A crayon rubbing of a leaf has been given a light colour wash with blue water paint

Leaf Ghosts

Caitlin Howells, Visual art

A simple experimental activity to re-acquaint yourself with some favourite trees in your village (or befriend some new ones) set by Caitlin Howells. Not only is it a great way to spend some relaxing time alone, but is also ideal for working collaboratively with young friends or relatives.

A collection of leaves, coloured crayons and a blank piece of white paper

You will need: –
Paper Crayons (peel off the paper if they have it)
Bluetac or masking tape to hold the paper still (not essential if you are careful)
A flat space to work on.

Optional extras: –
Watercolour or other water bars, paint or ink
Brush or sponge
Music you love – drawing to music is always a pleasure in itself.

1. Take a stroll to look at some of your favourite trees and hedges in your village or garden. As you admire them, collect a selection of leaves from them (as the old folklore says, always ask the tree first).

2. When you return home, take a good look at all the leaves, all their details, differences and similarities. Give them a sniff!

3. Put them upside down on the table, veiny underside upward. You can either arrange all your leaves into a composition for rubbing, or rub individual leaves on small pieces of paper to form a set or triptych.

4. Tape or blue tack your paper over your leaf or leaves to keep it in place.

5. Make sure that any paper wrapping around the crayon is removed and then, using the side of the crayon, start rubbing gently over the leaf; as you slowly add pressure more ghostly leaf details will appear. It doesn’t matter if you go over the sides of the leaves.

6. Try different arrangements and colours on different papers and see what pleases you most.

7. If you wish to extend this activity you can do a wash of watery water colour paint or other watered down paint over the leaf rubbing, or the whole paper.

Experiment with cutting up your leaves and sticking them together or onto card to create simple collages or greetings cards.

Or look for other things to take rubbings from and add these to your work. I found our collection of old and foreign coins and got excited about taking rubbings from them with pencils.

The sky is the limit, I hope you enjoy experimenting and I look forward to seeing them – please do send in photos of your leaf ghosts to us – all the details are below. Have a lovely, safe, summer, Caitlin

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