Art with Leaves

Scattered Leaves in Wisconsin

Leaves come in all shapes and sizes — some are squat, some are long and skinny. Each has its unique design of veins and lobes. Most leaves are simple (this means there is one blade). Some are compound (each blade is divided into three or more leaflets).

Leaf Prints

You can really see these differences in leaves when you make leaf prints.
You can make prints from the leaves that are turning, as well as the leaves from houseplants and other garden plants. (Just make sure you ask before you trim any plants!). Use leaves to print patterns on wrapping paper and note cards. Or use them to adorn trays, gardening pots, and drinking glasses.
You can use poster paints for printing cards with, but acrylic paints work best wherever you want a waterproof design.

Paint a little paint on the underside of the leaf where the veins are more pronounced and make a better print. Carefully place the “inked” leaf where you want the image printed. Cover the leaf with a piece of folded paper toweling. Roll a brayer (a small roller used for making prints), a rolling pin, or a spoon over the paper with firm strokes. Remove the paper towel and carefully lift the leaf. Presto!

Make Leaf Stencils

Leaves can also be used as stencils, which makes a reverse impression. This technique works best with pressed leaves. Keep the leaves in place with small pieces of tape folded over itself, and placed on the underside of the leaves. With a small sponge, or stubby bristle brush, dab paint around the outline of the leaves. The leaf shapes will show up white or whatever color paper you’re stenciling on.

You can also use the splatter technique. Dip an old toothbrush into watery paint and draw a popsicle stick across the bristles to make the paint splatter. This is a messy activity at best! Make sure you protect yourself and your area from the flying paint.

Make Leaf Rubbings

Fleshy leaves are good for making leaf rubbings. Here pressed leaves just don’t work as well as fresh.

Place the leaves wrong side up – – that is, with the raised veins showing. Place a sheet of lightweight paper over the leaves and carefully feel where they are. Rub over them with the flat side of a crayon. You can even match the leaf colors by choosing crayons that are close in hue.

Try using shoe polish instead of crayons. Polishes come in an array of autumn colors. Remember to wear rubber gloves to protect your hands from stains.

[Image: Courtesy of Flickr user Todd Klassy]

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About the Author

Naomi K.Shapiro is an active member of Outdoor Writers Association of America and Wisconsin Outdoor Communicators. She lived for 15 years in Clam Lake, WI (permanent population of 140 not counting deer, bear and elk!) and writes regularly on issues involving business, the outdoors and tourism.

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