Nature Walks and Art

Autumn is here, full of conkers, Jam making and long nights drawing in. The hedgerows are full of their bounty; the trees turning gold to drop their leaves, but most of us no longer rely on the autumn harvest as a way of life and this means that we spend a lot less time in the natural world than we once did. A commute is rarely a walk past country hedgerows, or a job spent in the open air. We lead different, busy lives in cities and towns, in front of computers; driving to work. This is the way of our modern world and it has certainly improved the lives of many, however it is my belief that we should hold on to these traditions for our own benefit. So many of us have turned to nature for solace this year and that has really brought into light the benefits of the natural world on our physical and mental well being.

Art and creativity is a fantastic way to incorporate nature in to our life and appreciate it, because to draw something is to look at it intently. When an artist paints the landscape they will look at it for hours on end. When else do we stop to do such a thing?

If you are a interested in nature journalling then this project us an ideal way to fill a few pages and pause to look a the season around us. Drawing hedgerow finds is a good exercise for any beginner and especially children, for whom a walk to collect things like conkers and autumn leaves can be a staple of childhood.

For this project you will need:

  • Paper suitable for your chosen medium - This might be drawing paper, paper for watercolours or a sketchbook.
  • Drawing utensils - Pens, pencils and/or watercolours
  • Somewhere to walk and find things - This could be a park or arboretum, a stretch of trees with beautiful autumn leaves, a garden or a walk encountering hedgerows and bridlepaths.
  • A bag or pot to carry your finds in.
  • Probably a raincoat and wellies because let's face it this is England

The first part of this exercise is... exercise. Set out to walk somewhere and look for things that inspire or interest you. It can be especially nice for children to hunt for specific things such as conkers or catkins and, with the help of a book on local flora, it can also be an education in the natural world.

Once you have returned from your autumnal nature walk (and put the kettle on!), place your finds on your paper and arrange them until you get to a composition you're pleased with. You can mark this in pencil or just eyeball it.

Next, get the proportions in. Do this in light pencil before you put in any detail. You don't want to end up with a beautiful drawing only to realise it's far too small or too far to the left.

Once it's all correct, add detail. This is the stage to really focus on the drawing even if you're going to paint it later. In this example I've drawn in in the detail with a fine line pen after doing the proportions in pencil. I want this to be recognisable so I'll really focus on distinctive features.

Next I'm going to add colour -this is optional but adds to your observation. Look closely at the colours and don't be tempted to only use bright ones. Lots of beautiful plants have browns, greys and dark greens in them too.

After the colours I paint shadows to make the objects look 3D. Take note of the direction the light is coming from and only paint shadows where you can see them. If an object is casting more than one shadow due to overhead lights, pick the strongest and ignore the others. I often use blues for shadows as a grey made from black can really dull down a picture and most shadows are in tones of blues and purple anyway - this is particularly noticeable on very hot days when the shadows can be rich blues or vibrant purple.

Finally, I often annotate with labels or information about the type of plant my find belongs to and the date. This is a chance to learn something new but entirely optional as hedgerow botanicals can make beautiful standalone artwork or cards with out the need for writing.

And there you have it! An afternoon spent in the open air and in creativity. I hope in doing this exercise you have learned something new and enjoyed yourself. Feel free to tag me in your posts with @valerianstudio, I would love to see the work you create.

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Ms Emma Leyfield currently trading as 'Valerian'. The copyright to all images and graphics used within this website are owned by Valerian, or Valerian has sought the appropriate permissions to use them.

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