Beauty in Life and Death

Today after finishing a nice, pre-sunset run, something caught my eye. The sun was hitting the leaves just right, causing them to glow as they shimmered on their branch.

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As I continued to walk towards my house, I happened to notice a beautiful leaf on the ground. It had begun to develop beautiful spots dark spots–no longer part of its life source, yet still holding onto some of its color. It was breathtaking.

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Walking through an alley way, I discovered the beauty of a leaf as it became one with the earth.

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Nature in all stages offers such beauty. Take the time to enjoy it this week!

‘Til later…happy explorations!

The First Collectibles!

Not wanting to waste any time after a great end of the school year, I headed out to the woods for a wonderful week of backpacking! Nothing recharges my batteries and clears my mind like spending some time in nature—taking in the fresh air, sights, and sounds around me! All the while, I had my summer’s art collection in my mind. Although I wasn’t exactly sure of what I was looking for, I knew the first piece of my collection would find me at the right moment.

I was right.

During the first night at our campsite, as we were walking around a nearby meadow, my husband picked up a triangular speckled rock (not pictured here) and handed it to me with nothing but a “here” for explanation. Although it was simple, the act of selecting that rock from all of the other rocks out there and then handing it to me gave that little rock an extra layer of meaning–beyond the interesting textures, layers, and patterns in its surface. I kept that rock in my pocket for the rest of the trip, deciding that one of the focuses of my collection would be the stories and layers of meaning contained within small, simple objects.

The second object for my collection was found while on a day hike in search of elk. For days, we had seen sign of elk, but had yet to actually see them. So, during our last full day, we decided to follow the elk trails and see where they would lead us. Although the only elk I saw were small dots on the top of a mountain, the trails that we followed led to a series of beautiful meadows and springs–a paradise few have the opportunity to see! While I was exploring, I stumbled across a very interesting piece of wood. I was actually initially drawn to it because it reminded me of a rhinoceros horn. Upon closer look, I was in awe at the incredible swirls and marks on every surface. As I turned it over in my hands, I found that I was mesmerized by the way the patterns and views changed.

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Having found the first two pieces for my collection, I am very excited to find more works of “nature art!” Since I wasn’t able to post about it earlier, I have also designated a small shelf to be the location for my art collection. Each piece that I find for my collection needs to be no larger than my hand (preferably smaller) in order to fit on the shelf. I also found a small plastic container to hold my “story objects,” such as the triangular rock.

I will be heading on another summer adventure at the end of the week, so will post again as my collection continues to develop.

‘Til later…happy explorations!

The Art of Collecting!

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about collections and the act of collecting. What is it that drives someone to collect one particular type of object (horse figurines, stamps, books, teddy bears, baseball cards)? Why are some things more “collection-worthy” than others? Does collecting something somehow give it more significance–more value?

Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend a few days at my husband’s side of the family’s beautiful cabin. Surrounded by trees, mountains, and gorgeous wildflowers, I enjoyed one, if not two or three Wonder Walks every day. On my last day, for reasons unknown to me, I began to notice tiny treasures hidden amidst the dirt, tree trunks, and plants. It began with the discovery of a rock. It was a very small piece of quartz with one smooth side and one bumpy, irregular side. After studying it for some time, I continued my walk, alternating between rubbing the smooth and bumpy side. This discovery soon led to many more–culminating in the discovery of a small bark rabbit! Please excuse the quality of the photo below… I wish I could capture this incredible natural sculpture–complete with two separate floppy ears!

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So, since returning from my fun “nature art” hunt, I have been thinking about collecting…and what that means for artful explorations in nature. Though we have collected natural materials for nature art challenges (Nature Mosaic Challenge), we have not explored the act of collecting as a form of art making in-and-of-itself.

So, for the summer, I plan to build a collection of “nature art.” Each week or so, I will post an idea to inspire a new addition to the collection. As always, I welcome any fellow explorers!

Tomorrow I will post more specific “nature art” collection details. In the meantime, start thinking about what type of collection you’d like to have. Are you wanting to collect certain shapes/textures/materials? How might this “collection” relate to you?

Cheers to summer artful explorations! :)

Camouflage Explorations!

What a beautiful snowy Saturday afternoon! Although I much prefer warmer weather for my artful explorations, I must say nothing can quite compare to the peaceful silence experienced during snowfall. As I sit on my couch, watching the exquisite white powder fall, I can’t help but feel blessed to have found myself in such a beautiful world (despite our attempts as humans to “improve” everything). 

