Use Real Leaves to Create an Elegant Pattern with Black Ink or Watercolor | Sarah Van Der Linden | Skillshare

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Use Real Leaves to Create an Elegant Pattern with Black Ink or Watercolor

teacher avatar Sarah Van Der Linden, watercolor artist & nature enthusiast

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. intro

    • 2. supplies

    • 3. gathering inspiration

    • 4. experimenting with texture

    • 5. sketching the pattern

    • 6. painting the leaves

    • 7. other ideas

    • 8. project time

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About This Class

Nature is a great source of inspiration and I always go outside when I want to clear my head and find new ideas. Leaves are everywhere, in gardens, forests, parks, growing through concrete in cities, they are the living proof that you can find bits of nature in many places. I always like to gather leaves, especially during fall, but also when I discover a new variety with an interesting shape that I did not know about.


In this fun class, I will share :

  • how to sketch a pattern using real leaves
  • what supplies to use
  • how to create beautiful textures with material you probably already have on hand.

I will also show you other ideas to use this technique, you will see that there are infinite possibilities once you’ve learnt the basics.

This class is great for beginners, or anyone who want to explore and discover new techniques, or just want to have fun playing with textures!

You will find here my others classes about watercolor :

Meet Your Teacher

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Sarah Van Der Linden

watercolor artist & nature enthusiast


Hi there, my name is Sarah also known @mirglis on instagram. I’m a watercolor and gouache artist living in the French countryside.


I believe that nature, inspiration and imagination are deeply connected, and for me, creativity is a long road leading to a better observation and understanding of the world. I'm most myself and happier when I'm in a forest or in the middle of nowhere, and that’s why all my inspiration comes from nature. I love painting landscapes with watercolor, playing with water to create textures, and patiently adding one layer after another.


You will find here on Skillshare different classes to learn to paint landscapes with waterc... See full profile

