I was cleaning up the art room a bit to prepare for art class this afternoon, and started to put away the results of last week’s class. Then I thought it might be a fun project to do with the kids or grandkids over Thanksgiving weekend! So here’s a couple of leafy painting activities if you have some spare time and random children milling about!
A note of precaution… this activity involves paint… which can be messy if it also involves kids! Put newspaper or a plastic tablecloth on the table, or head outside to the picnic table. And, cover up good clothes with an apron, a big tee shirt, or if you’re feeling extra artsy, use one of Dad’s old button-down shirts, but put it on backward and button it up the back and roll up the sleeves. (This was required attire for kindergarten finger painting time back in the day.)
The first thing we did was leaf prints… Head outside and gather a variety of pretty leaves. The ones that are still on the trees are preferred, since they are still a bit supple. Make a thickish watercolor wash or thin down acrylic paints with water, and brush the paint on the back of the leaves (where the veins are). Press the leaf on watercolor paper pain-side-down, cover with a piece of plain paper, and rub the entire leaf area. Repeat with multiple leaves… they look pretty overlapped!
Now for the really fun project… Take clean leaves and trace them lightly on a piece of watercolor paper. Overlap the leaves if you’d like, but “hide” the overlapped sections so you’re not seeing through a leaf. (The leaf in the foreground should be a whole leaf, with the underneath leaf sticking out.) Make up washes of watercolor… we used a warm color scheme of Red, Yellow, and Orange, and threw in a Green from the other side of the color wheel to make things “Pop” a bit. Paint the leaves different colors and let it dry very well. You can actually be a bit loose and sloppy about this… try to stay in the lines of the leaves, but don’t stress over it!
When the leaves are completely dry, paint the background with clear water. It’s hard to see if you’ve covered the whole background, but do your best! Before it dries, dip your paintbrush into the watercolor washes and touch it to the wet areas and watch the color spread! If you see a spot where the watercolor is not spreading, add more water and then more paint. And… this is the really cool part… BEFORE IT DRIES… sprinkle some very coarse salt or Kosher salt on the wet paint. Let it dry completely, and brush off the salt. The little “sparkles” you see are the results of the salt! You can also add some veins with a fine point marker. (I used a brown Micron Pigma pen.)
Although this seems like a simple, crafty project, it looks really great framed! We used 140 lb. watercolor paper… not a weight usually used for kids’ painting projects… but it holds up under all the wetness and doesn’t crinkle all up. My girls did this project when they were young with another art teacher, and their grandparents took these to a professional framer and had them matted and framed. The results are awesome, and they still hang at Grammie & Grampie’s house!