It’s Fall and the leaves are finally starting to change colors. Every time I go for a walk I come home with leaves in my hand and immediately flatten them in a book. Sometimes I forget to get them out to enjoy and find them when I’m looking for some recipe or something. Another way to enjoy these beautiful specimens are to use them as inspiration for a watercolor painting. This project works on so many different levels and is fun for all ages. I can’t think of any better way to teach nature appreciation, drawing, fine motor skills, color mixing and even science. The supplies are pretty simple and once purchased can be used for other watercolor ideas I’ll be sharing in the months to come. A few things to purchase are good watercolor paper, watercolor brushes, liquid watercolors and white ice cube trays. You can find everything you need at the Highlands Art Garage store. The rest of the supplies you probably have on hand, a couple cups for water, paper towels, eye dropper, white crayon or emergency candle, pencil, eraser and salt. I always press my leaves as soon as I collect them to prevent them from curling up too much. Cover your table with a plastic table cloth or absorbent paint tarp and assembly your supplies and pressed leaves.
The first step is to sketch your leaves on the watercolor paper lightly with pencil. I don’t like the pencil lines to show so I erase them a bit so they’re really light.
Next use the white crayon or the candle to outline the leaves and color around them. Make sure to press hard and fill in around the leaves.
You can see where you’ve drawn if you hold the paper at an angle.
Set this aside and set up your watercolors in the ice cube tray. I use the 3 primary colors red, yellow and blue and mix orange, green and brown. This is a great way to learn color mixing.
Now you’re ready to take clean water on your brush and paint the whole leaf with water. You want it to be glistening but not too puddled. Start with the lightest color which is yellow and touch it to the water. It will flow a bit out from your brush but won’t go past the wax of the crayon or candle. Next add each color as you see it in the leaf you’re using for reference and let the colors blend a little on the edges. After you’ve added all the colors let it dry or use a hair dyer on the low setting to dry your work.
For the background I used watered down blue. I used the same technique of applying clean water first then the paint. One last really fun step is to sprinkle salt into the wet paint. The salt attracts the watercolor and makes a speckled pattern when it dries. You can also add details with colored pencils if you like.
So pretty, don’t you think? Now go and hang it on the fridge or put it in a frame!