Tutorial: Painting with Natural Materials

Dandelion Art

Painting with FlowersFinally, a disposable paintbrush!

The natural materials that I’ve been using for my spring painting aren’t the kind of sustainably-harvested wood-handled, organic human hair bristle paintbrushes that you might think (and that I can’t afford).

Instead, my kiddos and I have been doing our painting (and getting some really great results) with brushes that we pick from our yard or trim from our bushes and trees. Dandelions, violets, daffodils, evergreen branches, and leaf buds can all be wielded with professional-quality paint on a professional-quality surface, to produce some professional-quality effects. Here are some things to try:

Painting with FlowersThe first thing to try with the flowers and branches that YOU collect, is stamping or printmaking. Load your flower with paint–go ahead and dip it in!–and stamp it a few times on your surface. You’ll likely be surprised at what a perfect image of the flower that you produce with practically no effort. See my dandelion and violet prints there at the left? I LOVE them!

This effect makes a really nice background print, say for fabric, but it’s absolutely perfect if you’d like to paint, say, a picture of dandelions, or violets, or whatever you have. Print that dandelion in yellow or that violet in purple, add on the leaves and stems, and you have a flower that you couldn’t recreate better by brush if you tried.

Painting with Flowers Don’t be afraid to try some experimental painting techniques with some unusual materials. My three-year-old, for instance, discovered that a small pine branch painted across a surface makes a really great splatter effect (think Jackson Pollock, but without all the angst.) And my five-year-old, lightly dabbing a dandelion across her canvas, speckled the entire surface with splashy little dots. Both techniques would produce a fabulous abstract painting, or a visually interesting background, or an easy print for fabric. Combined with other organic painting practices, we’re going to put some on small canvases to sell at our summer craft fairs.

Dandelions, violets, daffodils, evergreens, that’s what’s on tap here in the Midwest this April. What’s awesome for painting with where you live?

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Written by Julie Finn

I'm a writer, crafter, Zombie Preparedness Planner, and homeschooling momma of two kids who will hopefully someday transition into using their genius for good, not the evil machinations and mess-making in which they currently indulge. I'm interested in recycling and nature crafts, food security, STEM education, and the DIY lifestyle, however it's manifested--making myself some underwear out of T-shirts? Done it. Teaching myself guitar? Doing it right now.

Visit my blog Craft Knife for a peek at our very weird handmade homeschool life, and my etsy shop Pumpkin+Bear for a truly odd number of rainbow-themed beeswax pretties.


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  1. I really loved this idea! We gave it a shot at a recent open house, the kids loved it, and the staff and adults sort of were looking heads half cocked like “what !?!”… and then big smile. the dandelions were colorful on the table to begin with… and then all funny colorful at the end too.

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