LANDMARKS: NATURE, ART, SCHOOLS

Week 10 – 25 New Participants

Total Individual Children Participating: 191

Total Participation Rate: 391 (Some school classes have returned 2-3 times)

“The kids really enjoyed the day. The presentation was excellent and language used was very child friendly, which made it very easy for the children to access what can be difficult concepts for even adults to grasp. Very enjoyable” Collon National School, Teacher (3rd Class)

The website Nature-Art-Education (www.naturearteducation.org) is a collection of resources for artists interested in working with natural materials, landscape and atmospheric conditions. The website has emerged from the projects and writings of artists, academics, philosophers, and community activists interested in arts based environmental education. The website was developed by artists based in Aalto University, School of Art and Design, Helsinki.

One of the articles included in this website is called  “An Artist’s Way of Knowing” by Peter London. Peter London has written a book called Drawing Closer to Nature, which examines how nature can be a source of artistic practice, and a means of re-making our personal and collective experiences. He believes it is vital that everyone has primary encounters with nature, in order to cultivate enhanced experiences of intuition. Intuition is an artist’s way of knowing, and it is essential to making art that evokes personal experience.

Experimenting with natural materials is an opportunity for children to be alone with themselves amidst classroom activity. This time apart from structured learning can offer a short pause in which a child can rejuvenate focus. The advantage of a nature based classroom environment is to signal the necessary of inward retreat. A child can be stimulated by the re-making of a classroom, through collections of natural objects, writings, sculptures, photographs and indoor shelters or dens which engage the senses and offer a place for reflection.

The idea of a classroom also being an art studio suggests the importance of process and discovery within art making. The preciousness of a studio is to “inhabit a tiny microclimate, a wee ecosystem in which I am the main determinant.” (Peter London).

The Landmarks studio, located within the Ardee Library, is an opportunity for children to develop their own insight, perspective and to make a small habitat for themselves. A studio allows children to create a flow of artworks that carry their own insights and ways of being into the world. Artists “see the possibility of the new,” art is an activity of making and for children this activity can “act out in the manifest world, their singular experiences, intuitions, and reveries” (Peter London).

The photos were taken from a Landmarks workshop with Collon National School 3rd Class students.




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LANDMARKS: NATURE, ART, SCHOOLS

Week 9 – 21 New Participants,   17  Repeat Participants

Total Landmark Participants: 166

Location: Ardee Library

Participant Feedback:

“The children really enjoyed visiting each art station and working with the different art materials. It was lovely to see the children so engrossed with their work. They seemed really excited at having the opportunity to use materials for art that they might not get to use at school.  They particularly loved the ink stampers and drawing work, using beautiful photos as inspiration. Excellently explained and a fun experience” Monastery National School Ardee, Teacher (2nd Class)

“The important part of the project was the link with the classroom, bringing the artworks back into the classroom offered continuity. It meant that we could create our own environment. The project was structured, but free, focussed and yet we could make it our own” Ardee Educate Together National School, Teacher (5/6th Class)

The featured artist this week was Chris Drury, known for his stone and branch shelters, cairns with fire, and collections of natural materials, which he calls bundles.

In his book, Silent Spaces, Drury describes the protectiveness offered by his huts or shelters made within remote wild areas around the world.

Within a classroom a small shelter can be a place to ‘be apart’, to go inside one’s self for a moment, before re-entering classroom activity.

“I like the way that  a shelter has an interior as well as an exterior. They feel different but are connected. I like the way this interior space draws you inside yourself, enclosing, protecting, just as mountains pull you outside yourself, pushing mind and body beyond their usual confines” (Chris Drury, Silent Spaces, p. 20). A shelter has a presence, both in nature, and also indoors. The fact that it can be entered into, embraces or surrounds a child unto themselves. Within the Ardee Library, a willow shelter resides within the corner of the art room. A quiet ending to a period of creative work can be achieved by asking each child to enter the shelter for a few moments to be by themselves. The rest of the class ‘holds’ the silence for their classmate, as they enter the shelter.

Drury also collects simple natural objects to create bundles, which become symbolic, representing a particular place, season, and habitat. A bundle, writes Drury, is like a souvenir, “they are talismans of time and place, made simply at a campsite, or alternatively made at a later date as an act of remembering. A stick is a forest, a stone is a mountain”  (Chris Drury, Silent Spaces, p. 58). Children can easily make their own bundles from sticks, moss, pinecones and sheep’s wool.

Students can also re-create the ‘fire’ of Drury’s artworks by using clay, sticks and candles. Each Landmark’s session begins and ends around a candle campfire situated in the middle of the art room. The campfire is a gathering place, a resting place within a landscape, and a stopover within a long journey. Drury creates fires within stone cairns in remote mountain areas, along cliffs, or by falling water. They mark “moments of exhilaration” along long walks, or the contrasts between stone, water, time, light, and sky. The campfire is also evoked in the art sessions through the use of charcoal, literally burnt wood taken from old campfires situated in local forest parks. The children work with the black wood in their paper books.

The photos featured are artworks from students of Monastery National School, Ardee Educate Together and Scoil Mhuire na Trocaire.

LANDMARKS: NATURE, ART, SCHOOLS

Week 8 – 17 New Participants

Total Landmark Participants: 145

Location: Ardee Library

Participant Feedback:

“Very well organised, and the children really enjoyed such simple projects with wonderful results. Parents got involved and there was great bonding. Thank you, let’s hope this type of project keeps up” Preschool Teacher, Ballapousta Preschool

Lisa Lipsett a Canadian artist and environmental educator, has developed a method of painting in communion with nature that depicts the interior or feelings of natural objects. The instinct to paint spontaneously is inherent within young children. Rather than an illustrative representation of the outside features of what they see, they can easily enter into a spirit of communication to the inside of nature through paint and drawing materials. By making contact with art materials through touch, a young child’s art is both sensory and instinctive.  

Lisa’s website http://www.creativebynature.org outlines a system for connecting with both the natural world and our sense of place within it. In essence generating an empathy for the environment, and allowing it to resonate through our art and ultimately our identity.

Watching preschool children working with their own natures through a path of art materials, is a way for parents to also be in contact with their own creativity. Creative experimentation is an instinctive way of communication, it can be expressed through art making as a rapid flow of unpredictability. By trying out different kinds of lines, textures, and colours, a child also explores space, thoughts, feelings and language. Rather than a pre-determined outcome, the art is in essence a sensory experience, a way of connecting to the world around them.

These examples of artworks were made by preschool children of Ballapousta Preschool, County Louth. They worked their way through an art studio of clay, mud, photographs, watercolour paint, and drawing materials accompanied by their parents who helped them along the way.