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Here in the last few days of January, on the other side of the solstice with light beginning to slowly inch back into our evenings, my spring daydreaming begins. It’s garden-planning time, and I spend more time than I should staring out the window picturing the backyard full of April blooms and light green leaf buds.
Earlier this winter I had the good luck of receiving an advance copy of a collection of stories by graphic designer, artist, and children’s book author Celestino Piatti. A favorite of mine for years and years for his lush illustrations and bold artwork, I’ve spent many long winter nights devouring the artful details of Piatti for Children. The beautiful layered landscapes and bold strokes Piatti used in his own art are a treasure-trove of inspiration, and for landscape-lovers in particular, you’ll find dreamy panoramas for every season!
Influenced by stories in the collection like The Happy Owls, The Little Crayfish, and The Golden Apple we made our own pastoral spring scenery that’s bursting with wonderful opportunities for mark-making exploration. Grab some paper, scour your house for a few simple but unexpected art-making tools, and join us for an artful ode to spring – Piatti style!
For more Celestino Piatti-inspired projects, visit our garden art project, or try making your own Piatti puppet theater! And I’m so pleased to share that you can now reserve your own copy of the striking collection Piatti for Children here at NorthSouth Books. Having been a young Piatti fan myself, I can say with great confidence that this one is a hands-down, guaranteed kid-pleaser.
For your own Piatti-inspired mixed media spring landscapes you’ll need:
- Cardstock or construction paper
- Scrap cardboard
- Acrylic or tempera paint and a paintbrush
- Oil Pastels
- A fork, a q-tip, or other mark-making supplies
- A glue stick
Celestino Piatti-Inspired Spring Landscape Instructions:
- Experiment with different styles of drawing trees and foliage
Celestino Piatti used many different mediums and techniques to create the wonderful varieties of trees that filled his landscapes. You can gather inspiration for your own trees by looking through his illustrations or observing the trees in your neighborhood.
For our first set of trees, we used a dry brush to paint black acrylic paint straight on the paper.
- Experiment with different mediums
If you thumb through the different stories Piatti wrote, you’ll notice that he also used many different mediums to create lush textures in his illustrations.
We found that rubbing oil pastels across our colorful papers created lovely textures, and by changing the way we used the pastel we could create different effects. Press down hard with a tip of the oil pastel for rough, defined lines and deep colors that bring out the surface of the paper. Or drag the side of the oil pastel along the paper gently for soft feathery marks.
- Cut out your trees and foliage
Trim around your painted and drawn landscape pieces.
- Add more layers of texture and try some new tools for mark-making
Celestino Piatti’s artwork features an abundance of marvelous, unique marks! Try painting, drawing, and stamping with a few things other than a brush or your typical art-making tools.
We discovered that a Q-tip dipped in paint to stamp small dots of “blooms” on our trees. And perfect tree “branches” can be printed with the use of a plastic fork.
- Paint pieces of scrap cardboard for the background
We wanted a few of our spring landscapes to be larger than a standard piece of paper, giving us more room to build our compositions. Using a foam brush and bright acrylics, we painted some scraps of cardboard in a variety of sizes.
Of course, you can use anything you prefer for the backgrounds. A large sheet of heavy cardstock, an art canvas, the side of a paper bag – it’s up to you!
- Begin building your landscape compositions
Now it’s time to begin adding the elements of your landscape to the background. Experiment with the positions of your trees and move them around until you like the composition. Do some trees look better in the background or foreground? Will you overlap a few to make a grove? Do you like the variety of colors in your landscape?
You can also experiment with adding new elements to your landscape, as we did with our torn paper pond.
- Add details to finish your artwork
Once you’ve glued all of your landscape pieces down, step back and take a look at your artwork.
We decided we wanted to add just a few more details to complete our landscapes, and used the plastic fork and q-tip to create some grass and flowers that pulled our spring scenes together.
The very last step is to decide how you’d like to display your beautiful spring artwork. We created frames for our landscapes using more leftover cardboard, but you can leave yours as they are, or glue ribbon or copper craft wire to the back to create picture hangers.
Though our landscapes celebrate spring, this is a project you can revisit EVERY season.
The gorgeous Piatti for Children is available to pre-order now at NorthSouth Books, and if you have little ones who adore soaking up good illustrations, or you’re simply a fan of great picture book art, I really can’t recommend it enough. With engaging tales and sumptuous illustrations (plus nice thick pages and a heavy cover that will hold up to little hands) it’s one that will find a treasured spot on the bookshelf. And as a bonus, I was so pleased to find the appendix at the end is filled with delightful biographical notes about the artist and insights into Piatti’s work.
If you’ve enjoyed making these tranquil spring scenes, stop by our torn paper landscape art project, give your art scenes a surreal twist with this fantasy landscape collage tutorial, create interactive 2-D terrain with this memory map activity, or build a backdrop for creative play with our recycled cardboard city landscape book DIY.