Studio Saturdays: Paper Flowers with Mixed Media

Now that summer is here, flowers are everywhere—even in my studio. Not real ones, but the mixed-media variety, made with vintage papers, watercolor, spray inks, ink blocks, and wire. After seeing the work of the finalists of our mixed-media flower reader challenge in the May/June issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, I was inspired to create these easy paper flowers, and I’ll show you how I made them.

If you haven’t seen the reader challenge artwork, you must check it out. Artists created blossoms out of fabric, collage, yarn, applique, paint, pastel, watercolor, encaustic, and ink. Yep, pretty much all bases were covered, and the vibrant, dimensional pieces will take your breath away. You’ll be motivated to dive into your supplies and create some beautiful blooms, too.

We’re going to make two flowers: a rose and a poppy. To begin this project, I went into my stash of vintage books and took out several text pages—some in French, some in English, with various fonts. I keep a special stack of books made before about 1830 that have pages made out of cotton or linen rag, instead of wood pulp. When you find one of these books, you’ll notice that the paper feels different; it’s very malleable, almost like fabric. I like using these for sculptural or dimensional projects like paper flowers because the paper can take a lot of folding and wrinkling. Make sure the paper you use is strong enough to withstand painting and some handling. Brittle vintage pages won’t work for these paper flowers.

I colored the pages two ways; with spray inks and watercolor. You can also use acrylic paint, Gelatos, watercolor pencils, regular inks, and tea or coffee staining. Two shades of green ink were spritzed into a palette, sprayed with water to dilute them a bit, and then brushed on both sides of the paper. You can see how vibrant the color is, and a little goes a long way.

Dyeing paper with spray inks for paper flowers
Spray inks are perfect for adding vibrant color to paper flower petals and leaves.

If you have left over ink, grab some papers and use them to blot up the extra ink. I used watercolor paper scraps. These make great background papers.

Using extra spray ink for background papers
Use leftover spray ink to color paper scraps for later use.

Other pages were colored with watercolor, and came out more muted. Remember, the color will become paler when the paper is dry.

Watercolor used for coloring vintage book pages
I used watercolor from my palette to color book pages, but tube watercolors are also great for coloring paper.

The first of two paper flowers we’ll make is a bi-color rose. When the yellow sheets were dry I stenciled them with terra cotta stamping ink on both sides to add a little patterning.

Stenciling book pages for paper flower petals
Stenciling book pages adds extra depth to paper flower petals.

I created petal template and cut several of each petal size. I usually cut about 3-4 of the smallest (about 1 3/8″ x 1 3/8″), 4-5 of the medium (about  1 5/8″ x 1 5/8″) and 4-6 of the large (about 1 ¾” x 1 ¾”). Make sure you have enough paper in case you need to cut more petals.

Petal template for paper flowers
For the paper flowers, I used a template to cut the petals.

Stack the template on top of several pieces of paper and cut several at once. When you get to the top of the petal, wiggle the scissors a little as you cut to get an uneven edge. Nothing in nature is perfect!

Cutting a stack of book pages for paper flower petals
Cutting a stack of petals saves time.

I lightly drew around the edges of the petals with a red Derwent Inktense Block.

Coloring petal edges with Inktense Blocks
Inktense Blocks offer intense color; a little goes a long way.

Next, I brushed over the color with a damp paintbrush, which made the color come to life.

Inktense Blocks brushed with a damp paintbrush
The color comes alive when brushed with a damp paintbrush.

While the petals dried, I prepared the stem. Green cloth-covered wire floral stems are available, but I had some plain silver wire ones and used those. I wound floral tape around the top several times to make a little bud, then continued to wrap the stem with the floral tape. If you’ve never used floral tape, it’s fun stuff. Stretching it before wrapping it activates the stickiness, so it stays in place.

Wrapping wire floral stem with floral tape
Wrapping a floral wire with floral tape gives the paper flower petals a good foundation for gluing.

Take one of the small petals and brush on some white glue on the lower part of the petal. I like using Aleene’s Quick Dry Tacky Glue, and I used my fingers to spread it.

Gluing leaves for paper flowers
A little quick-dry tacky glue is all it takes to attach the petals to the stem.

Wrap the petal around the stem so the bottom part rests just under the bud. Try to wrap the petal as tightly as you can, and hold it for a few seconds until the glue sets.

Creating the paper flower center
For the flower center, wrap a small petal tightly around the stem.

Glue and wrap another small petal, but offset it slightly so it’s not in the same position as the first petal. Do the same with a third small petal, but this time wrap it a little more loosely.

Begin adding the medium petals the same way, making sure to offset them. Before gluing the petals, work them with your hands a bit to make them more pliable. Once the glue is dry, bend the top part of the petal back just a wee bit, about 1/8″.

Creating dimensional petals for paper flowers
To create dimension, bend the top of the petal back just a bit.

Continue to add 2-3 more medium petals. Look at the flower from all angles after adding a petal to see where the next petal should go.

