Sunday, November 8, 2009

Nature Exploring and Creating

The Mississippi Environmental Education Alliance hosted a fall conference that I attended over the weekend. My friend Sarah Campbell wrote about several workshops (including hers) from the conference on her blog here.

The last workshop was led by Robin Whitfield who had also made a presentation about her work the night before. This session was a hands-on exploration of our outdoor surroundings at the conference center. After demonstrating some art techniques Ms. Whitfield likes to use, each participant was encouraged to gather materials, take a walk, observe nature, and explore the trees, leaves, water or whatever we saw using art. While photographing a large mushroom, a wolf spider walked across my art materials. Some folks experimented with leaves while others chose water. One of Ms. Whitfield's creative techniques is "dipping" or trying to capture a print of water surfaces with paper.

Ms. Whitfield also led us in a group project focusing on process in the style of artist Andy Goldsworthy. She photographed each stage of our work for documentation. While she had a direction in which she wanted to lead us, she was also open to what happened when we were actually creating. We improvised with what was around us. When the wind started blowing our leaves off of the paper, we added sticks to hold them down, and the sticks became part of the art. When we were running short of time, we changed our group project to one large piece instead of three. When one participant was stung by a bee, we moved our group project work area to another location.

Through all of the workshops at the conference, I was introduced to many resources for helping children learn about the environment in Mississippi. Through Ms. Whitfield's workshop, I was introduced to a whole new way of interacting with nature through art. It is through art that Ms. Whitfield learns more about the swamps through which she kayaks and the woods through which she hikes. I can't wait to share what I learned from Ms. Whitfield and others at this conference with my students and children.

Robin Whitfield demonstrated a combination of leaf rubbing with crayon and stenciling with homemade black walnut ink.

Outside, participants formed a circle from leaves collected around the conference center.

The leaves were printed with watercolor and black walnut ink mixtures and stenciled with black walnut ink that was sprayed and brushed onto the paper around the leaves and sticks. Originally, Robin had wanted to use a moth stencil in the center of the circle, but a participant suggested using a large mulberry leaf as the focal point. Here, we rubbed soil found on-site around the mulberry leaf to stencil its image onto the paper.

Our Group Project

The Process (a slide-show of my photos from the workshop)

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful. Thank you for sharing.