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Homecolour chartsDutch Iris in Gouache

Dutch Iris in Gouache

“Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers – and never succeeding“
Gian Carlo Menotti
After all the excitement of my trip to Frankfurt, I was really looking forward to getting back into my studio once more and painting!!  The Natural Law Exhibition is just around the corner and I wanted to do another flower in gouache. Besides it gave me the wonderful excuse to fill the studio with vases of colourful blooms!
In the end I chose Dutch Iris, Iris hollandica, a pretty flower which is quite easy to find in the shops. This proved a wise decision because I had to replace the flower several times during the course of the painting. I wanted to use the same technique as the Stargazer lily, painting in gouache on dark green mount board. I began by selecting a bloom that had just opened, which I then positioned in front of dark green board.

I drew it out onto a sheet of tracing paper. Once this was done, I redrew the flower on the reverse in white pencil and transferred it the drawing onto the mount board.
Once the flower is drawn out, it’s a matter of painting the flower in white gouache
Someone asked me about this technique earlier in the week. It’s not really like traditional gouache where you use mainly opaque flat colour, and neither is it like traditional watercolours where you rely on the white of the paper to give translucency. Here the idea is to paint a base in white gouache and then to float the transparent colours over the top.
Well, that’s the theory… in reality, it can be quite a challenge!!
As always, I keep my colour charts close at hand to help me make the right colour choices
Beginning to float the watercolour onto the petals. It takes time and patience!
 The gouache paint has to be completely dry before you paint over it, or else it will lift and muddy the colours. I kept muttering to myself the words of Margaret Stevens, my tutor from the SBA course
“Imagine that you are painting the wings of a butterfly”.
The strokes of the paintbrush have to be so delicate and light in order to build up the layers without disturbing the gouache.
I’m not going to lie to you… this was a struggle! There were times when I thought of giving up. The purples and blues were difficult to capture, with subtle transitions from the pinks to blues.
All too often, just when I thought that I had got it right, I’d go in for one last adjustment, and before I knew it, the gouache would be disturbed and wreaking havoc with my carefully applied colours!
Add to that the frustrations of rapidly wilting flowers and the chaos that school holidays always bring, this painting turned into a real battle!
The colours that I used were cobalt violet (W&N), Egyptian violet (lefranc&bourgeois), ultramarine violet (W&N), Manganese violet (schmincke), permanent blue violet (Rembrandt), cobalt (Daniel Smith), lemon, winsor yellow, Indian yellow and perylene green (W&N). I painted a small square of white gouache and once that was dried carefully laid the washes of colour over it. It’s a good way to practice the technique.
Finally, miraculously it all came together. That part often surprises me.
Dutch Iris, Iris hollandica  © Shevaun Doherty 2014
“When you get a thing the way you want it, leave it alone.” Winston Churchill


So that’s the last painting done for the Natural Law Exhibition. Now I just have to finish off the framing and then I’m done! I’m really excited about this, but also really nervous. Thankfully I am with a group of five talented, experienced and very competent women. They have made the preparations seem remarkably easy. Fingers crossed it all goes well!
If you would like to come to the Opening Party on Thursday 13th November, contact us at naturallawart@hotmail.com



  • 7th November 2014

    Thanks for sharing your process Shevaun, I love drawing on tinted paper and what you have achieved here is amazing!

  • 7th November 2014

    I hope you are encouraged to try more work on coloured board, Valerie. Thank you very much for your comment

  • 8th November 2014

    really love your step-by-steps Shevaun. You're really getting into it. Lovely blues, one of my favourites

  • 8th November 2014

    Thanks Jarnie

  • 13th November 2014

    I love how your iris turned out–it has that fresh delicacy that is so hard to capture. The technique sounds really tricky, maybe even harder than vellum, but your persistence has paid off. Best wishes on the exhibit–I am sure it will be a great success!


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