Early morning one day last week, cup of coffee in hand, I check my small cottage style garden for seedlings bursting forth, maybe the first red strawberry hidden under its leaves, any weeds that need to be pulled sooner than later. I don't get far out the slider door when my eye is drawn to the Dutch iris flowers. The spots of lavenders and yellows seem like an undefined pattern of colors. They need to be painted, I tell myself!
With my iPhone I quickly shoot several reference photos of the flowers from different angles thinking about possible compositions for paintings. I realize I need to do some careful drawings or sketches to refresh my memory of the structure of these irises. That I do later using watercolor pencils in my current sketch book.
Often I paint color swatches in oils on an acrylic paper en plein air to refine my colors. The above photo shows recent color tests for other Dutch irises in the first photo. Those flowers I noticed change their colors over time so the range of colors spread from blues to red purples.
Then I sketch tiny compositions from the photos as I ponder which fits my theme the best. It might be a single flower in a vertical format or a horizontal washy watercolor of colors to suggest an abstract flower garden. Remember what caught my attention about these irises? That overall pattern of color spots.
Here's a photo of a print from one of my iris paintings that shows a similar color spot motif.