Saturday, December 27, 2014

Snowy Pine Trees Framing the Watercolor Aurora Borealis Sky: Paper Craft

This is the forth installation in my watercolor aurora borealis, northern lights, series.

The first was Simple Craft: Little House in a Watercolor Aurora Borealis where I detailed all the steps and created my watercolor northern lights backgrounds.

These trees are the  forth out of series of five, so here they are: the snowy pine trees.

This is the watercolor background I started with.

Northern Lights Background

I thought the green pine trees would be a nice contrast to the red shooting up from the middle of the sky.

Set up of the pine trees

Having the tree bursting out of the boundary of the sky, I thought, gave the feel of their nearness bringing us into the picture.

I used:

  • white printer paper for the snow
  • brown construction paper for the tree trunks
  • green construction paper for the branches
  • one cotton ball for the snow on the branches
I cut out

  1. the snow 
  2. a short thin brown rectangle for the little pine tree's trunk
  3. a larger, thicker brown rectangle for the larger pine tree's trunk

Snow and Tree Trunks

Don't do any gluing yet, so you can move the pieces if you want.
Making the Large Pine Tree Branches
 Take a sheet of green construction paper. Place it in front of you lengthwise and fold the bottom right hand corner up to the top edge of the paper making a triangle.

First Fold: Making a Triangle

 Cut off the extra paper not part of the triangle.

Cut of the Extra

Fold the triangle a second time bringing the bottom left corner up to the top right corner.

Second Fold

Cut along each fold so that you have four very large triangles.

Four very Large Triangles

Take the top two triangles and fold the bottom corner up to the top.

Two very Large Triangles, Folded

Cut along the fold of these triangles so they become four large instead of very large triangles.

Cut along the Fold

Now you have the branches of the large pine tree.

Place these large triangle--branches--on to the large tree trunk.

Placing Branches on the Large Tree--One

Placing Branches on the Large Tree--Two

Placing Branches on the Large Tree--Three

Placing Branches on the Large Tree--Four

So now we have the large pine tree in it's place but not glued on yet.

Next is the Branches for the Little Pine Tree
One very large triangle will become all of the little pine branches.

One Very Large Triangle

Fold it in half.

Fold the Very Large Triangle in Half

And then again.

Fold the Very Large Triangle in Half a Second Time

Cut along the folds, and you'll have four small triangles.

Four Small Triangles for the Small Pine Tree Branches

Place the little pine tree's branches on the same way you did for the large pine tree.

Little Pine Tree's Branches Placed On

Now you can glue all these pieces on in the same order we created them:
  1. snow
  2. tree trunks
  3. branches, from the bottom up
I like to use a cotton swab dipped into a small puddle of glue and sparingly applying the glue with the swab to the edges of each piece.

Apply a thin line of glue along the sides and bottom edges of the snow.

I didn't put glue along the top edge of the snow, so I could tuck the tree trunks in more easily. 
I finally decided this was easier than loosely gluing the top edge of the snow as I did in the other aurora borealis watercolor crafts in this series.

Putting Glue on the Trunks

Starting to Glue on the Branches

Oops--I put glue on the corner of the branch hanging off the edge of the background.

Next time I won't put glue on that corner.

Almost finished gluing on the Branches

Trees Glued On

Now that the trees are glued on, we can stretch out a little cotton for the snow.

First put a line of glue along the branch, and then put the stretched cotton on top.

Apply Glue for Snowy Branches

Stretching the Cotton over the Glue for the Snowy Branches

Cotton all glued on.

Snowy Pine Trees Framing the Aurora Borealis

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Paper Mache Recycle Bin: First Coat

Here's a craft to recycle Christmas paper by making a recycle bin with it.

You can find the other layers here:
Paper Mache Bin: Second Coat with Wide Strips of Newspaper (Update March 7, 2015)
Paper Mache Recycle Bin: Third Coat with Small Pieces of Torn Christmas Wrapping Paper (Update March 7, 2015)

Here's the finished bin:
Paper Mache Recycle Bin: Lettering (Update March 11, 2015)

I'm going to do this over three or four different posts, so this is only the beginning. What you see in the pictures here is the progress I made yesterday. Since it was difficult to cover the bottom, I'll do that later today because it is much easier to work with now that the sides are pretty dry. I may even wait until tomorrow to do the bottom because it is not absolutely bone dry yet.

