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Area Voices: Nature print demonstration connects science with art

Photo of nature printmaker artist Sonja Larsen holding her print of some flowers.
Sonja Larsen
Nature printmaking artist Sonja Larsen holding a print of flowers.

Sonja Larsen joined 'Area Voices' to talk about her upcoming nature printmaking demonstration at the Watermark Art Center in Bemidji.

CROSSLAKE — Nature can be its own artist. Some of the most beautiful things in the world are created naturally and Sonja Larsen is hoping to capture that beauty in her artwork.

A nature print of a yellow lady slipper
Sonja Larsen
A print of a yellow lady slipper by Sonja Larsen.

Larsen became interested in nature printmaking when she saw a fish print in someone’s office. She said she was inspired upon realizing that it was a print of an actual fish. Later, when she and her husband were fishing in the Brainerd area, he caught a bass and she wanted to try making a print with it.

“I can't remember how many bad prints I threw away, but I finally got a good one and we had it matted and framed.”

Around the same time, Larsen’s friend mentioned a fish print show at the Bell Museum in St. Paul. Larsen attended and worked with a professional printer involved with the Nature Printing Society. They hosted an annual workshop that Larsen attended for years. She has been nature printmaking ever since.

Making art with nature

Nature printmaking is taking something from nature and pressing it on paper. People can use plants, fish, seashells, feathers, birds, octopus and spider webs.

Larsen shared that at one Nature Printing Society workshop, someone was inspired to use a road-killed squirrel as a print.

Nature printmaking seemed like a natural fit for Larsen. “I can't draw. With nature printing, Mother Nature does the drawing for me and then I can create.”

Demonstrating art

Larsen will demonstrate her nature printmaking in a free class at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 11 at the Watermark Art Center. Larsen has been hosting printmaking demonstrations since the 90s. “Some people, especially kids, can learn by seeing and some by hearing. But some people need to have it under their fingers. They need to feel it.”

Not only can a workshop expose a new art form to participants, but it may help them in the future to identify plants. It’s also a special experience for Larsen. “I hope people will bring kids because I just love to let kids make a print and see the look on their face when they first see it. It's really rewarding.”

Starting out

For Larsen, nature printmaking is an easy art form to explore. She said it is inexpensive, easy, and accessible. “You can take a book and use it as a press. You don't need to invest in a press... etching press or anything like that. Weeds are free. Most of the plant leaves are free,” Larsen said. The ink can be almost any kind of ink like acrylics or oil paints. She said a cheap Crayola watercolor kit will work.

Along with the art demonstration on Saturday, May 11, Larsen has an exhibit at the Watermark Art Center featuring her nature prints called Creating Art from Nature. The exhibit will be up until June 22.

Have you created art inspired by nature? Let us know at

Tell us about upcoming arts events where you live in Northern Minnesota by emailing

Area Voices is made possible by the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.

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