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Watercoloring Leaves for Memory Keeping and Mental Health

by Guest Blogger 30 Oct 2020 0 Comments

 Hey there, it’s Mark from @Menwhobullet on Instagram and Youtube. Continuing with our Fall and Autumn creativity theme, I wanted to share something that I really enjoy doing that helps both celebrate and remember seasons. When the seasons change here in the United States for me, I like to use watercolor as a way to take a moment to appreciate the change and find items to add to a memory keeping sketchbook. As the seasons change from Summer to Fall, leaves are a great visual indicator of that change. So let’s capture this moment by finding leaves to watercolor in a memory page in our watercolor sketchbook.


Archer and Olive Watercolor Notebook


Watercolor set


Watercolor brush or a water pen

Water-proof pigment liner pen


Painting is a really great exercise for mental health. By focusing on something creative, new, or specific, you forget about the other stressors happening at that time for a little bit. It also promotes creative growth through exploration and education. Watercolor has been a favorite medium of mine for a while now because of the problem solving skills that it involves. Working with a paint that loves to mix and spread creates all kinds of fun adventures.

Fall leaves on a street


To get started, the first thing you will do is go for a walk… seems a little weird, I know - but how else are you going to find your leaves? While you are walking, look around. See what different types of trees are arounds you. If it’s also Autumn in your area, take a moment to appreciate the colors and the change.

You are going to want to look for leaves that are still alive. You don’t want leaves that are dried, too curled, or crunchy. Freshly fallen or plucked from a tree will work best for this exercise. It’s best to also find different varieties, colors and shapes.

Once you have 2 or 3 leaves head back to your workspace. If you have a mobile watercolor setup, or have the ability to bring your watercolors and sketch pad with you, set up in a safe and bright space.


Take your first leaf and inspect it. Observe the shape and the edges. Look at how the veins and venules (smaller veins) branch out from the stem and run up the leaf to the tip. Admire the color of the leaf and start to think about how you might use and mix your colors to create what you are seeing.

The next step is to lightly sketch your leaf with your pencil. The easiest way to do this is to trace your leaf in your sketchbook. Your goal is to get the rough shape of the leaf. Don’t worry about it being perfect. The best thing about organic items is that they aren't perfect. Also lightly draw in the stem and the larger and smaller veins of your leaf. This doesn't need to be highly detailed, but just enough to really capture the structure of the leaf.

Once your leaf is traced on your paper, you are going to start with your watercolor. I always like to start with the first layer of watercolor as a base. Choose or mix the most common color of your leaf to paint first. Depending on your style, you can mix small amounts of color onto the wet paint to let it mix and bleed into one another, or you can wait a few minutes for the paper to dry and paint again on top of that. 

Next, add in your details to your leaf. Maybe your leaf has some small dark spots or freckles. When all of your details are added, let the paper and paint dry for a few minutes. This time might vary depending on how much water you have used.

The last step is optional, but if you’d like, you can outline your leaf and draw in the veins of your leaf with a waterproof pigment fineliner. I like to use a very small point and just lightly trace the outside of the leaf. I also like to trace the sketch lines that we drew in for the leaf as well. This makes the leaf really pop on the page and can help emphasize the shapes and special features of your leaf.

I hope that you have enjoyed this time with nature and also exploring the fun and creative exploration with using watercolor to capture the season. You could follow these same steps for any different items and for all of the seasons or even locations that you visit. Just take a look around while you are out for a walk and find little iconic items of that time or year or location you are in. Sketch and watercolor those items in a sketchbook and write a little blurb about your experience to come back to in the future to remember something special.


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