The Nature of Materials

Art Materials from Nature

Berries, Pollen, Mud, Branches, Leaves, Moss, Lichen, Charcoal, Flowers, Stones, Sand, Weeds, Bark, Grasses, Pine Cones, Pine Needles, Roots, Vines, Clay, Rain Water, Water from a Lake, River or Ocean, Beeswax, Rosehips, Herbs, Stems, Seeds, Snow, Feathers, Natural Dyes, Fungus, Flower/Plant/Vegetable Prints, Seedpods, Rubbings from Natural Materials, Reeds, Hair, Seaweed, Abandoned Insect and Bird Nests, Naturally Shed Antlers, Cattails


Artwork above by Dillon Lewchuk, Title: Cultivate Imagination, Size: 4 feet high x 6 feet diameter.

This interactive sculpture explores creativity through different perspectives. This tiny space represents and provides a safe place for the endless opportunities imagination provides for a child. The artist has collaborated with a local Regina daycare to fill the walls with drawings. While on the other hand, adults must kneel down to peer inside this sacred space. This offers a nostalgic experience for the grown up viewer.



Photos Above: Pottery firing and vessel by Susan Spyker and her mother.

“This piece of pottery was originally made by my mother and had only been bisque fired. As I was doing yard work that included burning I decided to place this and a few other pieces into the fire pit for a primitive fire. The fire surrounded by kiln bricks with bisque ware meeting the primitive heat of the flame, ash, and smoke. My mother loved creating pottery, loved primitive fire, and loved gardening. I found this to be a beautiful art activity in memory of my mother and all that she has taught and left me. I currently am studying and practising pottery and definitely call in her practice to assist me. Loving this nature-based legacy. ” (Susan Spyker)

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Artwork by Nicola Sherwin-Roller. Title: Woodland Guardian. Materials: Paper Wasp Nest, Birch Bark, Moss, Tree Shelf Fungus, Pine Cones, Naturally Shed Deer Antlers, Pine Twigs. The artwork was made in 2011 for the Prince Albert Juried Winter Art Festival. This piece was part of a series (sculpture and drawings) about our spiritual connection with nature, the archetypal imagery and legends of nature and nature’s duality to both nurture and be hostile.

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Artwork by Nicola Sherwin-Roller. Title: Good Breast-Bad Breast. Materials: Paper Wasp Nest, Birch Bark, Moss, Tree Shelf Fungus, Pine Cones, Leaves from a Variety of Trees, Pine Twigs, Reeds, Cattail fluff and Reed Stems, Caragana Seed Pods, Birds Nest, White Ribbon. The piece was made in 2012 and was exhibited at the Prince Albert Juried Winter Art Festival. The artwork explores nature’s duality to nurture and be hostile. This piece was also a response piece to my art therapy work with severely traumatized and abused children who were in adoptive and foster homes.

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Artwork by Anna Dos Santos, Title: Life is old there, older than the trees…. A memory of my visit to West Virginia. Materials: Old Sweet potatoes attempting to grow, a bunch of dried twigs, dry maple leaves, a piece of wood collected at the foot of Capital Hill, Washington on the eve of Senator John McCain’s death, a piece of driftwood from the Shenandoah River, stones collected from worked out mines on the Blue Ridge Mountains, West Virginia, one stone heart shaped painted in green acrylic.

Anna Dos Santos has included the song “Take Me Home Country Roads” by John Denver to accompany her artwork

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Chorus: Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mama
Take me home, country roads

All my memories gather round her
Miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye

I hear her voice, in the morning hour she calls me
The radio reminds me of my home far away
And driving down the road I get a feeling
That I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Take me home, down country roads
Take me home, down country roads


Photo: Belfast Castle Forest, Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy Summer School 2018

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Photo: Artist Helle Helsner with charcoal made in the Baby Forest artist colony in Co. Cork, Ireland.

“I want an intimate physical connection with the earth. I must touch. I take nothing out with me in the way of tools, glue or rope, preferring to explore the natural bonds and tensions that exist within the earth. The season and weather conditions determine to a large extent what I make. I enjoy relying on the seasons to provide new materials. “(Andy Goldsworthy)

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Photo: Eileen Hutton, Nest Jumper, Blue Tit Nest Inside Knitted Wool Jumper (Sweater)

“To create the sculpture, I built a nesting box and placed a knitted jumper (sweater) into the box. A blue tit family then built their nest inside the jumper…The artificial habitat functions to support biodiversity” (Artist Eileen Hutton, co-founder MFA Art and Ecology, Burren College of Art, Ireland)

Art and Oak Branches

Photo: Saidhbhin Gibson,”Once more with Feeling,” a sculpture made from foraged oak branches. Artist Statement: “Seeing, picking, considering, transporting, storing…returning, gathering, spreading, measuring, assembling, gluing, construction, repeating…”

“Movement, change, light, growth and decay are the life-blood of nature, the energies that I try to tap through my work. When I work with a leaf, rock, stick, it is not just material in itself, it is an opening into the processes of life within and around it. When I leave these processes continue.” (Andy Goldsworthy)

Quotations from “Environmental Arts Therapy and the Circle of Trees” by Vanessa Jones and Gary Nash (July, 2015),, The British Association of Art Therapists, Newsbriefing, Vanessa Jones Website, Earth Based Therapy. 

