As Tim Burton (American film director, producer, artist, writer, and animator) has said, "It's good as an artist to always remember to see things in a new, weird way." Art is all about thinking outside the box and learning how to see what others don't; it's about learning to see ordinary objects and scenes as beautiful, inspiring, and full of value; it's about helping others see the beauty and value as well.
Working bits of nature into your art and art projects is a great way to
1. practice seeing the ordinary as extraordinary
2. use bunches of cheap (even free!) materials,
3. strengthen those creativity and problem-solving brain-muscles,
4. create art anywhere you go – the park/beach/woods/backyard is now your studio!
Now, we've all made leaf prints before, so let's move on to exploring other ways to challenge yourself and your children in incorporating nature into art. All of these projects can be modified to be simpler for younger kids and more challenging for more experienced artists.
1. Nature Portraits – Every thought of how flower petals could be lips and how seed pods could be eyebrows? Challenge your creativity and forage in the park or your backyard for some leaves, flower petals, twigs, moss, wheat - whatever - and start arranging! You can start with a simple smiley face or set some higher goals and imitate a favorite photo. One of our favorite places for nature portrait inspiration is the @facethefoliage Instagram account.
2. Fruits and Vegetable Stamps - Veggies aren't just for eating anymore (or feeding to the dog when mom isn't looking). Cut different fruits and veggies in half and dip in paint to make fun and original patterns and designs perfect for homemade cards or wrapping paper. Celery bunches stamp great roses, and potatoes can be cut to make almost any shape you want, like this, or this, even this.
3. Paint with Nature – make our own paint "brushes" and explore the different strokes and patterns made by different natural materials.
4.Weave with Weeds – Weeding can be fun! Make a loom out of two trees in the yard for larger projects, or sticks with yarn for smaller ones and see what kinds of "fabric" you can create.
For more advanced weaving, see how you can incorporate more permanent bits of nature: sticks, driftwood, shells and sea glass make great additions to natural rope.
5. Shadowbox Scene – Instead of drawing or painting a scene, challenge yourself to create the whole scene using materials from nature – practice making leaf animals or rock people. You'll be impressed with what you come up with.
6. Mandala Art – A mandala (meaning "circle" literally in Sanskrit) is a complex abstract and usually circular design. Play with patterns and design using any handy materials found in the woods, on the beach, or in the garden. More instructions here for making mandala art with kids.
7. Nature Sculptures – Grab some clay and a hand-full of sticks and stones and you've got yourself the start of a nature sculpture. This festival invited kids to maketree faces by placing the clay on trees in the nearby forest and adding natural elements for facial features. Or, even simpler, go on a leaf hunt for the prettiest ones you can find this fall and spear them onto a stick stuck into the ground to turn your yard into a sculpture garden!
8. Hanging Art –string and twigs are all that are really needed to created some fun hanging art. Try adding different materials like pine cones and feathers, or try painting your natural material with fun colors to make your creations POP. Hang your creation on a wall or outside on the porch. Here's a step by step to making this pretty hanging stick heart.
9. Incorporate Nature in Sketches – This exercise will really expand your creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, as well as make colorful additions to black and white drawings. Meredith Wing of@moomooi Instagram account does an amazing job mixing plants, fruits, and veggies into her fashion sketches and The Sketching Backpacker uses pressed leaves as inspiration for his drawings.
10. Decorate Photos – A fun Saturday afternoon family activity - Similar to adding nature to sketches, take photos of your children in different poses with a plain background, print them out and challenge each other to come up with the silliest outfits for each other using glue and bits of nature found in the yard.
These are only a few ideas on how to stretch your mind and use bits of nature into your next art project. If you liked this post, head over to our Pinterest "Art With Nature" Board for more ideas and natural inspiration!