Art: Nature’s art

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By Jane Bower primary teacher and art adviser

Follow in the footsteps of great artists and take inspiration from nature by using a tree as the focus for an array of creative art activities

tree

Trees have inspired many works of art. Painters such as Claude Lorrain, Nicolas Poussin and John Constable have tried to capture their majesty; textile artists such as Jan Beaney and Annemieke Mein have explored their textures in their stitching; environmental artists such as Andy Goldsworthy have taken them as starting points, and potters and woodturners have delighted in their shapes and colours. Celebrating and decorating trees is an age-old practice – and thousands of people bring a tree into their homes to decorate at Christmas. The idea behind this project is to make a ‘summer tree’ rather than a Christmas tree and to use the tree as a gallery on which to display the work it has inspired. Afterwards you can photograph the tree and either remove the work or observe how it is affected by time and weather – as Andy Goldsworthy did with the art projects in his book Time (Thames and Hudson, £35.00).

You will need to find a tree with interesting features such as textured bark, moss, spreading roots, twisted branches, and dappled leaves, which is conveniently placed so that the whole class can see it clearly and sit or work around it. If the weather is suitable, take materials and equipment outside so that the activities can be carried out near the tree. If not, you can work indoors from photographs and display the work on the tree when a fine day arrives.

ACTIVITIES Ages 9-11

1. Tree wrapping

Prior to the project, collect balls of wool in as many shades of green, grey and brown as you can. Ask the children to hold the wools to the tree trunk and reachable branches to find the nearest colour matches. Use the wools to wrap sections of the trunk and branches as neatly as possible in bands of colour. The results can be unexpectedly striking.

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