“Working with nature seemed to provide a subtle and deeper holding of the therapeutic process. Nature also provided the materials, media, context, inspiration and exhibition space. The inspirational dynamic which is active in nature was experienced as we attuned to the holding environment. Here there was a connection made between internal feeling and the unconscious—and the external—explored and amplified through the use of symbol and metaphor.”

“The process of exchange between inner and outer expression opened up a reciprocal dynamic. It allowed connection with internal individual dramas, losses or traumas; a space for these to be held and reflected back as nature provided the grand narratives of birth, life and death, repeated in its annual cycle.”  (Vanessa Jones and Gary Nash)

Music Credit: Richard Skelton is a British musician who works within landscapes, considered a sonic topographer, he is also a wordsmith and evokes the landscape through resonance in music and words that is not a depiction of nature, but rather an immersion. Instruments are implicated with landscape to declare it.


Artwork: Giant Hogweed Painted Roots, Artist Frieda Meaney, Landmarks and Lifeforms Exhibition, Highlands Gallery, Co. Louth, Ireland

“Our clients do not live, and are not bound by intrapersonal and familial narratives alone. Our clients, like us, live their lives in wide systems of relationship–with themselves, with other people, institutions and organisational structures, and the wider natural environment, including nature and non-human others. Environmental arts therapy and art therapy outdoors….provides a framework to working actively with this bigger picture.” (Vanessa Jones (2015) “The Greening of Psychotherapy and its Implications for Art Therapy Practice” in The British Association of Art Therapists, Newsbriefing). 

Art on the Mountain

Photo: Cairn on The Sheep’s Head Way, Co. Cork

Why Art in Nature? The purpose of art making in nature is to experience the natural environment as an outdoor studio and to work with living art materials. It’s an opportunity to explore working with both found natural materials that make marks (i.e. mud, grass, berries, flowers, and charcoal) and to also investigate working with larger sculptural forms that evoke the idea of shelter within forest habitats. Equally, the acts of walking and collecting can be understood as important artistic practices.


Photo: Field Elements, meadow vegetation on canvas, County Louth, Ireland


Photo: Straw Lines, dried meadow grasses on canvas, County Louth, Ireland


Photo: Alice Fox, Beach Collections,

Collected objects from nature can be assembled into displays where textures, colours and patterns are highlighted. Since natural materials gradually decompose photography, sketching and writing can be used to document artworks made in the forest. The nature studio offers many experiences to perceive ecology, and to structure these perspectives into a variety of artworks that will explore lines, shapes, dimensions, and patterns found in the natural world. Land Art is an intriguing form of contemporary art which works within a variety of natural environments, transforming living materials into distinct compositions. Nature is unpredictable and constantly changing – these are also the features of environmental art made outdoors within different kinds of habitats.

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Photo: Wind blown tulip petals and beeswax on canvas


Photos: (Top) The Floral Arrangement, a family assemblage, Blackrock Park, Co. Louth.

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Photo: (Top) Mud with Gold Paint (Middle) Chris Drury Shimanto River Sphere (Bottom) Scraped Line on Stone



Photos: Dragon Spruce Tree Drawings Produced by Wind by Artist Tim Knowles,




Top Row: Artist herman de vries with collections from nature.Second Row: Ash, Branch, Cube by David Nash Third Row: (Left) Spore Print by Chris Drury (Right) Pine Circle, Cone Sphere by Chris Drury Fourth Row: River Avon Mud Drawing by Richard Long


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Top Photo: Reed Drawing, Royal Canal, Dublin Bottom Photo: A child’s floating artwork at Stephenstown Pond, Co. Louth, Ireland


Photo: Animal Architecture, a family artworks inspired by animal architecture, Ireland


Photo: Andy Goldsworthy  Rowan Leaves with Hole


Photo: Charred Embers, charcoal wood from a campfire for mark making


Photo: Gestural impressions from fire pit charcoal

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Photos: Ecole du cloitre Vic sur Seille, Les Photos de Marc Pouyet

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Photo: An artwork created along a forest path using bracken, pine cones, leaves and sticks.


Photo: Pollen marks from the catkins of a Hazel tree

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Photo: Pollen from the catkins of a hazel tree on paper.

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Photo: Richard Long, A Snowball Track, 1964,


Photo: Throwing snow balls in a blizzard

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Photo: The merging of autumn and winter, Phoenix Park, Dublin


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Photo: Tree by Joe Hanly A 30 foot oak tree (the tree died due to squirrels stripping its bark) suspended by its roots to hang down the central void of Temple Bar Gallery + Studios (Dublin). The uppermost branches arrive to hover in mid-air and rotate at a slow and even pace above people walking in the atrium.

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Photo: An arrangement of seaweed.