Frequently Asked Questions
Will the leaf decay?
In short—no! I dry and preserve these leaves prior to prepping them for painting. There’s something magic about this process—being able to stop something from decaying, and give it new life.
People have been drying and saving sentimental flowers and plants for centuries. The oldest dried plants were found intact in a Roman tomb--over 2000 years old!
How do you choose a leaf to paint?
In general, I’m looking for leaves that have a broad, smooth surface that will accentuate my composition. I’m also looking for leaves that will press well—some species result in a smoother painting surface than others.
How do you preserve your leaves?
While the leaf is still fresh, I press it—with enough weight to keep the leaf totally flat, but not enough that air doesn’t pass through. Decay needs moisture—so removing it all interrupts that process. The amount of time a leaf needs to dry varies, but it’s typically ready at around 3 weeks. The dried leaf can then be prepped with gesso, and painted!
(Note: While this isn’t a concern for my work, I wanted to mention that this method does not preserve the color of the leaf. In general, dried botanicals will lose color as they are exposed to UV light.)
How do you not tear the leaf while painting?
The thing is—I do! I’ve chosen an incredibly fragile canvas, and it’s taken a lot of torn leaves to develop a successful method. In general, a delicate hand, lots of patience, and moving along the veins of the leaf are the keys!
How do you protect the finished painting?
After the finished painting has had time to fully cure, I go back in and coat the back of the leaf with layer of sealant. Once that’s dry, the leaf has been sealed off from air and moisture. Then, they’re mounted on linen-wrapped boards and framed behind shatter-proof acrylic. The finished product is just as durable as any piece of fine art!
A passing viewer once told me “it’s like God gives you a leaf, and you’re giving it back,” and I wish I could tell them how that stuck with me. Working with real leaves feels like collaborating with the forest itself—borrowing material from the tree, rather than taking it in its entirety. I’m enamored by the idea of taking what would otherwise decay and make it timeless—taking stories, memories, and precious places and immortalizing them on a canvas grown from the very soil of that moment.
How did you start painting leaves?
It all started with a ginkgo tree, back in 2018! There was a gorgeous ginkgo tree I walked by on my way to class every day as a college student. I’d never seen one before, and fell in love with that tree. When it dropped its leaves that fall, I pressed as many as I could in my sketchbook. I had been experimenting with other natural materials as canvas at the time (feathers, stones, seashells, and more), so they were soon to become my next experiment. After those first few paintings, they stuck with me—they’ve been my favorite canvas ever since!