Art Lessons from Mother Nature

As many of you know, I gave up visual arts for writing over 12 years ago to write books; the most recent being The Home for the Friendless. However, I had a profound art lesson experience from nature this year. I had neglected to rake up the endless array of leaves in my back yard before the rains came. After many weeks of lying around on grass and ground, the result was shallow mounds of moist, moldy compost everywhere: the lawn, concrete, and wooden deck. When I finally took time to scrape it all up, fat little sow bugs scattered to reveal an art show of flawless leaf prints. Mother Nature was trying some of her innovative techniques. Images were layered, wrinkled, crinkled and flat in stunning shades of reddish-black to grayish-mauve. I showed my children when they came to visit and we all agreed; “This ”found art” must be photographed.” But we never got around to it before the lawn mowing man arrived to groom and clean up the back yard.

Clean Up is the ugly term here. Mowing Man left and the back yard was as tidy as I’ve ever seen it when it dawned on me that he had hosed and scrubbed away nature’s art project. You might think this a fish tale like the leaf prints that got away. It’s not a tall tale, but it does remind me that beneath each unsightly surface, some beauty doth remain. 

Here is another way to create prints made with leaves that will NOT get away.

1. Find a sturdy leaf from a tree and dip it into water with detergent added. Blot dry.

2. Paint the vein side with water colors or any paint that dries fast.

3. Place painted side onto clean paper.

4. Drop a Kleenex on the leaf and press, being careful not to budge the leaf one bit.

5. Remove Kleenex, then the leaf and hope for a good print. Problems occur when using too much water or when moving the leaf while printing. Just practice this part.

6. “Leaf” the print alone or add things to it such as arms, legs, hats, or high heels. 

7. Admire and show it to friends.


 Try this out; it’s fun. What caption would you suggest for this print?     

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  • Joanne

    Sometimes the most beautiful art is that which is fleeting. Do you ever bring the essence of visual arts to your writing at all?

    I clicked over from the WOW post, enjoyed browsing here …

  • Betty Auchard

    Hi Joanne. I’m truly pleased to meet you. Yours is a thoughtful question that I’ve tried consciously to incorporate into stories by “showing” instead of “telling” everything. As a new writer (12 years and still learning)I’m always referring to a mental checklist for the elements of a story, and the list is not short. But now I might add a new element to writing: think VISUAL arts. The list of elements in visual and written art is similar but different. To answer your question, I did purposely do this about 11 years ago when my instructor had us describe a piece of two or three-dimensional art by using all five of our senses. It was a challenge but great fun. But, Joanne, you might be thinking of this from an even different point of view.Let me know because I’m interested.

  • Laura/Readerwoman

    Love the ease of creating this art Betty, thank you! For other Betty Auchard fans, come join us in Chat on Library Thing now through Feb. 20!

  • admin

    Laura, thanks for your reminder of our month-long chat about writing. I’m enjoying it more than you realize.

    Since no one has suggested a caption for my dolled-up-fit-to-kill Leaf Lady named ASHly, I’m taking a stab at what might be going through her head. I think she’s late for a very important blind date with an Oak Leaf Stud and she’s thinking, “Where in God’s earth are my CAR KEYS?”

  • Jean F

    My mom, who will be 96 years young on the first day of Spring, took up oil painting when she was 65. Many of us have beautiful paintings that she did over the years. She hasn’t painted in a few years. I am going to share this “leaf print-making” technique with her when I visit her next week. It might be something we can do together for fun. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  • Betty Auchard

    Jean, if you have problems with it such as blobbing or a very light print, just keep experimenting with using less water or more paint. Remember that water colors are not like oil paints. You won’t want to see the paint on the brush because it’s a transparent material and not opaque. You’ll see it on the paper but not very much on the brush. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll love it.