This is the thing about this craft. It's work intensive, and family members tend to like to wait until the last coat to join in the decorating fun. If you can make a party of it, it could go pretty fast. It took me almost two hours yesterday to do most of the first coat (I still have to finish the bottom).

On the other hand, family members are looking forward to the finished product, so that's always a good sign. ; )

After I'm finished with with the very last coat using the wrapping paper, I'll use the white paper with "recycle" written on it ("Dry" is covered by the newspaper strips.) you see in the picture as a pattern for the label:

Dry Recycle
I'll cut out these letters, and Mod Podge them on to the side of the bin, Then I'll use one of the selections of wrapping paper that stands out to tear into little pieces and stick them over the letters. This what I have planned anyway. We'll see how it goes.

I'm hoping this craft will be a nice little container to carry paper, cardboard and plastic products out to be recycled. I'm designating it only for dry recyclables since I've chosen to use Mod Podge Matte-Mat-Mate with no other sealants. You could use white glue in the same way. It's less expensive and less smelly, but have good memories working with Mod Podge as a kid, so I thought I'd try it.

Materials for the recycle bin

Putting on the strips

  • a doubled paper bag with handles
  • torn up newspaper
  • non-toxic Mod Podge or white glue and equal part water
  • plastic container at least 4 inches in diameter to dip strips into the glue and water
  • white paper
  • marker

After mixing equal parts water and glue (or mod podge, dip the strips in one by one and smooth over the whole bag, inside and out, including handles.

First coat done

Put the bin aside to dry on a small pile of clean newspaper. No problem if newspaper sticks to the bottom because it is easy to tear it off or smooth it over with Mod Podge later.

When I was finished with the first coat, the container was very floppy. So as it dried, I adjusted it to the shape I wanted.

I'm estimating three coats of newspaper before applying the wrapping paper. It'll take about two days for the bin to dry between coats, and it seems the bottom needs to be done the day after that coat is applied. I wrapped some of the strips around to the bottom, but it is much easier today to fill in what I missed on the bottom yesterday. 

Update March 5, 2015
I finally put on the second layer of newspaper:
Paper Mache Recycle Bin: Second Coat with Wide Strips of Newspaper

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Reindeer Against the Watercolor Northern Lights Sky

This craft uses a watercolor background I made in a  Simple Craft: Little House in a Watercolor Aurora Borealis which has all the details.

Watercolor Craft: Little Igloo Under the Northern Lights is also a follow up from the Little House but is more similar to the reindeer craft here in that it has only two cut out pieces in the foreground.

Here's the background I chose for the reindeer.

Watercolor northern lights for a background

Then I cut out some snow and sketched a reindeer and cut it out too.
Here's the parts all put together, just glue them all on

Reindeer in the snow for the foreground

I got the idea of this particular reindeer from an old Reader's Digest I had in my cabinet near the Alaska postcards. On page 108 of Dec 2010/Jan 2011 is a picture of reindeer as an introduction to the article "Reindeer Country." I liked the sweet face of the reindeer closest to the camera and tried to sketch it, but the picture cut off part of it's body and I had to use my imagination. So I went on a hunt for children's books with good reindeer pictures.

The best I found is Ted Lewin's The Reindeer People (1994). His illustrations are from his paintings.

I also found a nice picture of "Santa Claus and his reindeer" on page 62 of Culture of the World: Sweden by Delice Gan and Leslie Jermyn (2003).

So if you are up to a free hand sketch, these pictures will give you a good idea of what real reindeer look like.

Back to Ted Lewin's book. I was happy to find his painting of the northern lights with a Lavu, which he explains is a herding tent of the Sami also known as Lapp people. His painting is a much lovelier example of northern lights in watercolor than mine.  :)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Watercolor Craft: Little Igloo Under the Northern Lights

Out of my artistic attempts at the aurora borealis from the last craft: Simple Craft: Little House in a Watercolor Aurora Borealis (in which I give much more detail about these aurora borealis crafts), I chose this one:

Watercolor Northern Lights

Then I cut out snow and an igloo, drawing snow bricks on the igloo with a pencil.

Placing the igloo and the snow

Next I put a little clear glue on a paper napkin and applied the glue with a cotton swab to both the snow and the igloo at the same time.

Apply the glue to both pieces at once

I placed the snow on the background first leaving the top edge turned back just a bit, so I could slip the bottom of the igloo under it.

Gluing on snow and igloo

When I had both pieces in the places I wanted, I smoothed the edges over.

