Irises: the Smallest, Tectonic Quintessence of Architecture

May 23, 2012

Watercolor sketch of irises

“Each spring when the irises begin to flower, I find myself drawing them — as if obeying an order.  There’s no other flower so commanding. And this may have something to do with the way they open their petals already printed.  Irises open like books.  At the same time, they are the smallest, tectonic quintessence of architecture.  I think of the Mosque Suleiman in Istanbul.  Irises are like prophesies: simultaneously astounding and clear.”
— John Berger, Bento’s Sketchbook:  How Does the Impulse to Draw Something Begin?

(Here is a photo of the interior of the Mosque of Suleiman with its ceilings like arched petals.)

Interior, Mosque of Suleiman from the Brooklyn Museum Archives. Goodyear Archival Collection.Visual materials [6.1.003]: 1903 survey expedition photographs. Mosque of Soliman, Istanbul, Turkey.

Like John Berger, I too, love to draw and paint and photograph irises.  The watercolor sketch in this post is my first attempt at painting them this year.

Lovely iris

Iris after spring rain

Iris bloom and buds

My work table

8 Responses to “Irises: the Smallest, Tectonic Quintessence of Architecture”

  1. Chris Says:

    Iris was the Greek goddess of the rainbow. We had a young niece..Anna..that passed away 2 yrs. ago and I sent her parents the Iris~Anna to plant in her memorial garden. They are beautiful harbingers of spring. Your sketch is, as well!

  2. garden2day Says:

    I love the iris watercolor–it is fantastic! You keep amazing me.

  3. Chris Says:

    Thank-you! I always try and gift people with plants that have some personal significance and that hopefully re-bloom every year! This iris blooms at the time of her death, which is quite bittersweet!! If I could sketch and paint like you do, I would send my paintings instead!! 🙂

  4. Jane Says:

    Finding you was a gift in many ways. I feel totally vindicated since I have been keeping Commonplace Books for decades and have always felt badly that I could not keep a “proper” journal!

    • Rosemary Says:

      I’m delighted that you found me. I love my commonplace books and have mined them repeatedly for quotes for this blog.

  5. Sallyann Says:

    Wonderful watercolour … yet again. 😀


  6. […] Inspired to draw or paint irises after reading Bento’s Sketchbook: How Does the Impulse to Draw Something Begin? By John Berger: https://rosemarywashington.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/irises-the-smallest-tectonic-quintessence-of-arch… […]


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