An Iris field trip
As some of you might know, we are working on a massive project - ‘Illustrated Flora of Turkey’. Many botanists and artists from Turkey are working together with an aim to bring all the plant information together of this land and visually spread the knowledge with the help of scientific illustrations were prepared and currently are still being prepared with skillful hands.
I am working as an art editor of the project. My main work is to link between the artists, botanists and plants, and checking all the illustrations according the standard we seek. But sometimes I can also have a chance to illustrate for the project! This was one of those chances.
I have just been in a botanical adventure with my father whose profession is Irises. From south to the east, east to the north of Turkey, we have visited many plant location to look for some Iris species. As we followed all the mountains route, what my eyes have seen in such nature is worth to remember. And traveling with my father who knows every mountain, every river, every forgotten corner in the wild makes this trip also very informative. Now I know, all the names of the castles we have seen, the peaks and the hills, the rivers and the bridges we have passed. Possibly, I will forget all about this within a month though!
As a botanical artist, working in the field with a botanist is heavenly as well as very challenging! A botanist wants to search as many location as possible, and collect many species to make this trip valuable for their work. A botanical artist wants to stop and paint immediately after a species is found and collected. This is the main conflict between the artist and the botanist.
Artists need a decent amount of time to able to produce a proper scientific illustrations. Artists still can do something with a little time given to illustrate, but the result might be less attractive or even worse - inaccurate depiction of the species.
In our botanical adventure, we have tried to find the middle ground. In some occasions I have been given enough time to do my sketches, in some others I had to wake up 5 in the morning to do some quick drawings with a great deal of stress.
In the end, I have managed to prepare colour sketches of three Iris species with in week. And this is how it happened;
We went to a location somewhere near Adana with a hope to find Iris junonia. According to some very old records from 1970s, this location was a big field, full of Irises. We have found nothing, not even leaves. Sad moments, nothing to paint for me.
We went to the Amanos mountains around Osmaniye to look for Iris kirkwoodiae, but we were only looking for some leaves. June is not the flowering month of I. kirkwoodiae, so this was not also the day for me to sketch. But being in Amanos mountains and seeing such an attractive flora makes my day anyway. Also on this day, we have been told another possible location to look for I. junonia by Mehmet Çelik.
We went to this new location for I. junonia, to the high lands of north of Kadirli. And nailed it! A land full of Irises! A natural rock garden and it was such a treat to see this garden with many Irises full in bloom as well as many other species such as Asphodeline, Verbascum, Gundelia… Today, I have collected some samples as well as an Albino Iris for sketching, and at that moment I started to cross all my fingers. After a few hours we were back to the hotel and I did a lot of studies till the late night.
I woke at 5 in the morning to keep going. It was a long working night the day before, but I have still missing some colour studies and dissection of the flowers. This moment I have pushed a bit to delay our departure, and I had a chance to work till 10 am, and I did what I can do. Then we were on the road again to another location not for painting but to collect some fruits of I. peshmeniana from a new recorded location. We drove all the way to Malatya from the mountain roads. Meanwhile I kept many leaf samples of I.junonia in a pot and carrying it all the way with me.
First half day, we went for I. peshmeniana. Group continued afternoon, but first they dropped me to the hotel which was fantastic! I had a half day to keep working on I. junonia.
Today was a long trip day and we drove from Malatya all the way to the Ardahan, passing by Munzur Valley, Tunceli. On our way, between Erzincan and Erzurum, we have seen fields of I. spuria subsp. musulmanica. We stopped, collected, some for the herbarium specimen and some were planted to the pots for me. I didn’t think I could do that, but got a few samples, mostly buds. When we arrived to Ardahan, all we were tired to death.
Around Ardahan we went to visit two different locations. In the morning we went for I. aphylla towards Çıldır. It was quite late for the flowers, and in fact we have seen only one late flowering individual. One sample is not enough to make an illustration as I wanted. So nothing here for me to paint, but botanists did their work and collected some specimens for their research. Then we went to the opposite direction towards Yalnızçam to look for I. sibirica. While we drove on this road, my father told me Ian Hedge and Davis who prepared the previous ‘Flora of Turkey’, passed from this road to collect specimens in 1957! Can’t imagine! Well, then the moment we have arrived to the plant’s location, a massive thunderstorm started! A crazy rain turned into a hail storm and we have stuck in the car quite a long time! We have waited to storm pass patiently, but we knew Iris flowers couldn’t survive from this storm! After an hour or so, storm passed, and we climbed to the hill along with the river to look for the flowers. All has damaged badly, except one who were hiding behind of a big stone. I collected that one, and some others mostly with buds. Then when were back to our hotel I had two species at hand, but I couldn’t do much that night except drawing some overall look of I.sibirica.
I woke up 5 in the morning and this was a true marathon. My main aim is to do I. sibirica, but the flowers were not in good shape and I kept waiting for a bud to flower, so I did some quick work on I. spuria instead. This day till 12 in the afternoon, I kept working on both specimens at the same time. I drew one flower of a species, then the other was flowering, a bit working that one, then leaves, a bit of that, a bit of other, taking many photos, dissections, pressing plants…. marathon I said! In the end I had some drawings and colour studies of both species but not as much as I wanted. So I kept all the species in pots and we drove home!
I was at home, non stop working with the plants in the pots. All the three samples I had, I worked over and over again to not to miss anything. Meanwhile some of the buds were still flowering which makes me a lucky artist! At the end of the day, I was death tired, but now I have 3 full sketches waiting for me to be completed!!!