Acrylic Painting Tutorial – Iris

Right now, I’m headed outside to paint iris and lupins. Here is a repost of a blog I made in 2010 about painting at this time of year. I will try today to express the emotional connection I feel for iris as I did in this painting.

irispainting2010There were gorgeous, large bearded irises in my grandmother’s garden over 50 years ago. My mother transplanted some to her garden and eventually I had them in my garden. They moved ½ way across the continent with us when we came to Nova Scotia and are blooming like never before.

Bearded Iris from my grandmother.

I know my mom and my grandmother would have loved the yellow variety that I’ve added to the ancestral iris. And I know they would have loved the wild purple, pink and white lupins that grow like weeds here and especially at our place.

Lupins ring our land and the colour is often deep purple.

I want to show you how I painted and drew these flowers using fluid acrylics over a base of wet matt medium and I’ve made a tutorial for you about this. Enjoy!


I paint from life and in early June, the lupins and iris are in bloom here in Nova Scotia. I brought some into the studio and placed them in wine bottles so that I could have good close-up examples of the lupin in the distance.  Although I prefer to paint on location, at this time of year the black flies are biting, so I paint inside.

There are lupins growing in the distance.

I started this painting applying watered-down acrylic on a primed canvas. I wanted to achieve a soft, wet in wet watercolour effect.

When that dried, I applied a thick coating of matt medium over the entire canvas and then painted into it with my fluid acrylic paints. I keep them in sealed plastic containers in a muffin tin. That way they are always ready to use.

I try to limit my palette to five colours or fewer because it creates a better colour harmony in the painting. I paint with nylon brushes and I also use a rubber-tipped scraper to draw shapes into the painting.

I dip the scraper into my paint and draw with it much like dipping a pen into ink. I like the calligraphy effects that I can get by pushing the paint away and creating a line and a texture.

If the medium gets too tacky, I moisten it with a spray of water. The water also makes the paint run which adds an interesting softening effect to the work.

Golden fluid acrylics are transparent and have a high level of pigment.

As long as the medium is moist, the painting can be worked on and the scraping will reveal the colours underneath.

I love iris and I deliberately choose purple and yellow because they are complementary colours and they make the painting vibrate.

Although I have an easel, I painted this on the floor because otherwise the entire painting would drip and run if I placed it upright. That’s because I have a coating of wet matt medium on the canvas and that is the tip or secret that I am sharing with you.

Painting on the floor.

I came across this quite by accident and now I almost always paint with acrylic this way. For one, it delays the drying period, which I like; but the biggest advantage is that I can create all kinds of textures and linear marks in the painting by pushing away the colour with a scraping tool and revealing the layer of colour or canvas underneath.

I bought a gorgeous yellow iris at a plant sale this spring and I wanted to make it the focal point in this painting. Unfortunately, by the time I painted this, it had finished blooming, but I used my huge purple bearded iris as reference. That’s the beauty of being the painter. You can change the colours of anything in your painting to suit your mood!

Airing out the painting. (sold)

Check list for this painting:

Golden fluid acrylics

Rubber tipped scraper

Matt medium

Spray water bottle

Ancestral flowers

Painting detail. The purple bearded Ontario iris transforms into a yellow Nova Scotian flower.

10 thoughts on “Acrylic Painting Tutorial – Iris

  1. Woweee. I watched this tutorial in fascination Miss Flora! So beautiful, so talented and so quick with a brush. Just amazing. Over the top great. Quite the pro with the video too. Congratulations. Now teach me how to do what you did to do that.


    1. Ha HA! Barbara, My “keystone cops” tutorial. I just figured out that I could speed up a video with an ‘effects’ on imovie. When I was a baby artschool student, I had a teacher whose work I adored! Her name was Audrey Garwood and she taught me life painting, printmaking and life-drawing. I still hear her voice in my head from life drawing class saying. “Go throooooooooooooooouuuuuugh the picture”., meaning draw/paint everywhere all the time and don’t overwork one area and neglect the rest. When I watched my video, I saw that her early conditioning has lasted my lifetime. I wish I could thank her, unfortunately she is no longer with us. Her teachings and passion had a huge impact on me back in 1969 and continue on. The power of a good teacher reverberates. But you outta know that 😉 xoxoxo

  2. Gretchen, Thanks for commenting! I used to primarily use watercolours so I found the transisiton to acrylics much more natural with fluid acrylics rather than the tubes, although I sometimes use them too.

    Melissa – I’m glad that you found the tutorial useful!

    Cynthis – Hi! Thanks for the compliment! That Art Biz group is fantastic. I’m going to make somemore time for it because there are lots of wise artists on there willing to share ideas and tips!!

  3. I really love your painting technics. I am just getting started in acylics. And have been starting out painting landscapes. You make this technic look so easy. I love the bright colors. I do alot of photography and have thousands of flower pictures, I haven’t tried to do flowers yet but want to. I have signed up for your newsletter. and will look forward to receiving it. Thanks again for your inspirational paintings.

    1. Hi Joanne!
      I’m so glad to hear that you are enjoying the tutorials that I’ve put on this site. I have more to put up and I love sharing my knowledge with others. We all have so much to share and learn. Maybe you need a blog where you can share your photographs with the world.

      Please note that I won’t be adding any more posts to this wordpress blog. I have moved the blog to these addresses:

    1. Thank you Anca! I enjoyed painting this and although I have painted many iris paintings since this one, none have had the vibrancy of this painting. It sold years ago to a lovely woman who I know gets lots of pleasure from it.
      By the way, your website about longevity is fascinating. Thanks for dropping by!

Leave a Reply