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1. intro: Hi everyone, and welcome to my first Skillshare class about creating inelegantly spot-on with water color or ink. My name is Sarah, and I'm a watercolor artist from France. I paint blends landscapes, leaves and my inspiration comes from nature. I love going outside for a walk in the garden or in the forest because I always find new ideas for my paintings. In this class, I'm going to show you how to create a pattern using real leaves. I will cover everything from gathering inspiration to sketching and bending the leaves. I will also show you my tips to create interesting texture using ink or water color. At the end of this class, I will also show you other ways to use [inaudible] because this technique can be applied to different types. Your projects will be to create your own pattern using everything you learnt in the class. You absolutely don't need to know how to draw is a beauty of using will and imperfect leaves as a reference. This class is great for beginners or anyone who want to explore and discover new techniques or just want to have fun playing with pictures. I hope you are as excited as I am and I will see you in the first lesson. 2. supplies: First, let's talk about what tools you are going to use today. They are pretty simple and basically you can use what you have on hand. Let me show you what supplies I have at home it will give you an idea. First, you will need some watercolor paper. The brand does not matter. Then, you will need some brushes. A small one like a double zero and a bigger one. If you have an aqua brush like this one, filled with clean water, you can use it too. You will also need two draws of water, one to clean your brush and one with clear water. Then you will need some ink. It can be a cheap one like this one. It works perfectly. You can also use Indian ink, or you can use watercolor like this paints gray. You will need a pencil, an eraser, and finally, you will need some leaves, but I will talk to you more about this in the next lesson. 3. gathering inspiration: You can find some leaves pretty much everywhere, whether you live in a city or in the countryside. For this class, you will need one real leaf or more to create your button. Let me take you with me in the forest to gather some inspiration, and pick up some leaves. You can choose a leaf with a simple shape like this laurel leaf or something more original. I believe this is an awesome tree. You can see that the leaf has an interesting shape. I will recommend to use a small size because it will be easier to create the button. If you choose a big leaf, you will need a bigger sheet of paper. I often look on the ground to find some leaves that are fallen from trees. I really like oak trees because the leaves have an interesting shape, very long and curvy. You can choose different leaves on the same tree. They all look different and it will add interest to your painting. You can also look for imperfect shapes. It's totally okay if the leaf is a little bit damaged or if one part is missing. Ivy leaves are also an interesting choice because you can find them even in winter. They are everywhere where I live. In summary, go outside on a scavenger hunt to find a few small imperfect and original leaves. In the next lesson, we'll start playing with what we call [inaudible] to create beautiful and interesting textures. 4. experimenting with texture: Before we start printing the leaves, I think it would be interesting to experiment with ink, watercolor, and water. The results you obtain will be different depending on whether you wet your paper in the first place or not. The texture won't be the same if you use dark water color instead of ink and it also depends on the amount of water you use. Let me show you what I mean. You can see that I've already drawn five different rectangles and we will use each one to experiment a different texture. For this first one, I am just using clear water and I am entirely wetting my paper. I'm just drawing a rectangle with water and filling it. It looks cool like this. Now, I'm going to add ink. I'm using the cheap ink I showed you in the first video. It's the same one in the small container on the top. Just a few drop to begin. I like the effect. Now, I'm just drawing an outline. I want to see the result at the end. Carefully with ink, I'm going to add a few more drops. It looks good. This one was water first then ink. For the second one, I'm just going to invert and start with ink first. I'm just doing the same thing. I'm drawing a rectangle but I'm not filling it completely this time, because I want to let space to add water. Now, I'm adding a few drops of clear water. Just a few more. This one was ink first and then water. Now, we're just doing the same thing all over again but with watercolor instead. Like the first time, I'm just going to use clear water and draw a rectangle on the page. I'm filling it entirely. This time I'm using paint gray, a really dark color, just a few drops. Then I'm going to draw an outline. It's exactly the same thing than the first rectangle. Do not hesitate to add a lot of color, the darker the better. It seems pretty good. This one was water first and then watercolor. For our forth rectangle, I'm starting with watercolor. I'm drawing a rectangle like sequent one. Wrong container. Watercolor all the way down, but remember to let some white space this time and to not fill the whole rectangle. Now, we're adding a few drops of clear water. You can use your brush, or if you have an aqua brush like this one, you can use it too. You can see it's doing exactly the same thing. Perfect. This one was watercolor and then water. For this last one, I think we can combine everything, so watercolor, ink, and water. Let's use a time. I'm using water first. I'm filling a whole rectangle. Then I'm adding watercolor, but this time it's lighter. Let's say I'm drawing the outline. Finally some ink, a few drops on the top. You can add drops here and there to see the result. Add water just a few drops, otherwise you could obtain a huge smudge. This one was water, then water color, then ink, and water again. Now, I had to wait until the page is fully dried, and then I can compare the results and see what I prefer. You can see that it does not look the same when it's dried. When we observe it, we can see that on the first and the third one, the ink and the watercolor is going under water. But on the second and the forth, the water is pushing the watercolor and ink towards the edges. Now, just look at all the textures you created and choose which one you prefer and which one you want to use for your project. In the next lesson, I will show you how to draw the pattern using a real leaf. 5. sketching the pattern: Now the fun part begins. I decided to cut my paper in half because I want to create a small piece, but you can bet on the whole page if you prefer. I chose ivy leaves because they are very common ware leaves and they can be found even in winter. I picked up two different sizes and you can see they're pretty small. I will start my drawing in the middle of the page