Medium petals added to paper flower
After all the medium petals have been added, begin adding the large petals.

Add the large petals the same way, assessing their position, and again bending the top part of the petal back. Stop when the rose looks complete.

Rose paper flower blossom
Continue to add large petals until the rose looks complete.

To create the sepal, which are the tiny leaves found underneath the blossom, cut a small circle from the green paper (about 1″ diameter), and then cut a star shape, making sure not to cut all the way to the center. Cut or punch a small hole in the center. You can see that mine’s pretty wonky, and that’s okay. It doesn’t need to be perfect.

Sepal for paper flowers
For the sepal, cut a star shape from green paper.

Apply a little glue at the base of the flower, and slip the sepal onto the stem, pushing it so it’s nestled just underneath the blossom. Hold until the glue sets a bit.

Sepal attached underneath the blossom
The sepal sits just underneath the blossom.

To create leaves for paper flowers, cut generic leaf shapes from the green paper. I freehanded these, but you can make a template. Cut two pieces at once, wrong side to wrong side. Cut an 8″ piece of green floral paddle wire and straighten it out with your fingers. Apply a line of glue stick to the middle of the wrong side of one leaf, lay the wire on top in the center, and glue the wrong side of the other leaf shape. Place the glued leaf shape on top, making sure all the sides line up, and press the pieces together. The wire gives the leaf body and allows you to shape it.

Creating a leaf for paper flowers
Adding paddle wire between the leaf shapes allows you to bend the leaf.

When the glue is dry, cut a small jagged edge on the leaves with scissors, mimicking the look of rose leaves. Wind floral tape around the leaf wire, then wind the leaf stem around the flower stem. Create more leaves if desired, wind them around the flower stem, and secure everything with one more wrap of the floral tape.

Attaching leaves to paper flowers
To attach the leaves, simply wind the stems around the flower stem.

For the poppy, wrap a floral stem the same way you did for the rose, but this time add some purchased stamens to the top. These can be found online or in craft stores. Fold them in half and secure them to the top of the stem with floral tape.

Wrapping stamens to stem
Purchased stamens add a nice touch to paper flowers.

Cut a strip of black paper about 1″ high by 6″-8″ long. Fringe the paper, stopping about ¼” from the bottom. Put glue on the unfringed part and wrap the paper around the stamens so that the top of the paper matches the height of the stamens.

Gluing the fringe to the stamens
Glue and wrap the fringed paper around the stamens.

When the glue is dry, fan out the fringed paper.

Center for paper flowers
You can use this type of center for a variety of paper flowers.

Cut about 6 petals, using the template or freehanding the design. The petal is about 2″ wide by about 2″ high. Wrinkle them up a bit; poppy petals are not smooth.

Wrinkled petal for paper poppy
Make sure to wrinkle the poppy petals to give them a little texture.

Apply glue to the bottom of the petal, and wrap it around the base of the fringed paper. Apply the next petal directly opposite it, then two more on either side.

Gluing first petal of the poppy
Glue the poppy petal so it surrounds the flower center.

Continue to add petals until you’re happy with the way the flower looks.

The dimensional flower center adds so much to these poppy paper flowers.

For these leaves, I cut wide basic leaf shapes, glued the pieces to paddle wire, and, when dry, freehand cut the leaf shapes. Poppy leaves have a variety of shapes, so choose one you like. Remember, these don’t have to be perfect! Attach them to the floral stem the same way you did for the rose.

Aren’t these paper flower blossoms pretty? They make me happy every time I look at them. You can make a whole bouquet, varying the size of the flowers and the colors. Here’s a bonus idea: Create a dimensional flower on an art journal page using the same petals. Here, I glued individual petals to a page, going from largest to smallest, and creating a little center with yellow paper.

Paper flowers on a mixed-media art journal page
How will you use your paper flowers in your mixed-media artwork?

There are so many ways you can use these blooms. Fill a shadow box with rows of flowers. Include them in an assemblage or collage. Also, try using different types of paper, like monoprinted rice paper or map paper, and even fabric.

If flowers make you happy, dive into more projects and ideas with these great books, videos, and more from the North Light Shop!

May/June 2017 Cloth Paper Scissors magazine
Don’t miss the gallery of fantastic mixed-media flowers in the May/June 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine!
Mixed Media Flower Paintings video with Carrie Schmitt
Learn how to paint unique flowers using inspiration images in the video Mixed Media Flower Paintings with Carrie Schmitt.
Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lessons Volume 5: Pastels with a Punch by Jenny Cochran Lee
In Art Lessons Volume 5: Pastels with a Punch, Jenny Cochran Lee demonstrates fun techniques for creating paper flowers with mixed media.
Painted Flowers by Carrie Schmitt
Carrie Schmitt brings you more great mixed-media flower painting techniques in her book Painted Blossoms.

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3D Art and Assemblage, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques

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