Saturday, April 16, 2016

Give a Tree a Face! (Another Art-N-Nature Idea)

I was hoping to plan a last-minute Hike-n-Art excursion for this month either yesterday, today, or tomorrow, but I hurt my back, so it's going to have to wait.  In the meantime, I am smiling as I look back at our March excursion, which followed suit from our belated February one, where friends gathered for a sunset walk and some land art.  For our March excursion, we did exactly the same thing, only we brought the land art to the trees, exploring how to make mud faces for trees.

I opted, once more, to keep the outing plan simple:

  • Meet at a local trailhead 40 minutes or so before sunset.
  • Walk the short trail to a lakeside while collecting "art supplies".
  • Chat a bit to review/introduce some elements and principles of art and design.
  • Create mud faced for trees.
  • Enjoy a sunset picnic together.

Three families were able to join us for our March hike.  One that we had not seen since our very first Hike-n-Art excursions, one that we'd only met that day, and one that we've spent plenty of time with over the years who joined us midday was through this excursion after coming from another event.  What a delight it was to reconnect with old friends and make new ones while on our little adventure.

Before we walked out to the pond, I welcomed and introduced everyone and then, showed some inspiration images of tree faces, explaining to the children that I'd give more details on how to create the faces later on.  

Then, I gave each child a plastic shopping bag and challenged them to fill it with small bits and pieces of nature that had interesting textures and colors, being sure not to take too much of any one thing from any one area of the trail and also being sure only to take things that were already loose fallen leaves, interesting pebbles, broken twigs, fallen away pieces of liken, etc., not parts of still-living plants.  The children had fun doing this as they adventured, purposefully sliding down ridges (as in the photo below) and climbing over tree bridges (as in the photo above.  You cannot see from the picture how high the log was, but it was a fair distance off the ground). Once at the lake, we gathered on blankets and began our art chat. Observation of trees helped us review the concept of line, and lines drawn on the ground as well as observation of living and non-living things around us helped us recall/teach the art elements of shape, color, form, texture, value, and space. We also chatted about art principles such as proportion, contrast, rhythm, and pattern.

Then, it was time for our art project.

Children were challenged to make up some mud that would be just damp and thick enough to create a form on a random tree of their choice.  Then, using the items they'd collected along the trail, they were to transform their mud forms into faces, using interesting texture, color, and contrast to create expression.

Getting the mud to just the right consistency proved a bit more challenging than expected, but that was A-okay as it encouraged parents to get right in their with their hands, too!  Of course the sand down by the water was not quite the right consistency for sculpting with, so we added soil hummus from beneath leaves.  Then, we found some clay-like dirt over by a different part of the water's edge, and, mixed that into our mud medium.  Perfect! 

What a sensory experience it was as the grainy sand, damp soil, oozy clay dirt, and cold water all came together.

Once we landed on the "right" mud mix, we were golden (or, perhaps, brown would be a better description.)  The children were able to get their forms to stick to the trunks of leaning trees or to the bases of them and to create some fun faces.

Faces completed to the children's satisfaction, we washed our hands in the cold pond water, dried them on a towel I'd remembered to bring, and, then, sat down to enjoy conversation during a sunset picnic.

One of the families that joined us was right in the middle of pulling a child from school in order to become homeshoolers, so the mom of that family had lots of questions that the rest of us were happy to answer, and the daughter of the family said something that made me so happy.

I had commented to the children that being there, outside, eating together and chatting as the sun set after having created art together made my heart so happy.  The child commented that being with us made her feel so welcome.  She went on to say that she rarely feels welcomed at school, other children exclude her, but not with us.  She felt welcomed right away.  Wow!  THAT is my one of my goals with our Hike-n-Art experiences: to welcome children and adults into nature in a community of exploration, creation, and fun.  I guess we are succeeding with that. 


Just beautiful.

As we walked out of the woods and back to our cars, my heart burst with thanksgiving for the experience we'd all had.  Sensory-based nature art, fresh air, sunset, old friends, and new.  You cannot go wrong with all that!

Check Out Pics, Reports and Plans from Some of Our Other Art-n-Nature Experiences

As soon as my back heals up, I am excited to continue our 2015-2016 Art-n-Nature initiative with at least four final excursions. As I plan forward for them, I would love YOUR suggestions for Spring and Summer art projects that can be enjoyed outdoorsPlease leave links and ideas in a comment or at the Training Happy Hearts Facebook page.  Thank you!


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