Today I’d like to share a project idea for artful explorations of camouflage–through painting! Although my sixth graders are still finishing up their work, I couldn’t help but share a few results. I was so impressed! :)

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To introduce this project, we talked about camouflage in the natural environment. Although this particular project did not involve any outdoor explorations, we did spend some time looking at examples of camouflage. I also connected this project to “Op Art,” or optical illusion art. My kids found this video, in particular, to be quite inspiring!

After creating their own design (either inspired by natural patterns or optical illusions), students painted their hands to blend into their designs!

As soon as I get the pictures, I will share a lesson my third graders did, exploring animal tracks!

‘Til later…happy explorations!

August Nature Art Challenge: WHERE’S PACO?

I have finally returned from a most relaxing vacation on Isla Mujeres, an island near Cancun, Mexico. Along with finding time for snorkeling, visiting parts of The Underwater Museum (AMAZING.), and exploring the island via golf cart, I spent time artfully  exploring the island–Where’s Waldo-style!

During the last week of my stay, the weather took a turn for the worst (thank you, Hurricane Ernesto!). After the storm had passed, birds (particularly pigeons) seemed to swarm the beach! Thus, the inspiration for my artful explorations hit! Most of the birds were brown and black–or some combination of the two colors. So when I noticed an interesting black-and-white spotted pigeon, I knew I had found my Waldo (or “Paco”).

Here is the resulting composition, titled “Where’s Paco?”:

Along with hiding “Paco,” I also hid (true to Waldo drawings) 10 keys, 15 other birds, and a few other comical characters. As I was adding details to each of the four sections of this drawing, I tried to maintain a balance between my observations and cartoonish exaggerations.

I hope some of you will give this challenge a try! I had a lot of fun adding details and hiding “Paco!” Through this exploration, I found that I was forced to observe both the small details and happenings around me, as well as the larger picture (when composing my background).

After completing this challenge, I would offer two suggestions:

1. Don’t add color until your composition is COMPLETE!

2. Try to fit in as many details and textures as you can. These help in hiding your “Waldo!” After I had finished drawing as many objects as I could, I tried to add sand and water textures to make the drawing look more complex.

Enjoy your last few weeks of summer! Take a walk. Snap some pictures. Have a picnic. Enjoy the beauty around you, wherever that might be!

‘Til later…happy explorations!

Nature Watercolor Challenge: DAY SEVEN!

Well, we once again find ourselves at the end of another challenge. I must say I was surprised at how much I actually enjoyed the watercolor explorations! 

For today’s challenge, I focused my attention to interesting leaves (on the ground!). About 2 minutes into my walk, I stumbled upon an interesting little leaf. The thing that grabbed my attention most was its shape. It was bone dry–bent and twisted into a dance-like position. So, taking that leaf home–as well as an extra emergency leaf of the same type, I painted the following:

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Once I began exploring the leaf, I decided to use the interesting, jagged edge of my emergency leaf as a stencil to create my background–focusing on the dancing leaf as my main subject. Very enjoyable exploration!

I hope you all have enjoyed this challenge as much as I have! As always, if any of you gave this challenge a try, I’d love to see your resulting explorations! And now…off on my trip! 

‘Til later…happy explorations!

Nature Crochet Art Challenge: DAY SEVEN!

Rain!

Although it only lasted a few minutes, the overcast, rainy day gave me a great excuse to make art and relax! AND–as an added bonus, my father-in-law showed me how to make my own yogurt (which, turns out, isn’t quite as complicated as I imagined!)

By tomorrow morning, this will be thick and ready to eat! Yum!

Although the rain slightly deterred me from my initial brainstormings for a frame, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that my father-in-law had a box of branches in his garage! Perfect! So, with a newspaper spread on the table, I attached my crocheted canvas to 4 branches. Here are the results from today’s explorations:

Another successful and interesting nature challenge in the bag! I hope you all enjoyed this challenge as much as I did. Working with yarn in crochet embroidery has definitely given me other ideas for similar projects–and this challenge provided a most excellent chance for me to explore the natural beauty of windy Wyoming!

As always, if anyone decided to give this challenge a shot, I’d love to see your resulting works or hear your insights!

To close this post, I’d like to share another work that I recently created, using the same multimedia recycled art techniques I talked about a few days ago! For this canvas, I recycled pages from an old math book (gotta love math!) and attached my cardboard cut-outs to the surface using painter’s tape.

I then sponge painted over the top of the canvas, which I found to be less time-consuming than using a brush. Here is the finished piece:

For more detailed instructions on this process, check out my post from a couple of days ago!

‘Til later..happy explorations!