For as long as I can remember, I have loved art. As a young child, I would draw for hours. I grew up in a somewhat unique environment. My parents were missionaries in a small village in Botswana, Africa. God’s inspiring creation was all around me! I drew animals, trees, birds, flowers, the sunrise, and sunset. God’s masterpiece of nature encouraged my love of art.
When I moved back to the United States from Africa in the middle of 8th grade, my safe place at school was the art room. I will never forget my high school art teacher, Mrs. Presswood. She made art come alive! She loved art and her students. As an adult, art plays a role in almost every area of my life.
When I struggle, I turn to the one thing that makes sense to me. Art. When I don’t understand things going on in the world, painting next to a body of water slows my breathing and increases my focus. Sitting in front of a pottery wheel compressing and molding the clay, I understand how God is molding and compressing me and the situations in my life. When I became an art teacher, I wanted to give this gift of art to my students. I wanted them to find the peace and meaning I found through art.
In the times of social distancing, I thought about how students could make art at home without the art supplies from the classroom. Students can use supplies from nature to form something beautiful. Land Art is one of my new favorite art forms. There is so much beauty in flowers, rocks, and sticks. Take ordinary rocks or sticks with varying textures, patterns, colors, and shapes from your backyard and see what amazing things you can make. Get inspired by artists like Robert Smithson, Deborah Butterfield, or UK artist Jon Foreman. Jon uses rocks, sticks, leaves, and a little space in nature to create something beautiful. He then photographs his art for others to enjoy.
Land Art is temporary. When the rain and wind comes, it may blow away or shift. It’s more about the experience of making the piece than saving it forever in a museum. I found this inspiring quote about Jon Foreman on his website.
Most often the weather and immediate climate will make his work disappear (be blown down/washed away by the tide), and sometimes other people will interfere. This is all part of the creative process and has proven to benefit his work. Jon’s practice is not just something he enjoys, but it is also a therapy for him, an escape from the stresses of everyday life.
While on a family walk in our neighborhood recently, my youngest son started asking about the way the roads intersect. We talked about how they were parallel and perpendicular to each other and how they form a rectangle. If we walk around the rectangle, we end up back at our house. Later we looked at it on Google maps to see the whole picture. For the rest of the walk, we talked about the trees, fences, and telephone poles.
We looked at wildflowers and talked about the patterns in the petals. God has an amazing symmetry in nature. Being part of a classical school for the past 14 years taught me the connection between all the subjects, including art and math. The balance and proportions within a wonderful work of art are mathematical at their core. The patterns and repetitions that are pleasing to the eye can be explained with math. When we got home from our walk, we took flowers, sticks, and rocks and made masterpieces.
Over the last few months, I have encouraged my children to go outside more, pick up rocks and sticks, and craft in the yard. I encourage you to do the same. You could even make it a family activity! Go for a walk and make some Land Art. Grab some random sticks, rocks, leaves, pine cones, or shells and see where they take you.
The possibilities are endless!