A LOOK BACK: Leaf Print Mandalas

After college I lived in NYC for almost 10 years. Making these prints had helped me bring nature into my daily practice. I’d take walks to collect fallen leaves from the sidewalk, then bring them back to my apartment. After pressing the leaves so they’d lie flat, I rolled them up with ink and printed them on the paper. Creating compositions with radial symmetry was calming, meditative, peaceful. I recently made more leaf print mandalas from cuttings I took in my own backyard and will post them at some point soon…

White Line Woodcut

My first white line print - in progress.

My first white line print - in progress.


Just returned from our annual week-long vacation in Truro, MA, where I'd been thrilled to find a class in "White Line Woodcuts" being taught at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum during our stay. I immediately registered and I'm glad I did. The class was taught by artist Sally Brophy whose work includes white line woodcuts inspired by nature. You can see more of her prints here - my favorite is the one with mermaids, which coincidentally, I had purchased (in the form of a notecard at the Pilgrim Monument gift shop) several years previous to enrolling in her class. 

Highlights of the workshop included:

Learning the white line woodcut technique.

Seeing original white line prints from the PAAM collection by artist Blanche Lazelle and others.

Visiting the Bakker Gallery to see more prints, including an origianal Sally Brophy!

Watching the documentary "Packed in a Trunk" - which uncovers the story of artist Edith Lake Wilkinson (one of the originators of the white line technique), who was "committed to an asylum in 1924 and never heard from again". 

Working alongside classmates and seeing their work in progress.

All in all, a great experience.


Above left is the white pine wood cut to about an 8" square. Above right is the finished print.


Here's how I made this print - first, I transferred my drawing to the wood using transfer paper. Then I used an x-acto knife to cut along the lines of the drawing. Using thumbtacks, I pinned my paper to the right side border (this kept the paper out of my way when I was painting since I'm a lefty). To print, I painted watercolor onto a section of the wood up to the edges of the carved lines, then lowered the paper onto the surface of the block. To transfer the color to the paper, I rubbed the backside of the paper (in the general area where I'd just applied paint) with a spoon. I continued painting and printing until I was finished. 

Printing Leaves

I live in a small town where we're lucky enough to have our own arboretum. It's a peaceful, beautiful spot to take walks, go fishing, or have a picnic. There's rarely more than a handful of people there at a time, so it truly feels like a retreat, just minutes from the center of town.

Currently, the arboretum is attempting to raise enough funds to build an environmental education building. To show my support, I offered to make a print that can be given to people in exchange for a donation to the building fund. Although I normally make woodcut prints, I thought it would be neat to make a print from some of the plants that grow in the arboretum. Here are some photos I took while collecting and printing the clippings.

After making prints of the leaves and flowers, I scanned them and arranged them into this mandala design. Although nothing compares to the peaceful feeling gained from spending time in nature, this print can act as a reminder that nature awaits!

If you live locally (Northern NJ) and would like to make a donation to the arboretum's environmental education building fund, you can find this signed, limited edition print at The Curious Reader on Rock Road in Glen Rock, NJ.

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