Wild Irises by the Window, ©John O’Grady
8″ x 8″ x 1.25″, acrylic on deep edged panel, ready to hang.

Sometimes news bring change and with it new opportunities and new directions.

It happened with the death of Howard Hodgkin. I turned again to look at his beautiful jewelled work.

Hodgkin was very much influenced by the small Edouard Vuillard’s paintings of interiors, full of intimacy and atmospheric patterning. And both used colour in a decorative way that’s emotive.

It must be three years since I last made an interior or still life painting.

The use of memory in landscape came to really drive the paintings I made drawing from the rich vein that memory can provide.

Yet, I have been itching to make something that had, as the French would say, an intimiste quality.

Recently, I saw the deep purple velvet irises that grow wild by the side of roads and on waste ground.

They were beautiful and they had to be painted.

I then had a choice. Should I have gone back and painted them in situ or cut them to take them home? The latter I definitely wasn’t going to do, flowers are perfect where they are, adorning the landscape.

Two weeks later, I was exploring using saturated colours placed next to each other in washes:


When the paint had dried, it appeared to me like the interior of a room with the rose colour of a window with shutters. Then, it came to me straight away, why couldn’t I try to recapture in paint the feeling of seeing the velvet irises and place them into the interior.

So instead of making an analytical still life, the piece was fed in the same way my landscapes are. It was a bit of a light bulb moment.


I simplified the shape of the vase and made it rectangular to sit within the verticals and horizontals in the painting. It was also shifted slightly off centre to the right to balance with the space in the window.

I wanted the velvety purple quality of the flower heads to stand out against the deep rose warm light of the evening and make the leaves and stems curve as the rest of the painting is an arrangement of straight lines, so that their natural forms stand out against the man made.

I wanted to find a balance between abstraction and representation, flattening the picture surface, so it lacks depth and the fields of colour have more of an emotional resonance.

I’d love to hear what you think.