The intricacies and beauty found in nature are hard for artists of any age to replicate. Through some simple color washes and careful placement these botanical prints are some of the most intricate and interesting artwork that we have made in ages.
I love that reproducing nature’s details is not left to technical drawing skill. Nature already did the hard work for you. This process can just as easily be enjoyed by a preschooler as an accomplished adult artist.
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Get out those art supplies…
You also need some decently heavy paper, bonus points if it’s watercolor paper. Working on nice paper is such an advantage and it doesn’t have to be expensive. A student grade watercolor pad costs less than a couple of coffees and will last through many projects!
Watercolor paper has a little texture to it. We’re going to be using lots of water and color and copy paper will just not hold up this time.
Botanical prints need leaves of couse…
These leaves are the main attraction in our botanical prints. You don’t want leaves that are dry and crunchy. They should be pliable and able to lay somewhat flat. I used fern fronds and leaves from our Japanese maple tree because they have such pretty shapes. Experiment.
Painting this watercolor wash in which to lay the leaves is a quick and spontaneous process. If you are slow and careful the color will dry too quickly and you’re outta’ luck.
First, take a clean brush and plain water and spread some water around. You can go clear to the edges or make an interesting splotchy shape. The color will stay within the borders of the water.
Add color. This should be fun and quick. Splotches of colors, drips, grand flourishes; any way to quickly get lots of pigment onto your paper will do.
While the paint is still very wet lay the leaves down in the paint. leaves may overlap or go off the page. I even tore some of my fern fronds into pieces before laying them down.
Once leaves were down I plopped down some more color by loading my brush with color and squeezing it with my fingers. I did this in places I wanted to emphasize with extra color or places that looked as if they were to dry for the leaves to “stick.”
Patience is not my virtue…
These babies take a looooong time to dry. Because we used so much water and because there are leaves stacked on our artwork this took forever. I came home from a ball game and eagerly ripped leaves off of one painting only to discover pools of color beneath the leaf.
The leaves must stay in the watercolor till it’s completely dry in order to capture all of their awesome details. I ended up leaving mine to dry overnight. This was hard, but I managed.
This picture illustrates the difference between using liquid watercolor and dry cake watercolor. I’m a big fan of the “use what you have” philosophy. I cook that way, I make art that way, and I parent that way. You can see that both types of paint produce an effect worth trying out.
It is worth noting that when using the liquid watercolors I did dilute them for the original watercolor wash but dropped some pure color onto the page after the leaves were down. Experiment with what works for you.
The end or a new beginning…
Not to wax all philosophical on you but once you take the leaves off you have a choice; is your artwork done or is the beginning of something else? As beautiful as these are just having taken the leaves off I see so many possibilities. Pen and ink on top of the watercolor prints is at the top of my list to try.
Share this post if it inspired you and let me see how your botanical prints turn out!
For more ways to make pretty paper check out this post on marbling paper using vegetable oil and food coloring!
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