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Springtime Art Gardens

Meg Nicoll

This week, we explored art inspired by gardens. Gardens can take many forms: potted plants on a window sill, a carefully planted vegetable patch, or landscaped spaces in parks. The team took some time observing, researching, and imagining gardens, and used a variety of materials to create their own.Bean sprouts growing out of an egg carton.

Sara planted bean seeds in an egg carton and has been enjoying watching them grow over the course of several weeks. She thought it was incredible that each tiny seed soon produced a strong stalk and large leaves. Inspired by the beans’ growth, Sara wanted to create an artwork that showed this process in motion.  

Two images: Three pieces to the bean artwork cut out of paper. The paper stalk emerging from the top of the bean.

To create the illusion of growth, Sara decided to make separate pieces to the artwork that could be moved and layered to reveal various stages of the bean’s lifecycle. She started by finding a tall piece of computer paper, and drawing a small bean at the bottom. For the stalk, Sara cut out a thin strip of paper and used a pencil to color it green. She cut an opening at the top of the bean to allow the paper stalk to slide through and look like it is growing out of the seed. To make cuts in the middle of the paper, we always recommend folding the paper and cutting along the fold. This means you do not need a craft knife, and is safer than trying to poke the scissors through the paper.  

Two images: Paper bean artwork with stalk fully grown up and with leaves appearing after paper has moved to reveal the green leaves.

Sara cut out two leaf-shaped pieces several inches above the bean. On a separate smaller piece of paper, she used her green pencil to color in half the sheet. This separate piece then slid behind the artwork to reveal green leaves. She also added black vein lines on the leaves for more detail. 

Overhead short of an egg carton with five short pipe cleaners taped to the bottom where the eggs would have sat.

Megan found an egg carton in her recycling, and inspired by Sara’s indoor garden, she decided to create a sculpture of imaginary plants. She started by taping the ends of several short pipe cleaners into the egg carton to look like plants sprouting.  

Two images: Paper strip with a cut at the top to make two tabs folded in different directions. Side shot of the egg carton with pipe cleaners and paper stems standing up.

Megan decided to try a different way of making plants, and added more stalks by taping down pieces of cardstock with tabs at the bottom.  

Hole puncher punching into a yellow leaf-shaped paper.

Then, she cut out leaf shapes from different colored papers and drew on several of them to add texture. Using the hole punch, she made holes to thread the pipe cleaners through.  

Two images of the imaginary egg carton garden, one from the side and one overhead.

She also used some yarn and rubber bands to create leaves, and folded the pipe cleaners around them to hold in place. Finally, Megan stuffed crumpled tissue paper around the bottom of her plants to look like dirt.  

Three detailed images of different types of rock faces.

Meg was inspired by a rock garden outside. Up-close she noticed the textures of the rocks, some were bumpy and others were smooth. The rocks were many colors and had different patterns on their surfaces. 

Two images of a rock garden with plants growing between the rocks and a potential chipmunk hole.

Looking at groups of rocks from slightly further away, Meg was interested in the shapes between the rocks, and how plants were growing in these small spaces. She could even see a hole a creature had dug. Meg often sees a chipmunk on the rocks, maybe that is their home! 

Three images: A collection of torn and cut papers that look like rocks. The rocks are arranged onto a black piece of paper to make a garden. Green paper plants are added to the garden.

After closely observing outside, Meg decided to go inside and make her own rock garden out of collage papers.  She went on a scavenger hunt through old magazines to find papers with different colors, textures and patterns that reminded her of the rocks she saw.  She found papers patterned with drawn lines, truck tires, and even animal fur. She cut some rock shapes and tore others, enjoying the variety of shapes they made. Meg played with arranging her rocks on a paper before gluing down, adding paper plants between them. 

Two images: A small pile of wildflowers, seeds, and leaves. Prints made from the natural materials.

Sara was inspired by the small flowers growing in her backyard. She thought it would be interesting to try printmaking with them. Sara collected a few flowers, spinner seeds, and green leaves. She then placed the natural materials face down onto a piece of computer paper, placed another piece of paper on top and gently hammered them. When she pulled back the paper and brushed off the squished materials, she discovered that the leaves, flowers, and seeds left different impressions. 

A blue card with the wildflower-printed paper glued to the front.

Sara then cut the printed paper and glued it to a card to send to a friend. The print reminded her of the wildflower patch that she had found the materials in. 

A tree trunk with dirt at its base.

Hannah always enjoyed building fairy houses when she was a kid while her mother was working in her garden. This week she thought about what sorts of gardens a fairy would enjoy, and where to start her garden.  

Two images: A hand holding a plant showing its roots. A hand gently pulling a plant by its root ball out of the ground.

With the help of her sister Tess, she began by gathering wildflowers and stray plants from her mother’s garden. With her fingers and a small shovel, she cleared away leaves and gently loosened the dirt around the plant, making sure not to tear the roots. When Hannah replanted her flowers, she used her shovel to loosen and turn-over the soil. With her fingers, she made a hole, very gently placed the plant into the hole, and covered the roots with dirt.  

Two images of a fairy garden. A close-up on acorn cap details and on the pathway through the replanted plants.

While Hannah continued to add plants, Tess found some broken pieces of an old pot and thought they would make a lovely garden path. Once the plantings and garden path were complete, they started to add more details. Hannah placed moss in an acorn cap, thinking it would make a comfy seat. They placed small flowers in another acorn cap to make a tiny potted plant!  

If you are looking for more ideas, here are some videos about gardens and nature that have inspired us. Author/illustrator Christian Robinson has been creating a series of videos called “Making Space.” This video is all about perseverance and gardening. Author/illustrator Jarret J. Krosoczka been sharing drawing videos through his series “Draw Every Day with JJK.” Here is a video from his nature-themed week. 



Meg smiling in the Art Studio.

Meg Nicoll

Art Educator at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art from 2016 to 2023, Meg enjoys working with artists, educators, and people of all ages to create opportunities for art-making.