my wings. I just fall apart with three dimensional images, for some reason. Sigh... I love the background in this iris piece. It is just perfect to highlight the beautiful flower.

  4. It's lovely Mary! you've textured it very well.
    Sometimes we all need to struggle but at the end it's worth it.
    Take care.

  5. Thank you all for your kind words on this painting. I appreciate your visits and treasure your comments.

    You are right about the struggle being worth it, Sadia. I always learn a great deal, even from the paintings that never come together. Sometimes the failures are particularly valuable.

    Autumn, I actually don't often paint directly from real life. I love the peace of working in my light-filed studio and like using reference photos. However, I do best if I have taken the photos myself and have taken notes on the location regarding the angle of the light, sky conditions, and other details. Sometimes I make quick little sketches, too, but more often rely on notes and multiple photos from different angles, including some close-ups.

    Manon and Bill, I value your feedback, especially since it can be hard to see my own work as it might look to others.

  6. This is lovely - the colours are so rich and luscious!

  7. How nice to hear from you, Liz! Your comments are encouraging, especially given your lovely art work.

  8. I love this painting! The background is so beautifully done and is the perfect complement to the purple of the flowers!

  9. Thank you, Beckie. For some reason, I have a great time with backgrounds for florals--probably it's the freedom to play with color and to be sort of abstract rather than realistic behind the flower.