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Print an Imaginary Tree

Abel Rodríguez spent many years observing nature, until he had memorized what the plants around him looked like. In the drawing you see here, he combined many different kinds of plants, which he saw in nature, into one big, imaginary tree.


In this activity, we’re going to combine elements of nature with our imaginations. Instead of drawing plants from memory, like Abel Rodríguez does, we’re going to use real plants from our own natural environments. Using these plants as a tool for printmaking, we’re going to combine the individual plants into one imaginary tree.

Scroll down for a video tutorial on how to do this project!

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Courtesy of the artist and Instituto de Visión


To do this activity, you will need:

  • Tempera paint (a few different colors)

  • Paintbrush

  • Water

  • Paper

  • A pencil, marker, or crayon (optional)

  • A collection of plant pieces gathered from outside

Collecting plants:

Take a walk and look around you, noticing all the different plants you see. Look up at the sky, to notice the leaves of the trees, and down at the ground, to see how roots, grasses and smaller plants are growing. Are any creatures interacting with the plants you notice? Have you seen any of these plants before? Do you know the names of any of these plants? Collect a few different parts of the plants you see, to take home with you. Pay special attention to texture – leaves with patterns on their surface work best. A good number is anywhere from 5 to 10 different plant pieces. 


Once you’ve found your treasures, bring them back to your art-making station. Take a moment to look at the things you found. What is special about each thing you found? Are any of the things you found from the same plant? Are any of the colors similar or different? What kinds of textures do you notice?


Now it’s time to use these plants to create your work of art, so gather your supplies!

Creating a tree: 

1. Use a pencil, crayon, marker, or paint to create a trunk for your tree. It can be any kind of trunk – wide or thin, wiggly or straight. 

2. Apply a thin layer of paint to one of your plants, and press it into the space above the trunk. Make sure to press onto all the different parts of the plant, smoothing it into the paper. Using different colors of paint and different parts of your plants, fill in the leaves and branches of your tree. 


3. Once the paint has dried, you can use pencils or markers to add any details you’d like. Do any birds live in your tree? Does any fruit grow there? What creatures live around the base of the tree? If you remember details from your nature walk, you can use those as inspiration. You can also use your imagination to make something up!

4. Finally, think of a name for your tree. Abel Rodríguez named his tree “The Tree of Life and Abundance.” What kinds of things would you want to grow from your tree? What do you think the world needs right now? What does your imaginary tree produce for the world around it? Carefully write the name of your tree somewhere on your finished work of art. 


Watch the instructions for the project:

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