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creative living for big and little kids

HOW TO USE NATURE IN ART TO OPEN MINDS AND HEARTS

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nature in art picture

 

Nature paints us the prettiest pictures day after day. So why is it artists feel compelled to create their own impressions, using nature as inspiration?

Surely, no one can imagine they can improve on the divine art forms that nature provides.

Yet, since cave man times, we have been inspired to record our stories using nature as our stimulus.

Perhaps we have always understood the deep connection between nature and art.

Environmental art has become somewhat of a movement. It often is designed to shine the light on environmental issues. However,  its origins are found in Palaeolithic cave paintings which depicted aspects of nature.

Not only were the cave paintings showcasing nature, they incorporated nature. The pigments used were made from natural sources like plants and rocks.

Skip ahead to the Romanticism era that began in the late 18th century. This period celebrated the awe and wonder of nature, usually in the form of landscape paintings.

ARTISTS INSPIRED BY NATURE

Post-Impressionist Vincent van Gogh understood fully the importance of painting onsite to develop a deep connection with nature.

In letters to his brother, Theo, he wrote about the importance of being in nature for artists and claimed they did their best work when in the country.

Sometimes I long so much to do landscape, just as one would for a long walk to refresh oneself, and in all of nature, in trees for instance, I see expression and a soul, as it were.

 

Another favourite, Impressionist Claude Monet, also had a deep and powerful connection to nature and understood the need to spot nature’s hidden treasures.

In a letter to his friend, Eugène Boudin he said:

It is beautiful here [in Etretat, Normandy], my friend; every day I discover even more beautiful things. It is intoxicating me, and I want to paint it all – my head is bursting.. ..I want to fight, scratch it off, start again, because I start to see and understand. I seems to me as if I can see nature and I can catch it all.. ..it is by observation and reflection that I discover how. That is what we are working on, continuously..

 

nature in art picture

This picture was painted by Monet during his visit to Etretat in 1883.

NATURE IN ART – LAND ART

nature in art picture

White Turkeys by Claude Monet in 1877

 

While there are still many artists who want to recreate the beauty of nature, many others focus on protecting her. They use their art to highlight the devastation of human pollution and environmental harm.

Some have gone back to the cave man roots and create land art. Land art represents a strong connection with nature. It uses natural materials to create works inspired by the landscape in which they are created. They often have an ephemeral quality, intended to last for only a short time. Artists are in fact manipulating nature to turn it into human-made art.

By using natural elements, and handling them, the artists become more closely connected to nature. They share their work to help its viewers become more engaged with the environment.

British sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy, is known as the first to start the worldwide craze of rock balancing. He started creating art using anything he could find in his surroundings. He did it with rocks, used leaves to create patterns and even moulded icicle formations.

His artworks, at the mercy of nature’s elements such as wind, temperature and growth, are designed to be temporary. They celebrate the impermanence in all things.

 

WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM NATURE IN ART

The benefits of using nature in art go beyond a deeper connection though. It has the power to open minds and hearts – to see the different possibilities in everything.

When we turn a leaf into a picture, we have tapped into our imagination. We have seen the possibilities and alternatives in that small slice of nature.

Imagine if we could train our minds to do this so well that we can open them in other areas.

THE STORY IN SOME STICKS

I saw a wonderful example of an artist seeing something more than pieces of wood during a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.

In her work, Manuhiri (Travellers), Fiona Hall created a large installation composed of found driftwood in the forms of living creatures. She saw beyond the pieces of wood and shared the story behind them.

nature in art picture

Manuhiri (Travellers)

nature in art picture

Can you see a bird?

nature in art picture

Do you see a giraffe?

 

I collected the driftwood from the beach at Awanui on Aotearoa New Zealand’s north east cape, where the Waiapu river flows out to the sea. Storms and landslips bring fallen trees down from the forests upstream; years of intensive farming have caused large-scale erosion that is now silting up and reshaping the river at its mouth. When the Waiapu (which means rushing water) finally reaches the sea its cargo of fallen timber is thrown back onto the beach by the tide, piled up like bones from a forest graveyard. Scattered among them you can find the creatures of the woods and water, travellers from a former forest life, reshaped by the ocean currents and now journeying to another life back in the world of the living.

