A fresh splattering of brown and red leaves lay across our lawn this morning. Our learning adventure for the day was sealed by the seasonal changes. As we collected leaves from the ground, we discussed what happens to deciduous trees during the season of autumn. Max hopped over to the his nature journal to report on the day’s discoveries.
The cells at the base of each leaf stem begin to die, forming a barrier that keeps water and nutrients from traveling to the leaf. Chlorophyll, the green pigment in the leaves, begins to break down and other leaf pigments begin to show through or accumulate. Yellow or orange carotenoid pigments (sounds and looks like “carrot”) are present in the leaves during the summer, but the bright green of the chlorophyll masks them. As the level of chlorophyll decreases, these pigments become more obvious and the leaf appears more and more yellow or golden.
Red anthocyanin pigments are not present in the summer- they come to leaves especially in the fall. The anthocyanin pigments form as a result of chemical reactions that occur when temperatures drop and photosynthesis slows. These pigments are responsible for the deep red leaf colors of fall. While early cool temperatures bring about the best fall colors, early frost can ruin the fantastic foliage outright by killing the leaves before the gradual shift in colors can take place.
Inspired by Susie Short’s watercolor daydreams, we started our morning with a leaf watercolor event. Because the leaves are irresistibly alluring as their hair tips silver.
watercolor leaves ingredients
lots and lots of freshly-fallen leaves
watercolor paints in tubes
first use the leaves as stencils
Dabble paint with a dry sponge brush or a paper napkin to leave an outline of the leaf on your paper or surface. You can stick to one leaf stencil or you can add layers of what looks like “leaf shadows” by shifting leaves slightly and outlining them with “patted-on” paint.
Micah dabbed and then rubbed for an especially ethereal look, while Milla got yellow paint on every secret part of her body.
then use the leaves as stamps
Paint moistened but not drippy paint directly on the leaf itself. The underside of the leaf usually has better raised veins for printing. Place the leaf paint side down on your surface and apply gentle pressure to transfer the paint to the card.
Repeat this process until you have a leaf which suits your fancy. Allow to printed leaf patterns to dry.
fill in your prints
Using a brush, fill in the stamped leaf pattern with warm autumn colors. Vary your strokes and don’t be afraid to layer your paints over prints and patterns- layering adds dimension and texture.
If you’re like Micah, then you might want to add a rich blue background for your foliage…
But if you’re like Angie, you may want to stick with warm colors and mix paints for a background that elicits a little of each color. Either way, your leaf art welcomes the season and its changes.