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de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy

Introduction

Together, let's collect and examine materials from a favorite place in nature. Visit a natural area near your home and look around at what natural materials are available there. Without picking any living plants, collect about 10–20 natural materials from one area. Then give this creative project a try. 

We begin by using the Elements of Art, the visual building blocks of art making, to arrange our items. Then, using the Principles of Design, we consider different types of designs as ways of giving our art meaning. We continue to rearrange our natural materials until we reach a message we want to communicate about our environment. We can record and share our message through photography, writing, and sketching before returning our materials to the natural place where they were found. 

We recommend that, due to COVID-19 precautions, gloves be used to collect the materials. Leave the materials outdoors in the sun for 1–3 days before doing the project.

Collection Connection

Andy Goldsworthy (b. 1956) grew up on a farm in northern England. As a child he became fascinated with nature. He went to art school but felt confined inside the studio and a need to be outside observing the natural world. Goldsworthy was influenced by the Land Art movement in the 1970s, and he began to create sculptures that reflect nature’s cycles, using natural materials in their original location. Often, his works are changeable, unpredictable, and impermanent. He examines the place where he is making the work, looks at the shapes and textures of the natural elements, and challenges the ideas of balance, pattern, and movement as he builds his sculptures.

Drawn Stone (2005) was created as a commission for the entry space of the new de Young building. Goldworthy used stone from his home in Yorkshire, England, to create an entryway with large stones that people could sit and climb on. The crack, which draws visitors in to the entrance, refers to the impermanence of this strong material from the earth. The crack also represents a faultline and acts as a gentle reminder of the earthquakes in San Francisco’s past and of what may happen in the future. The artwork challenges our perceptions of what is art and what is nature and highlights the power of nature to persist.

de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy

Questions to Consider

  • What materials did you collect?  
  • What do you notice about the materials that you collected (shape, size, texture, or similarities)? 
  • What can these materials teach you about the environment where they were collected?  
  • How can we create art with a message using these materials? 

Materials

  • Natural materials collected from nature ( 10–20 pieces)
  • Cardboard base
  • Paper
  • Pencil or pen
de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy

Step 1: Spread out all the natural materials on the cardboard and arrange them using one of the following Elements of Art as a guideline for your organization of the materials. For example, you may choose to arrange the items by similar shapes or arrange them into a created shape. 

  • Line
  • Shape 
  • Color/Value 
  • Texture
de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy
Line
de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy
Shape

Step 2 (Documentation and Questioning): Take a picture or make a sketch of your arrangement, then share it with someone in your family or household. Ask yourself or someone else these questions: 

  • What do you notice about this arrangement? 
  • What is surprising about this composition? 
  • What would you like to do next? 

Step 3: Next, rearrange the materials using one of the following Principles of Design.  For example, make an arrangement of objects that feels balanced from left to right and is  symmetrical or the same on both sides.  

  • Balance/Symmetry 
  • Movement 
  • Emphasis
  • Pattern
de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy
Symmetry
de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy
Movement

Step 4 (Documentation and Questioning): Take a picture of your arrangement, make a list of words that come to mind when you look at it, share it with someone in your family or household, and ask yourself or someone else these questions: 

  • What do you notice about this arrangement? 
  • What is surprising about this composition? 
  • What would you like to do next?  

Step 5: Rearrange your objects one final time, taking into account your previous arrangements and decisions and the natural area where you found your items. Think about how your work can be a metaphor for a larger idea about the environment.  

  • Why am I making this?
  • What are these things telling me about my environment?  
  • What is my message? 
de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy

Step 6: Using your paper and pencil, write a title for your piece that helps define its meaning, and/or write a sensory poem about the composition. A Sensory Poem uses your five senses to describe an experience or a place. Take a photo of the composition and share with someone.    

Sensory Poem: 

I see ______.

I hear ______.

I smell ______.

I taste_______.

I feel ______.

Reflection Questions 

  • What elements of art or principles of design did you use in your final composition?  
  • What did you learn about your environment from using materials that you collected? 
  • How is your artwork a metaphor for a larger idea about the environment?
de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy
This is the beautiful spot in the Sierra where I went camping and collected the materials.

Final Steps

Consider returning the objects back to nature where you found them. It is important to put them back in nature because some of them, such as pine cones, are or contain seeds that can grow into new trees.  

Share

We would love to see what you create! Email pictures of your artwork to families@famsf.org or tag us on any social platform with #deyoungsters.

Watch Nature Art inspired by Andy Goldsworthy

 

Image credits:

Andy Goldsworthy, Drawn Stone, 2005. Appleton greenmore sandstone. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, gift of Lonna and Marshall Wais, 2004.5 

Photograph by Gary Sexton

Process photographs and Sierra Nevada Woods by Jill McLennan

Elements of Art and Principles of Design by Jill McLennan, © 2019

de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy
de Youngsters Studio: Nature Art Inspired by Andy Goldsworthy