Creative Captures: Making Nature Art
Self-expressions through explorations of our five senses in nature
By Allison Paludi and Kate Almon
How do you experience nature?
Have you ever gone to the woods and just sat down, feeling the ground beneath you, letting your eyes explore your surroundings and letting your ears capture the subtle noises? Author Richard Louv states: “...as human beings we need direct, natural experiences; we require fully activated senses in order to feel fully alive...Nature is about smelling, hearing, tasting, seeing…” The goal of this project is to make time for ourselves and nature by exploring our imaginations and creativity through our five senses. And you don’t have to go far to do it.
Allison reflection on what she heard: I sat outside and closed my eyes, listening to all the noises during the crisp fall morning while putting my list of things to do and places to be out of my mind for just a few minutes. Accompanying me were my sketchbook, paintbrushes, and paints. After a few minutes of soaking in my surroundings, I had envisioned what I would create. Dipping my paintbrush into the first shade of blue, I began to make brushstrokes to illustrate the subtle wind that blew the autumn leaves and blades of grass. I continued the swooping motion and added more colors as I tried to capture the sounds of the world around me. I moved to the foreground and switched from blues to greens to capture the grass swaying in the wind. The symphony of noises was intensified as the insects came alive and chirped along with the blowing of the wind. In that moment, I was content.
Can you think of a time when you gave nature your fullest attention and explored your five senses? Is it truly possible to revel in the moment and put your list of things to do on hold as you give your full attention to the natural world surrounding you?
Here's a challenge for you, Nature Up North Explorers!
1. Gather materials that you can work with: Ideas of easy-to-use mediums are paints, colored pencils, pen & paper, music, your smartphone, natural things such as leaves. Feel free to be creative, however, and use whatever medium comes the most naturally to you.
2. Experience nature: Find a nice spot outdoors. Sit or lie down, perhaps get your bare feet wet. Close your eyes. Take deep breaths. Stay very still. Wiggle your toes and fingers. Be in the moment. Allow your whole self to experience nature.
3. Focus on 1-2 senses: Enjoy what you’re experiencing! Try to acknowledge what it is that captures you. Hone in on one or two senses that are particularly activated. You likely won’t have to consciously decide what senses you will interpret.
4. Interpret the nature you experience: Grab your materials and go! Repeat the behaviors you did to further experience the senses that were most activated. Complete the piece as thoroughly as you feel necessary. Write a few sentences to describe to others how your experience in nature is demonstrated through your finished work.
5. Share your creation: Go to the Nature Up North website and show us what you experienced and created. Include the place you were. You may have to take a picture of your creation. Show your piece to friends and family.
Allison and Kate’s Examples
What Kate saw and felt:
I found a small patch of grasses amongst downed logs, ferns, and fallen leaves in an old-growth deciduous forest in West Stockholm, NY. Lying down, I noticed how warm and comforting the direct sunlight felt on my skin. Its brilliance seemed to illuminate the golden, fiery colored Sugar Maple leaves around me. Nearby my head was a fern that looked lime green with the sun glowing through its chlorophyll. The green color seemed to define each of the tiny black dots on the back of the fern.
What Kate saw:
I sat down in a perfectly groomed patch of grass underneath trees. A deciduous tree hung full with still-green leaves and little berries was above me. As I looked at the tips of the branches for a few minutes, I noticed details in the plant, despite not knowing what type of tree it was. The berries looked like mini Rainier cherries, red-orange and gold in color. Most hung in groups of four, adorned by emerald colored leaves with jagged edges and obvious veins. The tree still looked alive, like it wasn’t quite ready for fall abscission yet as it danced in the light wind.
What Kate ate and heard:
In the fall season in the North Country of New York State, produce is bountiful and deliciously fresh. One of my favorite fruits is any crunchy variety of apple, and this year, the apples were plentiful. I visited the Brookdale Apple Orchard with a friend, and we couldn’t help but chomp into one of the first ones we picked. This video highlights how juicy, crunchy, and sugary the awesome apples were this season, especially that very first one that we picked ourselves.
What Allison felt:
Inspired by artist Andy Goldsworthy, I set off to create a temporary piece. I decided to use a boulder as my backdrop instead of the grass mostly to mix up the texture. I actually tried three different placements of the plants before I finally settled on the perfect angle on the slab of the rock. I used the dandelions to bring in the bright color and surrounded them with brown leaves. The hardest part was combating the wind—even though this is temporary for a reason. As I walked away, I knew my piece would not exist for much longer, but I reveled in the thought that at least for some time, it lay on that rock.
Join Nature Up North at the Science Art and Music Festival Saturday, April 26 at Paul Smith’s VIC where we will have other nature art and pine cone creations for all ages!