Mary Ellen Taylor

Contemporary Botanical & Nature Art

Iris germanica

I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge . . but Irises ?? I have purposely avoided painting these beautiful and incredibly complex flowers since beginning botanical painting 10 years ago.

My instinct would have been to decline the commission but was thrilled to be asked and for a very discerning client for whom the iris is named! No pressure then . . .

Scary iris facts:

  • IrisFalls – falls are not only velvet in texture but a secondary intense colour exudes from within
  • Standards – crepe-like and transparent . . they add real character to the plant but must get it right
  • Colour – never straightforward. . deepest violet blue almost black in falls with violet red undertones . . colour lighter in standards because of transparency and often a completely different colour all together !
  • Texture Velvet: how to maintain the inner colour coming through with all those layers in order to obtain ‘velvet’??
  • Crepe: fabulous buckles and overlaps . . transparency, subtleties in hue
  • Buds – never have the red undertone that is later seen in mature plant (at least in this particular species)
  • Leaves – grey/blue, yellow/green . . strap leaves with barely perceptible veins from certain angles and distance

All this would be intimidating enough without adding:

  1. No live specimen of my particular beast available until month after the deadline. ONE photo from National Collection of Irises was provided for my use, nothing more available. Colour in photographic images can be distorted and ‘redder’ than is true. Details of growth and structure very hard to determine . . many botanical resources required to provide details of complex structure, not to mention phone calls and emails between the lovely Anne Milner of Bliss Nursery (holder of collection) to decipher details!
  2. The VIP status of client and fact that the painting would be used as logo/branding for them. Cold sweats and panic at the thought of my inexperienced handiwork blown up poster size and all the blips and corrections magnified beyond belief.
  3. Tendonitis in my right (painting) hand after a nasty trapezectomy operation last September . . requiring cortisone injections in the soft, underside of my wrist and a stiff (unattractive) splint up to the elbow to be worn 24/7. I was ‘allowed’ to remove it to paint as my consultant saw the horror in my face when this all happened . . ‘but I have a commission!!’ I said.

So . . . . where do to begin ?