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Arts and Nature - BCNY Explores NYC

Updated: Jul 10




Subjects: Arts and Nature Exploration


Objective:


Create a leaf rubbing (Frottage), while observing and identifying the subject matter’s details (shape, form, texture, & line- 4 of the 7 elements of art)


Material Needed: Crayons or Oil Pastels, Drawing or Copy Paper, & Flat, Hard Surface (Clipboard), Collected Leaves


Pre-Prep: Have materials ready- Find a comfortable space to work in- Be ready to collect a variety of leaves (different shapes and sizes) without causing damage to local flora & fauna (nature & wildlife)- Leaves should be pliable, not dried out or browning.

Getting Started


Opening: Discuss the different leaves collected: look at the shape, line, form, texture & other details (use magnifying glasses to check out minute details like leaf veins and varying edges). Use the Tree Identification guide to compare leaf shapes, types, and other characteristics. You will use the leaves you collect in creating the art activity; transferring the textured image and outline from your selected leaves.



Intro to New Material: You will use the art technique frottage (definition below), popularized by German experimental artist Max Ernst. This simple method of obtaining an image and its corresponding texture, by rubbing a soft pencil across it, has been used by different cultures over centuries as a way to document, make impressions, and transfer visual information. You can use the paper from your journal/sketchbook (if unlined), by placing leaves in between sheets. If easier, separate sheets of paper can be used. Remove wrappers from crayons and oil pastels. A clipboard or other hard surface is needed to provide backing to work on



Guided Practice/Steps:

  • Have several sheets of paper ready.

  • Place a leaf, vein side up, on a piece of paper, on top of a flat, hard surface.

  • Place another sheet of paper on top of the leaf.

  • With the side (not the tip) of an unwrapped crayon or oil pastel, apply medium pressure from the center of the leaf to the outside edges. Make sure you press and hold the leaf down with your other hand as you apply pressure and drag the crayon/oil pastel (from center to outside edges).

  • As you rub across the paper, the leaf’s patterns will reveal themselves.

  • Once completed, left the paper, select another leaf, and continue the process.


Extension & Experimentation: Leaves can overlap to give another effect. Decide which colors, if any, you’d like to use. Or just select a dark/black crayon to make it look more stark. If paper is thick enough, you can add a bit of watercolor paint to each leaf to create a mixed-media, wax resist rubbing. You can color in between the rubbings or cut them out to use as part of a collage or other art project, or to place in your journal. See below for more!


CLOSING

Ask and discuss: Use your magnifying glass to examine and compare the rubbings to the actual leaves:

  1. How are the leaf rubbings different?

  2. How are the leaf rubbings the same?

  3. What are the differences between leaf types?

  4. How are the rubbings different from the leaves themselves?

  5. Why are leaves different shapes?

  6. What other objects around you can you find to create a ‘frottage”?

Keywords and Glossary


Frottage

(French: “rubbing”)- In visual arts, a technique of obtaining an impression of the surface texture of a material, such as wood, by placing a piece of paper over it and rubbing it with a soft pencil or crayon.


Elements of Art

The seven elements of art are line, shape, form, space, value, color, and texture. These elements are the essential components, or building blocks, of any artwork.


Max Ernst

(1891 –1976) A German painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and poet. Ernst had no formal artistic training but became famous for exploring different methods and experimenting in art-making. He is credited with inventing frottage as an art technique.


Video Links and Tutorials


Outdoor Leaf Frottage












Simple Leaf Rubbing Art









In-Home Projects


Make “Skeleton” Leaves

Create a transparent or “skeleton” leaves by removing the leaf tissue without damaging the leaf’s veins. Click here to learn how.


VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to create “skeleton” leaves at home (long-term project):












SKELETAL LEAF PROCESS:












“Hammered” Leaves and Flowers Art


Learn more by Clicking Here.


Hammered Technique- Leaf “Prints” on Cloth:



























Lesson 2: ZENTANGLE LEAF ART

Subjects: Arts and Nature Exploration

Objective: Create a piece of zentangle art using nature (specifically the shape and outline of a leaf) as inspiration and elements of art and design (line, shape, and shape)

Material Needed: Pencil, Sharpies or permanent markers, drawing paper (or journal) and collected leaves

Pre-Prep: Find a comfortable space to work in where you can take your time and not be easily distracted- Be ready to collect a variety of leaves (different shapes and sizes) without causing damage to local flora & fauna (nature & wildlife)- Leaves should be pliable, not dried out or browning


Getting Started

Opening: Choose a leaf of your liking: look at shape, line, and size (make sure it comfortably fits your paper and is not too small). Use the Tree Identification guide to compare leaf shapes, types, and other characteristics. You will use the leaves you collect in creating the art activity; outlining its shape.

