In the small coastal village in which my husband and I live, in one small street, every autumn, a young ginkgo tree flares up in an amazing display of colours. It is visible from far away and its bright yellow and soft orange nuances make me promise myself to make at least one similar branch from paper. I’m thinking, especially watercolour paper.
Watercolour paper was what I first started making paper flowers and plants from long ago. So, these days are somehow an emotional return to those first very inspiring moments full of experiments and new discoveries. In fond remembrance of that time (and also to fulfil my promise to myself) a new watercolour plant has been born.
Watercolour paper, of course. I used a 190-gsm white one, from 100% wood pulp from Born. Also, you will need watercolour or acrylic paint and markers (I used alcohol based). Also: glue (I used Tacky craft glue), thin wire (I used twist ties), scissors, pliers and a brush. Here I confess a sin – I didn’t use pliers, but one of my best paper scissors, so soon I will need to buy new ones. Nothing destroys scissors so effectively as cutting wire, even the thin wires. You will also need crepe paper in any colour and weight that you have. You will need it only for wrapping the wire and making the branch and you will colour it in brown.
So, my suggestion is, as usual, to look around at what materials you have at home and then buy new ones only if you need them. I know, craft materials are so alluring, sometimes I crave new ones like fictional vampires crave virgin blood. But I’ve found that if I’m careful to first use what I have and only buy what I need I will have more money for really exciting materials and instruments. And the best thing is this allows my imagination scope to be titillated into finding new ways of using existing materials and methods.
How to make the ginkgo leaves
The easiest way is first to draw some ginkgo leaves and cut them out. They will become your templates. I suggest drawing at least 3 different shapes – this will make your branch a lot more realistic.
Second, using these templates, outline the number of leaves you want and cut them out. Because ginkgo leaves grow in groups, consider a larger number of leaves – at least 3 for each group.
If you have no time for drawing and cutting, here are my free Cricut-friendly ginkgo templates. You will only have to colour them, which for me was the most exciting part.
free templates banner link pic
Colouring is very simple. You need only the brightest yellow in your palette plus some darker shade. I used yellow on one side of the leaf and sienna on the other to create more “volume” and nuances when the branch is ready. Leave the coloured leaves to dry a bit…
When the leaves are dry, add more shades and colours with the markers.
I drew some lines as leaf veins and some light and dark brown dots in the central area of the leaves. Normally ginkgo leaves don’t have these dots in the centre, but because these are not real, but paper leaves, I was feeling they need some extra…”something”… So, I added these dots. Of course, good quality watercolour paper already gives the leaves good texture, so if you are happy with the plain yellow, leave them that way.
Here is how my finished ginkgo leaves look.
If you like them, you can find the Cricut files in my Etsy shop with instructions on how to assemble a ginkgo branch with these files.
How to make the branch
The branch I made from twist ties and feel very happy with the way they work for me. But first I prepared some strips from very, very thin crepe paper that came from party streamers.
Then I used the twist ties to make the branch. Their specific characteristics helped me:
1. Twist two twist ties together.
2. Fold the top to make a thicker part.
3. Fold this thicker part in half, to make it even thicker.
4. Bend this thickest part to make the “bud” from where the leaves grow.
Each group of ginkgo leaves will need its own wire construction like the one shown.
After preparing all the wire elements, spiral wrap them with the crepe paper strips and glue.
How to assemble the branch
The easiest way is first to glue the chosen leaves on both sides of the “bud”…
… then wrap the “bud” with more crepe paper…
… and in the end to connect all the “bud” pieces together.
When wrapping, be careful not to tear the leaves’ stems. The leaves have only paper stems, which is why you should use good quality watercolour paper, which is tough and strong.
Colouring the watercolour ginkgo branch
This is the second last step before your ginkgo is 100% ready. Colour the branch with brown, sienna and black. Colour only the crepe paper, not the ginkgo leaves’ stems.
The most important thing is to make it mottled, not a single solid colour, to make the wood look more realistic.
Then leave the branch somewhere to let the paint dry. You can also use a hairdryer to assist drying but use it on low-speed mode to not tear the leaves.
The last step is to gently open the leaves’ stems and to arrange them in different directions.
And to put your watercolour ginkgo branch in a vase to brighten your room!
If you like working with watercolour paper, try also my Marigold flower.
Have fun and enjoy your craft time!