This is the time of year when I always feel drawn to do a traditional Fall Leaf gourd. I had this gourd sitting in my collection for many many years without a clue on what to do with it. This year the message came through loud and clear.

“I want to be a gourd bowl for someones thanksgiving table!!”

Its a rather large gourd and I envisioned it beautifully adorned with bright fall leaves and a fall flower arraignment in the bowl.

To begin I drew overlapping oak leaves all over it. Because of the amount of leaves and because I had them all overlapping and twisting and turning, just like in nature, I would draw some and then burn them in using my Razertip wood burner and the large skew, which is my “go to” blade for just about everything.

I did not cut the top out before doing this because I was uncertain at this point what I wanted to do. When I work I do not preplan anything. I will start with an idea and let it grow from there.


Draw and woodburn your leaves

Draw and woodburn your leaves

Once I got all the leaves burned in I used the drill bit shown below, Its a Carbide Filligree Bur that I got from Arizona Gourds. I had never used it for cutting the top of a gourd off but because I was following a curvy line around the leaves I thought it might work better than a saw and it did. It worked beautifully. This bur is very aggressive so if you get one practice and get a feel for it first but I can see that it will become a go to bur for me on future projects.

Carbide Filligree Bur

Carbide Filligree Bur


Of course, now I got to clean the inside! I sanded the cut lip nice and smooth as well.

When painting the leaves I begin by using Classic Yellow Gourd Paint.  Most of my paint is Gourd Master but during this project I had to order more and opted to try the Memories paint. I can assure you they are exactly the same and work just as beautifully. For those of you new to gourds, Gourd Master Ink Paints are Private Labeled Ink Dyes that are non-toxic and archival. They are the same as Memories Ink Dye which I bought from Blue Whale Art.

I prefer the Ink Dyes over the Transparent Acrylics. These dyes are waterbased and don’t dry until you heat set them so they are easy to work with especially when blending. They are also transparent so you can still see all the wonderful moddling in the gourds.


OK… back to painting the leaves… the yellow is a wonderful blending color. The colors I am using in the above picture are Classic Yellow, Cherry Red and Classic Green.  Using a cotton swab I “scribble” the yellow on the inside of the leaf, rarely taking it to the edge. This is just a quick “fill it in with color”, then I dot the red and the green around the edges and sometimes up the stem,



Using a clean cotton swab I push and pull the colors around. I may “push” the yellow into the red a little which gives me a beautiful orange. Since I don’t go all the way into the red it also leaves the edges a brilliant red color.   I do the same for the green. If you overdue it grab some more yellow and paint around, It will brighten it right up.

Green and Red combined go almost brown.

I generally do one leaf at a time, heat setting in between leaves so that I don’t accidentally  mess up what I had already done.


See the leaves in the above picture. They are a little “dotty”?  I tried spraying a bit of rubbing alcohol on it. Looks cool, huh?

When drawing and painting leaves, remember that nothing about leaves are perfect. They have torn edges, bugs, brown spots.  The leaves may turn, the stems are never straight. Keep your leaves organic that way. You don’t need a perfectly straight leaf, unless that is part of your design.

I drew up my own leaf templates which I will share with you here.

Oak Leaves Template

Maple Leaves Template

Please feel free to use these for your own personal projects but not to teach your own classes or publish in a book. I picked leaves and drew them up so the artwork is all mine!!

Finished Piece

Finished Thanksgiving Leaf Bowl

Finished Thanksgiving Leaf Bowl

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11 thoughts on “Painting fall colored leaves on a gourd.

    1. Hi Martha

      The Rotary Drill you see in the photo is my favorite. It is made by Clarke but it is no longer being manufactured. I like it because it came with a long extension and a very small handle so it is more like holding a thick pencil. I also have the Drill made by the Caning Shop in Berkeley and I love it for more fine detail and work. I have two dremels as well but they sit on my shelf unloved and unused!!

  1. You truly are a gourd GODDESS for your sharing spirit. I’ve been at this for 3 years and am just getting to the place where I can stand looking at my own work. Your sharing tips really help.

  2. I just found your site and appreciate your information and also your sharing of oak and maple leaf templates. Your work is beautiful!

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