Posted by Stephanie Campbell on 12th Oct 2022

Sketchbook: Printing With Leaves

Sketchbook: Printing With Leaves

Reconnecting with nature is my go-to when overcoming a creative block. Some might see it as obvious or uninspired to use leaves as a subject, however for me, choosing which leaves to pick up from the ground and create block-printed records from holds a much deeper meaning.

Trees fascinate me; their antiquity, grandeur and resilience to all kinds of external factors leaves me in awe. Walking among them, I feel I am in the presence of something far greater than I.

I have recently been reading up on the works of Tolkien and his own affinity to trees. From one of his letters, Tolkien writes, 'I am (obviously) much in love with plants and above all trees, and always have been; and I find human maltreatment of them as hard to bear as some find ill-treatment of animals.' A message as important 100 years ago as it is today.

And as most of us know, trees play a huge role in Tolkien's greatest works, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, featured most commonly known as Ents fighting back against the evils threatening them, as well as the two trees of Valinor that bring light and life to the Elves (plus many, many more important roles). There's also Leaf by Niggle, an allegorical short story about Tolkien's own creative process portrayed as an intensely detailed painting of a tree.

As I walked around Malvern Common searching for leaves to use, I chose them only from the ground where they lay, in thoughtful respect of nature and how it gives to us in such abundance that too easily gets overlooked.

I brought them home to my studio, rolled them with ink and pressed each leaf into cartridge paper to leave a permanent imprint. After scanning them in, I worked further into them with digital painting techniques to create the effect of resist transfer printing mixed with the original block prints.

Here are two of my resulting designs:

I love the rustic texture the block prints create, and the silhouettes of each recorded leaf. For me, I remember where I picked each one up from the ground, and so this design brings to mind vivid memories for me that no one can ever take away - meanwhile I hope it can invoke memory for you also, on any outdoor adventures you've been on.

Best wishes,

Steph x

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