Back to the tree...
As you can see, the tree has been primed and painted. All the leaf stems are in place and I've begun to paint those a dark green to match the color of the leaves which can be seen on the table below the tree. A large piece of black felt has been glued into the hole on the tree, hiding the base of the branches and giving the hole some cartoonish depth. The bees and their hive have also been painted and attached to the tree, though at this point their eyes have not been affixed.
Eyes have been added to the raccoon. These were simply eyes made for teddy bears, plugged into his head and set in place with glue. The white spots on the raccoon and the tree would all be touched up later.
aside from making, attaching, and then painting the nearly 100 leaf stems, was having to make the leaves themselves. They were all cut from sheets of that flexible foamlike packing material, of about 1/4 inch thickness. Their size was uniform. I used a template cut from a cereal box, and simply held it against the foam sheet as I cut the leaf out with scissors.
Then all the leaves had to be painted, which was a multi-step process, and since I was working on the kitchen table, done in batches of about a dozen at a time. Each side had to be painted dark green, as did the edges--often with two coats. Like I said; tedious.
Then, after this base coat was completed, the veins were added, on both sides, in this beautiful industrial green, pretty much the same shade you see in official buildings everywhere. I generally completed the painting of an entire batch before moving on to the next one, rather than do all the base coats, then all of the veins, and risking any damage occurring to the leaves from the paint sticking to each other due to the summer humidity, which became a problem for much of this project, really dragging out the drying time, particularly when it involved the paper mache.
after each batch of leaves was completely painted, I began to glue them onto the stems on the tree, sequentially, one branch at a time, so that I didn't accidentally miss a stem along the way. Before I glued them, I inserted a skewer carefully into the base of each leaf, where the stem would be inserted. This was done to control the path of the stems, and to avoid the stems tearing through the sides of the leaves, which happened a few times anyway, necessitating paint touch ups.
Eventually, all the leaves were in place, the stems bent at an angle, and the tree looked pretty good. You can see by the time change outside the windows that this was a lengthy process. I think it took two or three days.
Here are the completed bees with their google eyes in place.
Here are the completed birds. I painted them, then screwed them down onto the branch through their backs, re-paper mached over the screws, primed and painted over it. It seems like a chore, but it was far easier to do it this way than to try and paint them completely, while they were attached to the branch. Incidentally, they are the only characters who ended up simply with painted eyes.
Here is the opossum completed, with its tiny copy of Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" as it is situated in the completed installation.