because it's easier to expand towards the edges than filling it to the center. I'm placing my leaf, and with my pencil, I'm going to draw around carefully. Don't press your pencil as other names the paper, am just doing it so you can see what I do. You don't need to be very precise, what's matter it's to have a rough outline of the leaves. Now I will do another one, let's say like this and you can see I'm just loosely drawing around the leaf, and don't forget the stem. Now we will be using the smaller one maybe something like this, worry not. Good. Now, another run like this. When you are placing your leaf, make sure that all the stems are going in different directions, you piece will be more interesting and powerful. You can see when I'm drawing, that it's easier to go like this, towards the edges. You can also choose to turn the leaf over, your outline will be different if you use the other side. If you are using two leaves like me, don't forget to change and use one then another, then one than another. Don't forget that your drawing do not need to be perfect. Lose shapes are more interesting because all your leaf will look a little bit different at the end. It's like they are all having their own personality. Also, turning your paper can help you. You can see if you pattern works by looking at it from different angles. If you are feeling stuck and you don't know how to go on, try to swap your leaf, turn it over, or rotate your paper and don't forget to draw on the edges only at the end. You can see that there are many possibilities. Now you have it, your own pattern using real leaves, so let's start printing. 6. painting the leaves: Let's paint some leaves. I will use my aqua brush, but remember, a brush with a jar of clean water will work exactly the same. You can choose what picture you want to create using the experiments we did earlier. I'm starting with water, I'm wetting my leaf entirely, only the leaf, not the stem. Now I'm just adding ink. I love how it tracks with water. It's already creating a lovely texture. Then I use my fan brush, and I'm carefully drawing around the edges. This is the part when I refine my line, to create a more precise outline. I will also use the fan brush to draw the stem, but only in the end, when I'm pleased with the leaf itself. I will use my aqua brush again to add some water. Just a few tiny drops, otherwise you will have a mess. Finally, I'm drawing a line for the stem. I think our first leaf is finished. Now let's start another one. Same thing as before, I'm wetting the paper with my aqua brush, and I'm adding a few drops of ink and slowly drawing around the edges. This is not the part when I'm trying to be careful, I'm just roughly creating the texture. If I want the leaves to be darker, I will add more ink. On the contrary, if I want the leaf to be paler, I will add more water. You can notice that I'm not adding ink everywhere. I try to leave some white space to add water later. Same thing as before, now, I'm using the fine brush to draw the outline. My goal is not to create a perfect shape or a perfect leaf. Create with what you have. It's great, if in the end all the leaves appear to be a little different. You can add a curve, or a dip, or just an extra detail. Now to finish, just a few drops of clear water. Like before, I'm trying to paint in the middle of the page first and then expanding towards the edges. It would also prevent me from putting my hand on wet paint. Remember, you can use the same process for all the leaves or vary a bit. For instance, instead of starting with water, start with ink or use water color instead. Now, I'm going to speed up the video a bit, because it may take quite some time to paint all these leaves. I will let it dry. Now that the ink has fully dried, you can observe the final picture and our ink and water are blending together. If you can still see pencil marks, you can carefully erase them. Then we are done. In the next video, I will show you other ways to use this technique. See you there. 7. other ideas: Now that you've learned some basics, I would like to show you other ways to use this technique by adding simple radiations or additions. In this video, I will present you four ideas all created with one simple leaf. For the first one, I'm going to show you how to overlap leaves. I'm using the same technique as before, but this time I'm using a lower leaf. First, draw the outline, and then instead of leaving some white space, I'm going to place the leaf on top of the one I just drew. I make sure that each new leaf that she's at least one other. Basically, I repeat the method until the page is filled like we did earlier. Then, take your fine brush and just draw over your pencil lines with ink. Take your time and try to draw precise lines. Usually, ink dries very quickly, so you don't have to wait before drawing the other leaves. You can also choose to paint one leaf on die early it will add contrast to your piece. Same as usual, I starts by weighting the paper with my apple brush. Then I will use my big brush to add some ink. Then I'm roughly drawing the outline with ink and not adding too much ink this time because I want to keep some transparency. I want to be able to see the other lines beneath. Finally, I'm adding a few drops of water. For the two remaining leaves, I think I'm just going to draw the outline and I think the first one is done. Now for these two, you can either use a felt pen like a micron, or you can use a small brush on this one I'm drawing an outline. This time, I don't want to draw precise line. It's perfectly okay if you don't follow exactly the edges of your leaf or if your line, is a little bit shaky. I think it adds some interesting character to this leaf. For this one, I'm just going to draw some veins. You can also try straight lines, curved lines, or whatever you want. You can see that these two ways are pretty easy, so feel free to mix and match them. For the last one, I'm going to add blue ink. I use the same brand for the black one I put some in this little container here. It's the same process, I'm starting with clear water. But this time I will add the blue ink before using the black. You can also do the contrary, It depends on which color you prefer to have on top of the user. You can also use watercolor if you want to. Now I will add the black with my fine brush because I'm going to draw the outline and the stem. If you notice that it has already started to dry add more water, but careful, not too much. It's all in finding the right balance. You have four ways to use the same technique. Feel free to add more possibilities to the list and to play with the concept. 8. project time: Your project will be to find a leaf with an interesting shape and to create your own pattern using ink or watercolor. Have fun experimenting with picture, and make sure to upload your projects in the class protect section, because I can't wait to see what you create. Thank you so much for joining me. I hope you enjoyed this class as much as I enjoyed making it. I'm really excited to see what leaves you are going to choose and what medium you will use. Have fun.