Fiona Hall

We know the leaf is a leaf, with a specific purpose. When we see the possibilities the leaf presents, it forces us to question what we think we know. In effect, it is opening our hearts.

These lessons are gifts we can give our children by encouraging them to use nature in art.

 

 8 WAYS TO USE NATURE IN ART

nature in art picture

A muddy masterpiece made at Wacky Workshops.

nature in art picture

A garden Goddess.

There is no doubt that spending time in nature can make kids thrive (adults too) and teach important life lessons.

How will you use nature in art this week?

Happy crafting and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.

 

 

 

 

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14 Comments

  1. This is so inviting Tami! I love nature and love bringing it inside. I have a neighbors tree that hangs over the fence. In the spring I cut fresh pink blooms and fill my vases and in the fall I bring int he branches full of berries!

    The senses are so stimulated by all the texture of nature!

    I especially enjoyed this – “The benefits of using nature in art go beyond a deeper connection though. It has the power to open minds and hearts – to see the different possibilities in everything.”

    • I love bringing nature inside too, Candess. I have a lot of indoor plants and love fresh flowers too. So right about the texture of nature, which is partly why artists are so inspired to include it in their creations.

  2. Meghan

    Nature gives me a sense of peace and comfort, so it’s no surprise that artists use it for inspiration and as art. (Side note: it kills me to watch how we treat nature, and I believe it’s getting even!) You’ve made me realize that much of the artwork in my home is of nature. I hadn’t really thought about it. The driftwood segment was of particular interest—so amazing!

    • I loved seeing all that driftwood re-represented, Meghan. It really inspired me. I’m so with you on how badly we treat nature and I have to agree, I think it is getting even, or at least fighting back. Kind of scary when you respect just how powerful it is.

  3. This is wonderful, Tami! I didn’t know about British sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy, and how he was the first to start the worldwide craze of rock balancing. I see them everywhere now, which is such a tribute to his creation. It’s interesting to see how nature has played such a key part in art throughout the ages too.

    Yesterday we did a wonderful exercise in my art class. We are exploring what is sacred and how is art sacred. We were asked to go outside and see what called us, or spoke to us in the natural world. Then to stop and really engage with it, to commune with it, until we felt it, felt its essence and became one with it.

    • That art class exercise sounds truly wonderful, Beverley. I am all for taking the time to really focus on different aspects of nature and discover her hidden treasures. You may have noticed in the art classes how you form a special connection with the materials you use – the paint, the brushes and so on. Incorporating nature in art- adding sticks, or sand or whatever, helps you gain that same special connection.

  4. Soo inspiring, Tamuria. I do wish you were here to run an art program for my kids! I was trained as a tot to pick up sea shells and broken glass (lol!). My mom was an artist and one of her mediums was ceramics – she would melt the glass in her kiln on clay or tile and create tile art and pins. We were connoisseurs of ‘found treasures’ and I still look at life that way. Thank you for sharing the driftwood art – kudos to the artist for sharing that bright vision with others.

    • What wonderful memories you have of creating with your mother and your found treasures, Reba.Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the children in the world had such fun opportunities to be creative with nature’s help?

  5. You are so creative. I love all your ideas. Some of the most beautiful art ever has incorporated nature. I think there’s nothing like the act of creating art around environment encourages us to see beyond what is at eye level and appreciate the intricacies that exist.

    • Thank you for the lovely words, Cathy. You hit the nail on the head – creating art around environment encourages us to see beyond what is at eye level.

  6. Your wonderful post reminds me of how artists go out into nature in order to paint nature on a canvass. These works then hang in galleries and museums and we call this “art.” When true art all along is in its original place. There is a place for both, but I’ll take art in its original form as the most authentic.

    • I know exactly what you mean, Joyce. I take a lot of pictures of nature, as I love it so. However, I find the picture never does the vision justice and sometimes, I stop myself from clicking the camera button so that I can just enjoy the scene and soak it up.

  7. Oh! This reminds me of the flower arrangement class I took a few months ago. I brought whatever I have created at home and enjoyed it for a while. Flowers are beautiful!

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