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Using Nature as Inspiration

Artists have always been inspired by nature. Sometimes this inspiration shows up quite literally in photography or artworks depicting realistic landscapes, animals, waterscapes or other standards of the natural world. Sometimes nature is represented more abstractly in textures, colors, or shapes. In a Nature Conservancy interview with Todd Wilkinson, founder/editor of, an online magazine devoted to the global celebration of art in nature, Todd says, "I think for most artists, interpreting nature heightens the bond of connection. Oftentimes when we think about nature, there is an ambiance that lingers in our memory. Artists are important interpreters and translators of that. How many times have you stood before a great painting or sculpture and been staggered by its impact, the same way that we're left awestruck by a mountain, herd of elk trailing single file across a foothill or a warming sunrise?"

Try these tips and venues to gain some inspiration from your natural surroundings.

Your own backyard
Okay, maybe you live in an apartment or townhouse or in some other place that doesn't offer a backyard, per se, but a great place to gain inspiration from nature is right at home. If you do have a backyard, take some time to observe: the birds, insects, squirrels, trees, your neighbor's cat. Watch how various things interact. Pay attention to light and shadows. Look at the textures: the soft moss, the rough tree bark, the wispy blades of grass. And if you don't have a backyard, why not take some time to set up a still life of fruit or simply watch your pets for a while? You know you've always wanted to sketch your betta fish.

Art in the park
Yeah, we know we just suggested this recently for an Artist Date, but it holds equally true for natural inspiration. Take your sketch pad or even your easel out to a local park and draw or paint what you see. A full landscape, a single tree, some ducks on the lake, all such possibilities are open to pens, pencils, charcoal, and an array of paints and brushes. You might even take some clay to mold your own sculpture of what you see.

Take a hike
This offers such a great array of all nature's bounty. Depending on your location, you can see plants big and small, animals, insects, rocks, rivers or streams, the sky and clouds, and so much more. You can get very close for an intimate view or perhaps you can hike to a particular vista that offers long views. Take a few photos with your camera phone of the things that catch your attention so you can incorporate them into your works later.

Go camping
If a few hours of communing with nature just isn't quite enough, a weekend camping adventure can do wonders to put you at one with your natural surroundings. A great aspect of this plan is that you can take lots of art supplies with you. Stuff a backpack or a plastic container full of supplies and use the time to work on whatever medium interests you. Obviously, photography is a natural choice for a camping trip but you can also take all the supplies that we mentioned previously in the "art in the park" entry. You can relax and be productive at the same time!

Vacation time
We all need to get away on occasion. As you are planning your next vacation, though, think of some possibilities that offer surroundings that are different than your daily experiences. If you live in the mountains, go to the beach. If you live near the beach try a trip to the Midwest. If you already live amid flat cornfields, go somewhere with a rocky coastline. Have you ever been to a tropical locale? What about a desert? Shake things up. Try something new. And, of course, take plenty of photos and take your art supplies along with you.