Posted by: bluelanternstudio | October 5, 2011

How to make art directly from nature

As an urban environmentalist and artist, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much nature is present in the city. If you look closely enough, you’ll see it everywhere even though the dominant landscape is made of concrete, asphalt and glass. Under those layers, seeping up through the cracks, and flying around us are grass, trees, native plants and flowers, insects and birds.

I found a great book at the library called “Nature Printing” by Laura Donnelly Bethmann and have been using it as my guide.

First I went on a nature walk with my son. Really, all we did was walk from our home in a neighbourhood just east of downtown Vancouver to my studio, 10 minutes by foot away. In that short walk, I was frankly astonished by the variety of natural materials we found: three varieties of pine cone, crow and seagull feathers, and myriad leaves, stems and flowers.

Once at my studio, we took a huge old dictionary and pressed the flat items within its pages, using playing cards as page markers. I stacked a bunch of art books on top to add weight to the press.

Then, using tips from the book, we began printing. Bethmann provides great tips on how to roll water-based printmaking ink onto leaves and feathers (just move in one direction and use thin layers). When you lay the inked item down on the paper for printing, cover the back with sheet of paper from the recycling to soak up the extra ink that seeps through the fibers. This keeps your fingers and also the paper being printed on clean.

Same goes for when using a stamp pad: place the item to be printed on the stamp pad, cover it with paper and press down on the paper to pick up the ink. Remove the paper to transfer the item to where you are going to print it, then cover it again with a fresh clean paper for pressing down. The pressing is all done with your fingers.

By and large, the results were stunning and the process simple enough for my five year old. I’m inspired to do more and hope you are too!



  1. Every fall
    print themselves
    on my memory.
    Small hands
    pressing beauty
    ink onto paper

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