Intro to New Material: You will use a type of meditative drawing called zentangle art to create your piece. Although it’s sometimes referred to as “doodle art”, this method uses repetitive patterns to create images. The simple shapes used are called “tangles”; dots, lines, simple curves, S-curves, and orbs. It is NOT scribbling. You can use a variety of lines (horizontal, vertical, diagonal, zigzag, curved and implied- dotted, dashed or arrows) and 2 basic shapes (organic- free-flowing & found in nature- and geometric- that look like they were made by a ruler). In creating a zentangle piece, you work with movement, pattern, contrast, and variety.

Guided Practice/Steps:

  • Choose your paper and select a leaf. Make sure that you are working on a firm, flat surface. Trace the outline of your leaf carefully, trying not to move it.

  • You can trace it with a pencil first and then go over with a black marker/sharpie or just outline with the marker. Once you’re done tracing the leaf, lift it off and take a look at your outline.

  • Decide where you would like to start and how you’d like to divide the space within the leaf.

  • Practice first on scrap paper creating the patterns you’re most comfortable with; orbs, repeating swirls, curved lines, dashes, dots of varying sizes, etc. You can then experiment with other types of lines and shapes.

  • When ready to begin, divide the leaf into sections (depending on the size of your outline) and begin. Make sure you fill-up the space with the pattern you chose. Depending on the pattern you create, it may start to look a bit like an optical illusion.

  • Take your time and don’t rush; this is a way of creating art that helps to unwind. There are no mistakes.

Extension & Experimentation: Experiment with different patterns; look at size and proportion, relative thickness, and width of lines and shapes. The “flow” of lines…do they have rhythm and seem to move? Or, are they static and still? Are some lines more calming? Are others more “energetic” (zigzag pattern)? Color in some orbs, creating more contrast. Use fine point markers…experiment with adding circles within circles. Think about colors you may want to add after your patterns are completed. Think about how you can add words to a design. Try outlining 2 different leaves and creating different patterns in each…one with more action and movement and the other more calming and still. What lines would you use to communicate that? There are tons of possibilities. Use what you want and feels right.

CLOSING

Ask and discuss: How are you feeling while working on your patterns:

  1. Does this shape or line feel “right”? b. Which lines and shapes are you preferring?

  2. Why do you think those are more comfortable for you?

  3. Does the leaf you chose work with the design and pattern?

  4. What emotions are the lines and shapes transmitting?

Keywords and Glossary

Zentangle

A purposeful type of meditative drawing utilizing intertwining and repetitive patterns to create an image (usually abstract)


Abstract

A departure from reality in depiction of imagery in art; not easily recognizable or realistic.


Patterns

A visual element that is repeated in art.; a repeated decorative design.


Space

The distance between, around, above, below, and within things. There 2 types of space: positive and negative. In zentangles, positive space is usually white and negative space is black.


Shape

Shapes are areas clearly set off by one or more elements. Shapes have 2 dimensions: length and width. There are 2 basic types:

  • Organic- A free-flowing shape usually found in nature. Sometimes these shapes are called free-form shapes.

  • Geometric- A type of shape that looks like they were made with a tool like a ruler. Usually made of straight lines, but some can look curvy like circles and ovals. There are 6 basic types of geometric shapes: squares, rectangles, triangles, polygons, circles, and oval.


Video Links and Tutorials

Zentangle Series for Beginners

Advanced Zentangle Art and Doodle Patterns





In-Home Projects

Leaf Rubbings and Zentangle Art:




Create a mixed media art piece by combining leaf rubbings (frottage) with a “leaf” inspired zentangle. Click here to learn how.



EXAMPLES





Lesson 3: SOLAR PRINTS


Objective: Create solar paper art (“printing” with the Sun), using items collected from the day’s nature walk. Look at shape, space, and line- 3 of the 7 elements of art.

