Autumn’s beautiful foliage can provide such wonderful art inspiration this time of year. In this project from our September/October 2013 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, artist and printmaker Sharon Gross demonstrates how to make nature print greeting cards using fallen leaves. These cards are fun, easy to create, and each one is totally unique. What more can you want? Go ahead and make a batch to keep at hand for when you need a card on deck. Or, create special cards with special loved ones in mind. With the holidays around the corner, it will be greeting card season in no time!
Nature Print Greeting Cards by Sharon Gross
Walking through my neighborhood one autumn afternoon, I noticed how beautiful the leaves looked scattered on the road—a vivid palette of red, yellow, orange, and purple, glistening in the late day sun. I am a printmaker and the fallen leaves reminded me of a printmaking process, with its layers of color and texture. As I bent down to get a better look at the leaves, I saw their many shapes, veins, and even some holes made by hungry bugs. I decided to use some leaves to make prints and picked up a few to bring home. I put them inside an old book to dry and flatten, and in a few days they were ready to use. Each print I created was not only unique; it was easy to do and had layers full of texture.
- Printmaking paper (I use Rives BFK.)
- Paper cutter or scissors
- Paintbrushes (I use a large, round brush to hold a lot of color.)
- Cup with water
- Tempera paints, various colors (I use Pearl™ brand.)
- Texture tools (I used bubble wrap, torn and textured cardboard, and corks.)
- Leaves and flowers, a variety, dried and pressed
- Paper towels, cut into 5″ × 5″ squares
- Cardstock (I used a 5 1/2″ × 8 1/2″ piece, folded to 5 1/2″ × 4 1/4″ for the layered card.)
- Wax paper
- Bone folder
- Glue stick
• Glue, white
• Gold leaf
• Paintbrush, stiff
• Gold tempera paint
• Envelopes (I used 4 1/2″ × 4 1/2″ envelopes.)
1. Cut the printing paper to the card size you want using a paper cutter or scissors, or by folding and tearing. I used a 5 1/2″ × 12″ rectangle for the large accordion card, a 3 3/4″ × 11″ rectangle for the small accordion card, and a 3 1/2″ × 5 1/4″ rectangle for the layered card.
2. Paint the paper with watercolors to create a colorful background. (FIGURE 1) Make the colors watery, allowing the colors to blend and bleed together. Don’t be afraid to use lots of colors. Allow to dry.
3. Flip the paper over and paint the other side in the same manner. For the layered card, you will only paint one side of the paper, because it will be glued to the cardstock.
4. Use the tempera paint like printing ink, applying the paint to the texture tools with a paintbrush and pressing the tools onto the painted paper. Repeat as desired to create more texture. (FIGURE 2)
5. Apply paint to the vein side of a leaf with the paintbrush. Place the leaf, paint-side down, onto the painted paper and cover the leaf with a square of paper towel. Gently roll the brayer across the paper towel to print the leaf image, including the stem. Remove the paper towel and repeat the process with another leaf, or a flower, adding more paint as needed and printing across the paper. (FIGURE 3) Let dry and repeat on the back of the paper.
TIP: Placing the paper towel over the leaf prevents the paint from splattering and also keeps your hands clean.
6. Create layers of prints, color, and texture. Reuse the leaves/flowers and the various texture tools, allowing the colors to mix and blend as you create more texture.
NOTE: The brushstrokes will show in the prints and the prints will vary, depending on how much or how little paint is applied.
7. Fold the long painted paper in thirds to create the card. To avoid ruining the paint, place wax paper on top of the folded card and then score the folds with the bone folder. (FIGURE 4) For a layered card, apply glue stick to the back of the printed rectangle and place the rectangle on folded cardstock. Put wax paper on top of the card and rub over the top with the bone folder. Remove the wax paper and check for good adhesion.
8. Optional: Apply dots of glue to the finished cards with white glue and then add gold leaf, following the manufacturer’s directions. Let dry and then brush off any extra flecks of gold leaf with a dry, stiff paintbrush. Alternatively, use gold tempera paint in the printing process to achieve a shimmery look.
When traveling, keep an eye out for interesting leaves and flowers to use in your art. Why limit yourself to only using what you find in your neighborhood? No matter where I am, I’m always on the look out for unusual plants to use to print my cards.
Sharon Gross, artist and printmaker, makes handmade greeting cards and creates jewelry from Paperclay®. Her work is described as colorful and cheerful. Sharon is inspired by nature and the outside world. She has taught art to children, including a series of printmaking workshops she created. Visit her website at artworkbysharon.com.
Speaking of greeting cards, here is another great project you may enjoy: Lee Steiner’s Greeting Card Keepsake Book. The step-by-step tutorial will show you how to turn a random, messy stack of cards into a single collection of paper art.