wild Iris

Wild Iris watercolor painting

a collaboration with Cynthia Simm

inspiration (theme = love)

I scrolled through images of cuddling animals, but didn’t see anything that moved me to painting. Instead, I decided to look for endangered flower species and find a photograph that included more than one – flowers in relationship. I happened on an image of wild Iris that I liked and then googled more wild Iris images to find this one. Frankly, I was looking for something that used blues or purples because I love those colors. I settled on:


the forms in this photograph will be a challenge, as will the pale color in the foreground and the dark colors in the background. We’ll see what happens…

There are about 280 Iris species in the world. The ones we are more used to seeing are imported from Europe. Native (US) species are more rare. There’s more information about wild Iris herehttps://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/beauty/iris/.


Ooh, this one was a struggle! My initial sketch was mostly accurate. I missed one petal and drew the upper ones a bit short, but Cynthia (current PCA, artist and now my art collaborator) corrected it.

I painted parts of the flowers and then remembered that saving the white areas was going to be difficult. I found some old miskit. It was very thick and quick-drying. I couldn’t paint with it, but Cynthia blocked out some white areas for me. I continued painting the rest of the flowers.

Cynthia and I discussed the background. Because I was uncertain I could paint the darks, I thought about leaving it white, though I worried that the purple of the flower wasn’t “strong enough” to float. Cynthia “solved” the problem by demonstrating how the flower looked if she painted some black beneath it – black straight out of the paint tray.

I had a strong emotional response to her putting black on the painting. I felt invaded, disrespected and shamed. In addition, once black is on the painting it can’t be removed. At our next painting time, we had an honest discussion about our feelings and what happened. We moved ahead with, I think, clearer communication and more mutual respect.

I decided to paint the background to represent what’s on the photo. Cynthia painted some green leaves and tan grasses for me. I am in awe of her ease with the brush. Making long gestures gets the paint on the paper so much faster than my neck motions can manage! I spent a couple painting sessions on my own painting in background details. There are some areas I like very much.

We removed the misket and I painted in the bowls of the flowers and did some shaping. Then Cynthia did more shaping. I watched with wondering eyes as she worked patiently through each blossom. Each time she moved on, I could see more depth. She also shaped parts of the background so that it fell behind the flowers and the strands of grass were continuous.


While this image may not communicate love, the process certainly was an exercise in relationship, communication, and respecting strengths and weaknesses.

Watching Cynthia paint was an education. Of course, as an able-bodied person, she has much more control and is able to do fine detail. Setting that aside, her patience and willingness to work and rework an area in order to add more tones that add dimension was instructive.

I notice now that we lost the “purple-ness” of the flowers. I am sorry about that. If I had done more mixing from the paint tray (which is difficult, given my current setup), we could have used a deeper hue.

The process was exasperating and exhilarating and I am pleased with the final product.

Have you ever collaborated? How did it go?


Posted on

December 5, 2019


  1. Kitty Wilson-Pote

    Kate, the final painting does not even hint at the challenges, tough emotions, and strong discussions behind its beauty. And as we viewers have no clue what purpleness you are missing here, for me at least the soft purple tones are exquisite in their range, power, and way of floating commandingly above the vivid loveliness of the background. Your collaboration as outlined was painfully instructive for you two artists, yet your interactions and communication gave birth to this. What a delicate and marvellous portrait of transcendent harmony! I find the composition’s dynamism to be dance-like — light and joyous energy, with nourishing depth and shadow offering dimension.
    Thanks, as always
    … and I’ve had happy highs of well-balanced, patient collaboration and unexpected horror stories involving ego-conflict and dissension too. C’est la vie, I guess, such unpredictability, in terms of learning resilience!

    • Kate

      Thank you for your kind words, Kitty. It’s precisely because you can’t imagine the story behind the painting that I include it here. Imagine the richness we would have if we knew the process behind the works of the greatest artists!


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