Watercolor Fall Leaf

Hello All, this is the project I did with my 3rd-5th grade art class at co-op last Friday.  The kids really had fun painting theirs, I think, and they all did such a great job…I hope you’ll give it a try too!

Now, actual fall foliage is a little hard to come by down here in Florida, so I just printed out a photo of a colorful leaf to use as our “model”.  I printed the leaf on a 4″ x 5″ grid with 1″ squares, and then drew an 8″x 10″ grid with 2″ squares to do my sketch on.  I then began to copy only the OUTLINE of the leaf onto my sketch paper, SQUARE BY SQUARE, focusing solely on what was in each square as I worked on it.  (You could actually skip this step and just print the leaf the size you want it, but drawing on a grid is a good skill to learn.  It’s very handy when you need to re-size something and want to keep the proportions the same, AND it helps train your eyes to follow the actual contours of your subject instead of just drawing it the way you think it should be.)

Once my sketch was complete, I flipped it over and scribbled graphite from a #2 pencil over the back of the leaf’s outline, so that I could transfer it to my watercolor paper.  (You could skip this step in favor of graphite paper if you happen to have some, but #2 pencil is cheaper if you don’t.)

Watercolor painting can be messy, so I like to tape my watercolor paper down with painter’s tape.  The tape holds the paper in place, keeps it from warping (as bad), provides a bit of a barrier between my painting and my table, and is easy to remove.

With my watercolor paper secured, I positioned my leaf sketch over it and traced around the outline of the leaf.  (I like to use a colored pencil for this, so that I can tell where I have traced and where I haven’t.  You may also find it helpful to use a few pieces of painters tape to “tack” your sketch down, so that it won’t move while you trace it.)

Below is my painting setup.  Notice that you can just barely make out the outline of the leaf on my watercolor paper.  It doesn’t need to be very dark, because it is really just a “map” for my paint.  Also, I have two jars of water.  One will be “dirty water” for rinsing my brush between colors, and the other will be “clean” water for getting the paper wet before applying the paint.

With my paints all set out, I picked a starting place and applied water to a small section of my paper.  I got the paper nice and wet so that I could “float” my paint on.

I decided to paint my background blue, so that it would look like my leaf was just floating in the water.  I worked in small sections, so that the paper wouldn’t dry out before I added my paint.

Once I finished with my blue background, I started on my leaf.  I began by painting the whole thing yellow, again working in small sections.

Next, I added a few splashes of orange…

Then green…

Finally, I added some red and touched up the edges around the leaf with more blue to clean up some of the colors that bled off of the leaf.

That’s it…happy painting!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ivoryspring
    Nov 08, 2011 @ 23:07:47

    Oh how beautiful! If you lived closer, I will have to take painting lessons from you!!!!


  2. Sandy Swanner
    Nov 09, 2011 @ 01:49:26

    Thank you, Wendy. You never know…maybe some day! That would be fun…and I could trade you for some quilting lessons. 🙂


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