This leaf drawing is a great introduction to drawing. Leaves are everywhere, the variety of shapes is fantastic, and the colors…oh my! Learn how to draw a leaf with a few simple drawing exercises and then experiment with a glue outlined chalk drawing of a leaf.
Learning how to draw a leaf…
Drawing is one of those things that you’ve never just “got.” You can always get better no matter where you’re at, skillswise. Because drawing is such a complex skill I love giving kids opportunities to practice in which they can be really successful. Leaf drawing is exactly that! The irregular shape and huge variety of shapes that occur in nature means that leaves are totally recognizable even when not drawn “just so.” And if your student is more advanced there is plenty of detail to keep them busy too!
Draw a leaf with a continuous line…
I love contour drawing as a warm up for any drawing lesson or art project. Contour drawing is essentially drawing the edges or lines that define an object. A continuous contour line drawing is a drawing in which you never pick up your pencil but just keep following the edges of the object you’re drawing.
The point of a contour drawing, continuous or not, is to get you to really look at what you’re drawing. Forget what you “think” you know about a leaf and really look at each little edge. And with a leaf as your drawing subject there is no end of details to notice! So take a couple minutes, throw a few leaves out, and do a quick series of these drawings. Ask kids to pay special attention to any irregular edges and the veins inside the leaf,
For more details about this contour drawing process check out this more detailed explanation. It’s a quick process that’s super fun and is guaranteed to result in some giggles and a new perspective on drawing a leaf.
Leaf drawing with glue…
So now for the fun part! For this portion of the leaf drawing you will need black paper, construction paper is fine. This brand is my favorite because it’s super smooth and not pulpy. You’ll also need school glue, like Elmer’s glue , and a pencil.
Choose a leaf or two to use as a subject and draw a simplified version. While the contour leaf drawing above was meant to notice every little detail all of those details aren’t necessary here and won’t even be noticed once they are traced over with glue. Think simple.
Draw leaves from different angles on the black paper using a pencil. Pencil lines may be faint and that’s okay. These lines will just be a guide for drawing with glue in the next step. Keep in mind the control your student will have in the glue step. Younger students should draw fewer leaves and further apart so that glue lines running into each other will be less of a problem.
Draw with glue….
Trace each leaf with a line of white glue. For the cleanest line do not let the tip of the glue nozzle touch the paper. Just keep moving around each leaf shape and the veins inside with a continuous strand of glue. (This is a great connection to the continuous line contour drawing we talked about earlier.)
This glue process is not a science. Lines will not be perfect. The good news is that no matter how precise (or not precise) the leaf drawing lines are traces the final product can still be amazing! Leaf shapes will be visible and an amazing backdrop for chalk pastel color to “pop!”
The glue lines will need to dry before moving onto the next step. Time required for drying depends both on the thickness of the lines and the humidity level in the air. Overnight is usually sufficient!
Adding color to your leaf drawing…
Now that your kiddo has had some experience with how to draw a leaf they are ready to move on to adding some splashy color. Any chalk will work for this but my favorites are these chalk pastels. They come in tons of awesome colors and are priced so you don’t need to be stingy with letting kids experiment.
I love dividing the leaf drawing into positive space and negative space. The leaves (the subject) are the positive space. The background is the negative space. Read more about positive and negative space in this free printable book that covers all the elements of art.
In this sample we used warm colors for all the leaves, or the positive space, and cool colors for the background, or the negative space. Any colors would be beautiful but discussing warm and cool colors adds another learning objective and creates beautiful contrast. If warm and cool colors are a new concept to your kiddo this free color theory printable is a great resource for introducing those concepts!
Working with pastels…
Pastels are really just a fancy name for chalk. Art pastels are brighter, bolder versions of plain old chalk board chalk. They are a great art material for young kids because they are super versatile and very affordable. Use whatever you have on and.
Start with the leaves and warm color, or whatever color family your artist chooses. The trick to keep some vibrancy with these leaf drawings is to layer color of chalk and the blend with a gentle fingertip sparingly. It is so gratifying to blend and smear that chalk around but encourage your kids to use some self control. You might even need to do a trial run on scrap paper where they experiment with blending a little or a lot. Over blending will result in muddy, less than bright colors. Sometimes kids have to see it to believe it!
After the leaf drawings are colored move on to using the cool colors or any color family your artist has chosen. Use the same method of placing colors side by side and using a gentle touch to blend them.
The dried glue lines will act as a “fence,” keeping your chalk colors contained within the area of the leaf. The glue have dried clear, allowing the black of the paper to show through. I used to do a project with a similar final product that involved mixing glue with india ink for a black glue. The process above is much simpler and still gives great lines that pop out of the color.
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