I tend to be somewhat encyclopedic when it comes to learning about something. The result is a collection of stuff, and the clutter in my life is evidence. Given that, here is some info I’ve collected about irises. For our Chinese painting class exhibit, this will be one of my subjects.
These complex flowers, if well done, may be accomplished with a few brush strokes.
Anatomy of the Iris
Photos, diagrams, drawings. All these can familiarize the painter with the parts of the iris plant. Knowing what is what, and where, make the difference in successful rendering. This does not mean a scientific illustration is what must be done for an artistic or spiritual representation of the iris, but knowing how it is structured helps (me, at least) figure out what an artist is attempting to do – and what I might want to do.
This schematic illustration may be found at the Historic Iris Preservation Site, along with many colored illustrations and information about irises. Other illustrations may be found by doing a websearch for parts of the iris flower.
Painting the Iris – Videos!
Watching various artists and their approaches to painting is always educational. And what is caught on video can be watched over and over. How a brush is loaded, with ink or with color, is as important as how the brush is utilized on the paper. For this, I am talking about the free-style painting of the iris, not the fine line tradition in Chinese art. One brush may express a shape with a thin line, a smushing line, and rolling. Below, you will find a number of artists and their interpretations, as well as a very structured example, with the brush strokes done step-by-step.
This first video is by Danny Chen; you may find his work at Chen’s Gallery. His mastery of color mixing is astonishing.
Virginia Lloyd-Davies of Joyful Brush is very talented; her website will show you her mastery of Chinese painting.
Next is Henry Li of Blue Heron Arts. His small business on eBay has blossomed (if you will excuse the pun) into a one from which you might buy a variety of supplies. Here he demonstrates the iris using a hake brush.
Nan Rae is a California artist who has produces lovely paintings in the Chinese style; she has authored and illustrated a number of books as well.
Finally, Yang Haiying (I hope I spelled her name correctly), has videos on Chinese painting, and many other things. Her videos are brief, but if you watch her brushwork carefully, you will learn a lot.