With all the fine weather we’ve been having recently, I’ve been keen to spend more time outdoors with the kids, so following on from my earlier seasonal posts on a natural theme, I thought I would complete the series by taking a look at some land art for the Spring. This is the time when there are lots of flowers and plants available to inject some colour into your artwork and the weather is also better, so spending some time outdoors creating artwork is much more tempting. As with my other land art posts, this is a cheap activity which requires absolutely no materials whatsoever other than what is available in the natural world. It is also a very ‘green’ activity in every sense of the word. Cleaning up is effortless – there’s little to clear away and everything can be recycled.
All of the activities here can be carried out using the ground as your canvas, but on breezy days this can be frustrating if you’re using very lightweight materials which keep blowing away. So if you want to create a ‘gallery’ of artwork that will last for a day or two, then try creating your own ‘canvas’ of mud, plastered onto a supporting board, rock or stone. Use a rough board to create a better ‘key’ to support the mud, and if you want your artwork to last as long as possible, keep the artwork out of direct sunlight. Spraying it with water occasionally will also help to keep the plant material fresh, and the mud from drying out.
This is the technique also used in traditional well-dressing – an ancient custom in the Derbyshire and Staffordshire Peak District, where the village well is decorated each year by creating designs and pictures using a mosaic of flower petals stuck onto a clay base. It’s a tradition which still continues in some places, Tissington well-dressing perhaps being the best known.
If you want to create something with a little more ‘structure’ you can use thorns as pins to hold things together, and strong grasses or stems as string to weave or to bind items together.
The compositions you make can be fun and representational, or more abstract in their design – exploiting some feature prominent in the environment, so for example you might decide to restrict your palette to shades of green, or create a rainbow from plant material. Even within a single variety of plant, the variation in leaf colour can be huge, dependent upon it’s maturity, it’s location and other factors. Whatever you choose to create, the resulting artwork will be heavily dependent upon what materials are available immediately to hand around you.
This is an activity which can appeal to all ages. Personally I found it quite absorbing and very relaxing. Creating your composition makes you really look at the natural world in your search for suitable material, so that you notice things you otherwise wouldn’t, and this would make an excellent basis for wider nature studies. I also think that this is quite an intuitive activity for kids – children have always used the resources of nature as their playthings, and I remember doing this kind of thing myself as a child, completely unprompted. After all, what is a daisy chain if not a form of land art?