Finished Igloo in the Snow Under the Northern Lights

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Simple Craft: Little House in a Watercolor Aurora Borealis

This little house could belong to one of Santa's elves and so turn into a Christmas craft, or it could simply celebrate such beautiful and unique natural phenomena we have on this earth of ours.

After looking at pictures of the aurora borealis in post cards I have from Alaska put out by Accent Alaska and in Donna Walsh Shepherd's book of Light Shows in the Night Sky Auroras, I attempted similar skies in watercolor.

Humble beginnings of four future crafts

Updates of these watercolors: 
The bottom left watercolor became: Watercolor Craft: Little Igloo Under the Northern Lights  (Dec. 16th).
The top left watercolor became: Reindeer Against the Watercolor Northern Lights Sky (Dec. 20th).
The bottom left watercolor became: Snowy Pine Trees Framing the Watercolor Aurora Borealis Sky: Paper Craft (Dec. 27th)

If you check out and search northern lights, you'll find impressive photos of auroras so fabulous you won't want to take second look at my creative interpretations here. I myself felt like throwing them out except that the beauty of watercolor skies is that the foreground can make all the difference and complement the colors as to make attractive what at first may have seemed to have very little potential. Above, again, then is the humble beginnings of what turned out to be future crafts.

Below is the background, not pictured above, I chose for the little house in the aurora borealis craft.

Little House background

Watercolor skies are great crafts for all ages and abilities as it's all in what you do with it, and how you decide to view it.

The northern lights are so varied, that each artist has so much room to let his or her imagination run wild. Donna Walsh Shepherd's little book is rich in essential facts about this phenomenon and it is from her that I learned southern and northern lights can reflect each other. It's a book older children could read themselves. For me it's a quick read with enough detail to accurately help me understand these unique lights.

I love combining learning and crafting.

Now back to the craft.


  • 2 sheets of letter size printer paper
  • 1 sheet of red construction paper
  • 1 sheet of brown construction paper
  • 1 sheet of yellow construction paper
  • 1 cotton ball
  • watercolor paints and brush
  • glue
  • scissors
  • and a ruler if you want straight lines ( I don't always use one.)
This is a craft that I like to do a lot of estimating and playing with pieces and placement.

I've put my little house in the snow. Since I used white 8 1/2 x 11 letter size printer paper for the background, it was easy to take another sheet and to cut a wavy line about 2 inches up from the bottom for the snow.

Snow on the ground

It fits nicely along the bottom of the watercolor background.

Just place it --the snow-- on without gluing it yet.

For this craft, I like to cut out all the pieces first before gluing, so I can make adjustments as needed.

After cutting out the snow, I cut a square out of red construction paper about the size I wanted my house.

Red base of house

I tucked the square under the snow--again only placing on the background without gluing--to see if it was the size I wanted.

Next, I placed a piece of brown paper on the top of the red square and marked how large I wanted to make the triangle for the roof. 

Brown triangle roof topping the red square

Then I cut out the door from brown paper and a knob from red paper, and put them both in their place.

Door and knob

Next I chose the windows to be yellow paper to give a warm glow for the inside. I also used a brown marker to add the look of wooden frames into the panes.

Windows with marker frames

Almost finished, I cut a small rectangle out of red construction paper.

Rectangle for the chimney

and tucked it into the top of the roof.

The chimney all tucked in

Last I stretched out a small portion of a cotton ball and tucked it into the top of the chimney for the smoke rising up out of the fire in the fireplace of the cozy little house.

Smoke out of the chimney

After I was happy with the size and placement of all the pieces, I glued them all on , putting a small puddle of glue on a scrap of paper and dipping a cotton swab into the glue to run across the edges of each piece of the picture.

The order I glued the pieces on is the same as the order I used to cut them out: 1. snow, 2. red base of house, 3. triangle of the roof, 4. door and knob, 5 windows, 6. chimney, 7. smoke.

Apply glue with a cotton swab to the back edges of the snow first

Glue on pieces in the same order as they were cut out

Since all the gluing is done at once, it's easy to tuck pieces under one another as long as you leave the edges loose. That is, don't smooth all the edges down after gluing them in place. Wait until all the pieces are exactly where you want them before smoothing all edges over and sealing them down.

Leave the edges loose to easily tuck under other pieces

To  attach the chimney smoke, put the glue on the background instead of the cotton, so the cotton swab doesn't get stuck to the cotton smoke and tear it all apart.

Little House in a Watercolor Aurora Borealis Finished