Perennial Plants · Perennials · Plant Choices

Yellow Flag Iris – Helen Cavalli

Iris Pseudacorus (Yellow Flag Iris) is a species in the genus Iris, of the family Iridaceae. It is an herbaceous flowering perennial plant that grows best in very wet conditions and is often common in wetlands.

Living near Hampton Court I have spent many hours walking in and near the Palace grounds, especially in Bushy Park where I have enjoyed the changing seasons of the Woodland Gardens. The Iris was growing in one of the many streams that run through Bushy Park and attracts many insects, so I chose to add the Nymph of the Emperor Dragon Fly.

I started to plan the painting by drawing and measuring the plant using dividers – I was lucky that the growing season started in February/March so I was able to document each stage. I kept the rhizome in a large vase and was able to keep it alive for many months giving me the opportunity to match colour after the initial drawing was completed. I also used many photographs and measurements to build up a good reference base, and I’m grateful to Gill Cann of North Downs Botanical Artists for allowing me to raid her pond to help depict some elements of the painting.



image003Hours were spent matching the colours of the plant for which I used my RHS colour chart and then spent hours (days) mixing and testing. I used Natural Tint as the shadow colour after testing many different combinations of violet laying washes under the yellow to check how it looked.

Each element of the painting was drawn up individually, then tracings of the drawings were overlapped and many hours (or days) were spent moving them around the page to achieve a composition. I then re-drew a complete template. The last part of the painting (the nymph of the dragon fly) was added to complete the painting – the dragon fly sat on the corner of my drawing board for months which at times made people jump not least me!


The painting was built up slowly with many layers of paint and it was hard to judge when to stop, but with the aid of many progress photos and my colour swatches I was able to assess whether I had reached the correct colour – I went slightly darker than the actual colour of the leaves.


Throughout the months that I worked on the painting it was covered in small rectangles of transparent plastic sheets to protect it from mishaps and were moved to work on one area at a time.







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