Nature Printing is a relatively simple technique that offers many possibilities for artistic expression. Basically, it uses ink, paint or pigment to transfer images from nature – leaves, stone, bark, bone, flowers, et cetera – to paper, fabrics or other surfaces such as birchbark, rawhide, bone, tiles, fired clay or wood. Few art forms so subtly record the shapes and textures of natural objects, showing for example, how a leaf ‘works’ as well as its intrinsic beauty. Nature prints are life-sized and so give a true sense of structure and qualities.
The origins of nature printing are lost in time but may go back to prehistoric hands pressed into pigment and then onto the walls of a cave. Plant printing for the purpose of book illustration goes back as far as the early 1200s in Europe; Leonardo da Vinci was the best-known scientist associated with it. The Japanese then turned it into a fine art form, printing whole fish to show the beauty and integrity of their scales and fins.
A power point presentation on the history of nature printing and contemporary artistic expressions introduces the demonstration and workshop. (An optional short walk outside on selecting leaves or other materials for your artwork draws from Marilyn’s work as an ethnobotanist in Southeast Asia, northern Canada, India, Siberia and Mongolia and from her two books – Harvesting The Northern Wild and Wild Plants Of Eastern Canada.) Japanese block-printing inks are used to make the initial prints on a variety of printing surfaces. You may then work with your prints in media of your choice (acrylics, watercolours, oils, colored pencils, drawing inks, etc.)
Marilyn’s second book on ethnobotany: Wild Plants of Eastern Canada (Nimbus Press) illustrates each plant with a leaf print. She has taught workshops on nature-printing at the Salt Spring Painters Guild, at Salt Spring Elementary School, and in her ethnobotany and ecology classes at Mount Allison University, New Brunswick as a (now retired) Professor of Anthropology (www.mta.ca).
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