Art With Kids: Leaves with Crayon and Watercolor Resist

It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance… and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.
-Henry James

Since Father’s Day is coming soon I thought I would share a fun art project my girls made for their dad last year. I believe that art and creativity are important to learning, so I try to come up with new projects we can do together. My girls love to paint and work on art projects. This leaf project was something I came up with on a whim and it was a favorite. It is fairly easy to do and it would work for a wide variety of ages.

The first thing we did we head outside to collect some interesting shaped leaves. More medium sized leaves tend to work better if you are planning of framing or displaying their art later. Then I took some regular weight computer paper and helped the girls place the paper over the leaf. My preschoolers needed help keeping the leaf and paper still so I held it down for them while they did the tracing. I found that they looked best when we used a couple of different colors. My two and a half year old made this tracing with just a little help. She chose the purple and red colors herself and I like how it turned out. The first time we did this the girls were trilled to watch the shape of the leaf come through the paper.

After my girls made the crayon tracings I helped them cut their leaves out. Their scissor skills are not quite controlled enough yet to get them cut out, but older kids could definitely do all of these steps themselves.

Here are two different leaves we did so you can see the difference it makes when you layer different colors of crayons.

Next for the resist part we used some basic watercolors. My girls absolutely love to paint and watercolors have been the best. They are not super messy so we paint with them all the time. I still love to pull out the tempura paint but that can get a little crazy so we don’t paint with that quite as often.

The watercoloring is the really fun part. The wax from the crayons will create a resist, but the watercolor will fill in any empty spaces and it adds a real dimension to the leaf. Here is my daughter painting it. You can see the small beads of watercolor. Once she was done I turned it over onto a paper towel a gently patted it once to remove the excess paint and then I turned it over to dry.

Then I gave my daughter a blank piece of watercolor paper. It is heavier and makes a great background for your leaf. I had her chose one color for a background and she decided on black. It works best to use a wider and bigger brush when making the background. When the leaf and background were both dry we used a glue stick to glue the leaf to the watercolor paper.

The framed maple leaf my two year old made.

I must admit that I really liked helping my girls with this project. The picture at the top of the post is a leaf I made for fun. I think these would make a pretty print set if you used several different color combinations and types of leaves.  On the original ones we made for my husband I helped the girls finish their backgrounds to make sure they were solid, but I also like the artsy and edgy look of the black one that my two year old did herself.

You can see how fun it is to play with the color scheme. This is one my now four year old made last year. Her favorite color is blue so she wanted to make a blue leaf.

Finally, if this is a gift or you want to display it get a simple frame with a mat from your local art supply or framing store. If your kids can write their own name, then have your artist sign their work. My daughters were really proud of their leaves and loved being able to give their dad something they made.

I like the combination of the royal blue and the orange and red leaf. If you look closely you can see my husband’s reflection on the glass frame. I had him send me a picture so you could see it hanging in his office.

The finished pieces turned out so great that my husband has them hanging in his office at work. So whether you have kids or you are young at heart and love a good art project give these leaves a try.

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