Drawing and painting purple irises can be a challenge! It is also a great opportunity to draw these intricate, undulating shapes, and to create some beautiful violets and purples, through mixing and mingling on the paper. We will use a range of colors to get both cool and warm temperatures, so that these irises will glow with warmth.
For this project, you'll need the following watercolor pigments (or something close to it):
Quinacridone Rose (or Permanent), Quinacridone Magenta (or Permanent), French Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Quinacridone Gold, Quinacridone Burnt Orange (or Burnt Sienna), Sap Green, Alizarin Crimson, New Gamboge, and Aureolin Yellow (or Hansa Yellow).
You'll also need some salt, and some alcohol (the rubbing kind) in a little bottle with a dropper -- for texture.
1. Start with a pencil drawing, on the white watercolor paper, which has been mounted on a board.
Finish your drawing by adding long narrow leaves in the background. Be sure to take them off the edge of your paper, so as to divide the negative space into interesting shapes.
2. Prepare a gold wash for the background. Mix Quinacridone Gold with Yellow (New Gamboge). Mix up enough water and paint together to cover the entire background. Since you will be painting this onto dry paper, you need more water than usual. Have a dropper-bottle of rubbing alcohol on hand.
3. Paint this gold wash over the background. Paint the wash onto dry paper, painting around the iris blossoms, but over the leaves and stems of the flowers. Have your board at a slight angle when you paint, so that you have a "bead" at the bottom of the wash. When you pick up more gold from your palette, you will pick up the "bead" where you left off, and paint downward from there. Don't go back into what you've just painted.
Continue painting this gold wash until you come to a stopping point, at the bottom. Then, lay the board flat, and add a few drops of alcohol to this wash.
Finish painting the rest of the background with this gold wash. Then, lat it flat again and drop in a little of the alcohol drops. Let this dry completely.
(There's no right or wrong way to add these drops. Don't worry if it doesn't look exactly like this -- we're just adding a little "texture" to the background.)
4. Paint the Yellow "Beards". Clean off the gold wash from your palette. Then, prep two Yellows -- like Aureolin Yellow and New Gamboge. You won't need much.
Paint the "beards" with these yellows. You can also paint a little of the yellow onto the middle veins of a few of the petals.
5. Prep 3 pigments for the purple iris petals. Clean off the yellow from the inside area of your palette. Now, prep 3 pigments -- French Ultramarine, Quinacridone Rose, and Quinacridone Magenta.
6. Paint each petal with these three colors. Working wet-in-wet, start with the Rose, then switch to the Magenta.
Finish off the petal with the Blue.
While the petal is still wet, turn your board upside down, touch your brush to the blue, and "pull down" a few strokes of the blue, into the pink. Don't "fuss" too much. Then, move on to the next petal.
Painting in this manner, move from petal to petal, but painting every other one -- so that you don't get in trouble by painting right next to a petal that's still wet. Change it a little on the bottom petals, the "falls", by touching some rose to the bottom lacy edge at the end.
Now, move to the bottom flower. Try something a little different with some of these petals, using the same three colors. Wet half of the petal with clear water, then touch the frilly edge with the Rose, all the way around the edge. Then touch the other edge with the Magenta, leaving the middle unpainted. Then, paint a few strokes of the Blue.
Continue painting every other petal this way, mingling the colors in different ways.
Go back up to the top flower, and finish painting the petals. Then, do the same with the bottom flower.
7. Paint the background leaves. Clean off the inside area of the palette, and then prep three Greens -- 1) Sap Green, 2) Sap Green + Cobalt Blue, and 3) Cobalt Blue + Aureolin Yellow.
Use these greens, wet in wet, to paint the background leaves . . .
8. Paint the stems. Prep two Greens -- Sap Green, and Sap Green + Yellow; and prep a Quinacridone Burnt Orange (or Burnt Sienna).
Use these warm colors to paint the stems and the buds.
9. Paint another layer of Gold in the background. Clean off the palette, and then prepare another Quinacridone Gold wash. Once again, you'll be painting wet on dry, so be sure to mix enough paint/water. This time, you will paint only the negative background shapes -- NOT the leaves. After painting each background shape, sprinkle it with salt.
Let this dry completely, and then brush off the salt.
10. Mix up some deep Purples and a Blue. Clear off the gold wash from your palette, and then prep three dark colors -- 1) French Ultramarine, 2) Quinacridone Magenta + French Ultramarine, and 3) Alizarin Crimson + French Ultramarine.
11. Darken the petals. Strengthen and deepen the colors of each petal, without becoming too opaque -- you want some of the original colors to show through. You can leave some of the upper petals as is, except for the base of each petal, which you can darken.
You can see how you don't darken every part of each petal, and that the bottom "falls" are generally darker than the upper petals.
If you find that you've gotten too opaque, or that you want to lighten an area, lift out some highlights with a damp brush.
12. Add more green to the leaves and stems. Mix up two more greens -- Sap Green, and Sap Green + Cobalt Blue.
Paint all the leaves and stems again with these two Greens and plenty of water, to strengthen the colors, but still keep it transparent.
You can also add a few darker colors to the tan parts of the stems, using a mix of Burnt Orange + Magenta.
If you like, you can stop your painting right now, and call it done. Or, you can proceed to finish as I did, with these last two steps.
13. Paint a Burnt Orange glaze over the background shapes. This will tone down the texture a bit. If you like your gold background with the texture, don't do this step.
14. Paint a few dark greens on the leaves and stems. Mix up a dark green (Sap Green + French Ultramarine). Darken a few areas of the leaves and stems with this green.
And, you're finished! Be sure to sign it.