Valentines Day is almost here–time to make cards! I’ve always preferred hand-made cards to purchased ones, and I prefer cards that are a little different. Most of all, I like original art–pieces I think up and make myself. It’s a little harder than assembling cards, but it’s more satisfying as well.
In this case, the cards are green. Not just the color, but the pieces are cut from watercolors that didn’t work out. Watercolor paper is expensive and recycling it for cards is a good way to save paper and money.
Steps to make Valentine Tree card:
1. Choose a good quality watercolor paper. Cheap paper will curl and fold, and won’t look like a card. I used 140-pound cold press Arches paper. I work small size pieces, so I purchased a 9 x 12 block, folded it once to 4.5″ x 12 inches and cut it in half so I had two cards 4.5″ x 6″. I trimmed a bit more off to make the top (where it came off the block) smooth.
2. Using a #6 watercolor brush, I applied a blue wash over the top two-thirds of the card. You want the wash to be uneven, it gives a more interesting background. You do not need to be a watercolor expert, or even talented, to get it right. Apply a green wash on the bottom third. I tilted my paper too much and got a lighter spot. This actually adds visual interest. Dry the piece of paper completely.
3. Paint another piece of paper with a green wash. You want to get different shades of green into the piece, so don’t be shy using and mixing color. Let it dry before cutting.
In my case, I took a disaster painting that had green in it and used it. Cut out hearts freehand. You want them to be different sizes and shapes.
Tip: You can probably cut out half a heart shape well, but not the other half. Me, too. So I cut out half, then turn the paper over, and can do the “better half” again, creating a pretty good heart.
4. Paint a heavy piece of paper in red watercolor. You can also use acrylic for a different effect. But make sure it’s very red. No pastels here. Let it dry completely. Cut out a fat heart shape, slightly larger than any of the others.
5. Using an HB pencil, lightly draw a tree shape starting about an inch from the bottom of the card, in the center of the card front, over the green wash, reaching into the blue wash. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as you will cover most of it with leaves.
6. Using lots of watercolor on an almost dry brush, paint in the trunk. Use several colors of brown, starting with the palest and working toward black. Let each layer dry, or use a hair dryer carefully to dry the paint. The darker the color, the less you use. Let dry.
7. Arrange the green hearts over the branches of your tree. Using a cheap watercolor brush, put a dot of glue on the card and a dot on the heart and glue each heart down. You want a mix of sizes and colors, and you want the hearts to overlap in places. Put the red heart in a prominent place and let one or two other overlap it slightly.
8. It’s fine if some of the hearts stick out over the edge. When the glue is dry, trim the pieces that extend beyond the edge off.
9. When the glue is dry, put the card between two pieces of wax paper and press it between heavy books overnight. You can either make and envelope or simply buy one that is a bit larger than the card.
10. To make an envelope, trace around the card, leaving about 1/4 inch of space around it. Over the center of each side put a dot about three inches up. Draw a line from the dot to each corner of the outline. Before you cut, make sure the flaps will cover the card completely. Adjust as necessary.
You can also purchase mailers or save envelopes from cards sets that left you with a spare envelope.
Write a message inside that links the illustration with a loving thought.
Your love brightens my life
Your love is special to me
In the world of love, yours is unique
Your love is the one I pick
–Quinn McDonald is a raw-art journal keeper.
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