What Could Be More Natural Than Children Making Art Outside?
“We are born makers. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.”- Brene Brown
Childhood is a time of magic, curiosity and delight and at Aishling Forest School, our mission is to preserve the magic of childhood, knowing that nature is the greatest teacher to connect us to ourselves, each other and Mama Earth. When children make things with their hands, it ignites their curiosity, jump-starts their imaginations, and develops their skill and artistic acumen. And what could be more natural and more wonderful than children making art outside?
As mentors, we were privileged to bear witness to this at last week’s class, as the learners the previous week asked to create an art gallery in the woods, to wholeheartedly become “artists in the forest.” And who could blame them? Making art outside is a delicious delight and it’s hard not to be inspired by nature’s richness in light, color, texture and in subject.
So taking a leaf out of Thoreau’s book, we found our own Walden Pond to seek inspiration, peace and perspective. Warmed by a community fire, our learners chose their mediums- whether oil pastels, paints, colored pencils, markers or homemade clay and began to simply and magically create. With the process being our muse, rather that the product, we provided no other creative guides other than a question of “if you could create something to make the world more beautiful, what might that be?”
We saw depictions of sunsets, sunrises, animals, squiggly lines and emotions put on paper. One learner exclaimed, “this is what I look like on the inside,” while another said “these are my warm colors and my cool colors.” We then hung up twine and used clothespins to make our woodland art gallery and you couldn’t decide which was more beautiful- the nature surrounding us or the learner’s art inspired by nature. It was alchemy in action and a wonder to behold.
After a while, our learners were oozing in inspiration from within, from nature and from each other. We saw some making splatter art, just like “Jackson Pollock!” one learner said in glee, while others tried their hands at sculpting small animals out of our homemade play dough. Soon after, our gallery was full to bursting and the learners decided to make some executive changes. They created a triangle out of the twine and faced their art inward, so that they could walk into their gallery and be fully immersed in their art. I will always remember walking in, hand in hand with a learner and being overwhelmed with joy as I was surrounded by their art in nature and listening to them as they happily told me about their process and what their art means to them. Being able to hear their stories, to see their art and to witness their soul shine from the inside out, is an honor that I will never take for granted.
As we ended our circle with our fire closing ceremony, we asked the learners to tell us how making art in nature made them feel and we heard answers such as, “happy, relaxed, peaceful and at ease.” And so it is. I hope they always remember that feeling and tap back into it whenever they need, as nature and art is their birthright.
I encourage you to try this process-based art in nature practice at home. It’s easy- all you need are some art supplies and some twine and clothespins to make a backyard woodland art gallery. Or to make it even easier and more portable, create an on-the-go art kit with some art supplies and a sketchbook and head out for a hike. And don’t forget a snack and some water, because you might be inspired for hours…and I sincerely hope that you are. Till next time, see you outside!
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