Material Needed: Solar print paper, Clipboard, Nature items that were collected earlier, Plastic bowl or container that will fit your solar paper, Water (to rinse off the paper), and Paper towels

Pre-Prep: Collect a variety of leaves, flowers, twigs, and grass without causing damage to local flora & fauna (nature & wildlife). Have solar print paper ready (keep closed in the package until you are ready to “print”). Have your clipboard on hand or find a flat, clean surface.


Getting Started

Opening: Look around your surroundings and begin collecting interesting items that you’d like to use in your print. Look for interesting shapes and varying sizes. Think about how items will be placed on your paper, its composition, and the outline of the items you choose. Make sure all items fit and try not to overlap them.

Intro to New Material: Solar print paper, or “Sun” paper is a pre-treated light-sensitive paper that results in a blueprint by using a photographic process that works by exposing the chemicals to sunlight. Also called a cyanotype, the process was developed in 1842. Originally, it was used to copy notes and diagrams and then became a popular, cheap, and easy way of making copies of drawings. The outcome results in a blueprint.

Guided Practice/Steps:


  • You need to work carefully and quickly. Since you need sunlight for the process to occur, you will need to work outside.

  • Collect and choose items. Decide how you’d like to place them on your paper (composition). Work on a flat surface (clipboard, flat, smooth cardboard, or flat, clean ground).

  • When you’re ready, remove the solar paper sheets from their package (only take each out as needed-don’t remove them all or you run the risk of exposing them), place on the flat surface and lay your items on the paper.

  • Once you place them down, press lightly (ensuring they’re flat) and do not move them. This works best on a day that’s sunny and not windy. By placing objects on the paper and exposing it to the sun, the paper will start to undergo a chemical change. Don’t lift the objects to check….if working, you’ll notice the lighter, sun-exposed areas turn blue, and the blue areas turn white.

  • This is the final stage of the chemical reaction. If under direct sunlight, your print will be ready within 2-5 minutes. If cloudy, you may have to wait 7-15 minutes.

  • When ready, remove your objects and submerge the paper in a bowl or container of water, rinsing for up to 60 seconds (your design should start to appear). Once you place the paper in water, it stops developing.

  • Remove from water and lay flat to dry, on top of paper towels. Once done, you can weigh the print down between some heavy books to flatten or carefully “iron” for a couple of seconds on a low setting.

Extension & Experimentation: You can create botanical prints by using items found in nature (leaves & flowers). You can also mix the nature items you found with other everyday objects to create a more abstract image. Think creatively how items and their shapes can recreate other objects (i.e., a coin can look like a moon, a twig-like a bare tree, pieces of torn paper can simulate a mountain range). Think about how you can strategically place them on the paper to translate that image.

CLOSING

Ask and discuss: Use your magnifying glass to examine and compare the rubbings to the actual leaves:

  1. Do you want to use a single object and highlight its shape?

  2. If using several items, how will their placement and composition affect the outcome?

  3. What design do you want to create?

  4. Do you want the images to look more realistic? or do you want to create a picture using different items”?

  5. What other objects can you get creative with when creating your solar print?

  6. What would happen if you smeared sunscreen on the solar paper?

Keywords and Glossary

PRINT

In art, a picture or design printed from a block or plate or copied from a painting by photography.

Cyanotype

A photographic blueprint. This printing process has been in use since 1842, It produces a cyan-blue print using chemicals, and their exposure to sunlight, to create prints.

Cyanotyping

The process involves treating paper with a solution of potassium ferricyanide and ferric ammonium citrate to create solar prints. Solar printing paper already comes pre-treated.

Solar printing paper

Light-sensitive paper that is already pre-treated with chemicals to recreate cyanotyping and result in “blueprints”.

Ferric Ferrocyanide

A synthetic dark blue pigment; also known in art as the color Prussian Blue. Used in blueprints.

Video Links and Tutorials

How to Create a Solar Print (using pre-treated paper):







Easy- Develop a Print Using the Sun (with pre-treated paper):









In-Home Projects

Make “Skeleton” Leaves

Create a transparent or “skeleton” leaves by removing the leaf tissue without damaging the leaf’s veins. Click here to learn how.

VIDEO TUTORIAL: How to create “skeleton” leaves at home (long-term project):

SKELETAL LEAF PROCESS:

“Hammered” Leaves and Flowers Art

Learn more by Clicking Here.

Hammered Technique- Leaf “Prints” on Cloth:


Otha Caldwell

My favorite NYC bird is the cardinal. Which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.




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