Vancouver designer rakes leaves into eye-catching works of art

Fall leaves artist's canvas

It's only at a specific time of year you'll see the foliage-based work of Nik Rust.

The designer is behind unique, intricate designs left in some of Vancouver's parks and public areas this fall. Going by the handle @rakemob on Instagram, he raked leaves into simple but precise patterns, creating patterns of concentric circles like ripples of water or sound waves emanating from tree trunks.

"The idea has been bouncing around in my head for at least a decade," he says. "Falls would come and go and wouldn't get to it."

But, like many people, the parks were the place to be with the pandemic in play in 2020, and he finally put rake to leaf and got to work.

"Everything was kind of different as far the day-to-day," he says. "Parks were being used in ways they never had before."

He goes out early to create his art, so as people head out at the start of their day the designs are already in place, having appeared as if out of nowhere. While the majority of people who see his art have no idea how it got there, some early risers do catch him.

"Tons of people come up and approach me," Rust says. "Some people are baffled, and want to know why it's happening, and some people super stoked."

The trees and leaves, he says, offered up the chance to be creative, like paint with no brush.

"I've always noticed these beautiful pools of leaves under trees before wind comes through," he says, "almost like a colour shadow of the tree. They invited some sort of design."

He was, in part, inspired by zen gardens and the patterns that are created in the little, stony landscapes. Another piece is the temporary nature of the designs.

"It's important that it's ephemeral," he says. "I'm a huge fan of ephemeral art, from seasonal things like sandcastles, snowmen, jack-o-lanterns."

The interaction of the creator with natural world as it's in flux is a big part of the leafy designs. By the time he's done a design it may already be getting destroyed a little, as the wind starts moving leaves about. Maybe it'll last a little longer; it depends on the environment.

Next year he intends on continuing his art, with Vancouver parks his template. Typically he hits areas in English Bay, Stanley Park, and south of False Creek.

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