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Inspire and create… Andy Goldsworthy

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By Brenda Whittle — Educational writer and former deputy headteacher

The beauty of art is that it needn’t be permanent. Capture the changing seasons to create something pure Goldsworthy.

Contemporary British artist, Andy Goldsworthy, uses and responds to natural materials and surroundings to create art forms. He works mostly outdoors throughout the different seasons of the year, using materials such as leaves, wood, clay, ice and stones. As his artwork is ephemeral, he photographs it before it is changed by the elements. Examples of the beauty and sensitivity of his work can be seen by typing his name into Google Images.

Outdoor artwork

Getting inspired

  • Andy Goldsworthy is very sensitive to nature and the seasons. Children should experience the forces of nature for themselves before they begin to create any outdoor pieces of art. They need to feel the wind, rain, sun and snow. Arrange to walk in the school grounds or visit a park in different weathers.
  • Invite the children to look at colours, shapes and textures in natural materials. Collect a variety of fallen materials including leaves, twigs, petals and stones, and ask the children to examine them carefully. Encourage them to appreciate the beauty in the way that rain drips from twigs or makes patterns in puddles, how frost disappears in the sun, mist blurs edges, and wind moves and changes things.
  • Handle the collection of gathered natural materials and add more items, such as sand, pebbles, shells, pine cones, natural twine and lengths of cane.
  • Show the children examples of Andy Goldsworthy’s outdoor artwork, such as Rowan leaves and Hole or Iris Leaves with Rowan Berries (both available to view on Google Images). Explain that the children will be creating their own outdoor artwork, which they can photograph over a matter of days or weeks, as it is changed by the weather.
  • Either give children complete freedom to experiment or introduce a theme as a starting point, such as circles, spirals or lines. Tell the children that you are going to show them some possible starting points, but you want them to try out their own ideas. You could show them the slideshow to help them get started.

1. Work outside in a safe area. Collect a variety of leaves of different sizes, shapes and shades of green. Talk to children about the leaf colours and textures and how leaves from different trees can vary.

2. Explain that you are going to use the leaves to make a circular design. Start by arranging the lighter coloured leaves in the middle and finish with the darker leaves on the outside edge.

3. Photograph the finished result, and ask the children what will happen to the artwork. What will make it change? Take a series of photographs over the next few days and discuss the changes.

4. Collect a pile of twigs and cut them to similar lengths. Encourage the children to talk about the texture of the twigs and suggest how they could use them to create a piece of art.

5. Use the children’s ideas as a starting point for your artwork. Alternatively, begin to create a design using the twigs and ask the children to offer suggestions about how to continue it.

6. Make trays of ice by freezing water in large plastic containers. Break up the ice and run cold water over it so that it becomes slippery and shiny. Invite the children to handle the ice and describe how it feels.

7. Create lines with the pieces of ice – in this instance we chose a simple wavy line (see slideshow). Ask the children to come up with ideas for how to continue the artwork. Ensure that you have taken photographs before the ice melts.

8. Make enclosed spaces using large twigs or bamboo canes. Choose materials to fill the spaces, such as petals, leaves, twigs and berries, and talk about the colours and textures chosen.

Taking it further

  • Remember to photograph the artwork when it is completed and look at it again over a period of time as it changes and disintegrates.
  • Ask the children to experiment in finding ways to attach natural resources together to create a piece of art. They might thread leaves or petals onto a thin twig, tie sticks or twigs together using garden twine, or make daisy chains to wind around a tree trunk.
  • Draw lines using garden twine threaded with different leaves.
  • Build structures by pushing twigs or sticks into the ground to create lines or shapes. Talk about the importance of the specific ground chosen and how it forms part of the whole structure.
  • Make structures using different-sized stones and a range of pebbles.
  • Fill a large, shallow container with water. Create floating artwork using leaves or sticks, and fill the enclosed areas with petals. (Always supervise water activities closely.)
  • Put damp play-sand outdoors and invite children to create sculptures on the theme of holes. They could build heaps of sand and create one or more holes, or make tunnels through the sand.


  1. Jeanne
    on 29 May 2013


    Fabulous! It is so refreshing to read such creative and exciting ideas. I will look forward to trying them out with my Year1 and 2 Class. Thank you. 5 out of 5!

  2. sue
    on 9 January 2013

    not great

    this is helpful but not what i was looking for

  3. Mr Taylor
    on 15 May 2012

    Year 1

    I agree with Amy. It is very useful for ideas and I am looking forward to trying them out with my class.

  4. joel
    on 8 March 2012


    this site is terrible!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! sorry

    1out of 5
  5. Amy
    on 21 February 2012


    This is very helpful as I am studying Andy in class at the moment.