Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Art of Nature.

A great example of living Art in Nature.
(Photo by Leisl Pimentel of Phoenix Zoo fame!)

Nature if full of absolutely amazing patterns, colors, shapes, and forms. I find that when I am taking a walk and I stop for a few minutes, even a few seconds, and look around I see an incredible amount of intricate details. I am constantly in awe of the rich collection of colors that change with the adjusting light, and the seemingly endless arrangements of patterns. So, how can we use this rich collection of inspiration to have fun outdoors, and create stronger connections to the natural world? Well, by getting outside to start with. And secondly, by creating some of your own art in nature.

Now I know that it is winter for all of us in the northern hemisphere and we here in America have been getting some proper and some unusual winter weather. It was 17 degrees in parts of Florida this morning! So getting out in the winter can be a challenge. And a good portion of this activity can be done indoors after a quick exploration outside. And really, doing art projects while drinking hot coco is a ton of fun.

There are a couple of options that come to mind when I think about creating art in and with Nature. The first one is to head outside, perhaps near your Anchor Spot and look for materials. I would also encourage you to explore all around your neighborhood or local parks as well for "art materials". The greater the variety of materials will lead to more diverse masterpieces!

Look for objects that are plentiful. We do not want to over harvest materials and risk harming the long term health of plants or degrading areas that others might enjoy. Some suggestions for materials are: acorns, various leaves both green and dead, twigs, fungi, rocks, pine cones, ferns, bones, feathers, bark, etc. You get the point. Try and collect materials that have a variety of colors, textures, and sizes. I also encourage you to mix materials and combine living plants or organisms with items you bring to a living item. Here is an example of such a mini-project:

I used the growing mushroom as the center piece and then built around it with various leaves from four plants/ trees. I also found another mushroom of the same species that had been knocked off of it's stem by something, and created another little piece.

  For these two pieces I chose to make them outside. However, you can just as easily collect your materials and bring them inside or to another location outside to create your masterpieces. Both of these options work well with one or two kids or even with a large group! Make sure that before you go out and collect materials that you talk with your kids about respecting the plants and other resources that they might choose so that they do not create too much damage to the area you are working in. We will talk more about Caretaking next time.

Another option is to head out with a camera (digital or traditional) and take pictures of patterns that you can find in area around your house. Then you can go home and create some great slideshows or even print out some of your best pictures and put them up in your house. Here are some examples of patterns I found within 50' of the house this morning on my walk with the dogs.

As you continue making Art With Nature, experiment with a variety of sizes, colors, and textures. Send in some pictures of your work ( asinglefootstep@gmail.com) so others can be inspired by your creativity. Also, if you are in an area with snow or ice, the white can provide a wonderful canvas to create on! Another option besides taking photos is to find items in nature that inspire you and draw them in a nature journal. A wonderful tradition to start might be to do some Nature Art each season, or even every month! There is no end to the amount of things you could create using the wonderful resources nature can provides. Enjoy connecting with What's Out There and releasing your creative skills!

Nature Nugget:
Today the Nature Nugget is an overview of the components of our Atmosphere. This ocean of air envelopes our small planet and provides us with the air we breathe and the colors of our sky. Our atmosphere is not a uniform mixture of material, it is a layered blanket that changes as it moves away from our planet's surface. So here is a basic primer of Atmospheric Explanation.
(Going from the Earth's Surface upward)
Earth's Surface:

Troposphere: From the surface up to around 9mi (15km).
This layer is the lowest, densest, and the thinnest layer of the atmosphere. Most weather occurs in the Troposphere. On average the temperature in the Troposphere drops about 3.5 degrees for each additional 1000' of altitude. At the upper end of the Troposphere the temperature is around -70 degrees fahrenheit. The Troposphere contains about between 80-90% of the mass in our atmosphere including most of the water vapor.
--Tropopause-- The area where the Troposphere and Stratosphere mix and the area of our Jet Streams.

Stratosphere: Up to about 30mi (50km).
The lower parts of the Stratosphere is around the same temperature as the upper level of the Troposphere, but then gradually warms in the mid to high areas of the Stratosphere as there is an increase in the amount of Ozone (O3). This warmer air over colder air inhibits vertical mixing and creates a fairly stable, stratified distribution of air. At the top of the Stratosphere, the temperature is about 30 degrees fahrenheit.
--Stratopause-- Air pressure is 1/1000 of the pressure at sea level.

Mesosphere: Continues up to between 50-56 miles up (90km).
The Ozone Layer here is almost non-existent and heat actually is radiated out into space and temperature decreases with height. At the top of the Mesosphere the temperature is about -130 degrees fahrenheit. This is the area of our atmosphere where meteors burn up when they enter our atmosphere.

Thermosphere: Up to between 350-700 miles high.
Here temperature also raises with a gain in height due to gases absorbing short ultraviolet waves from the sun. The upper Thermosphere has temperatures about 180 degrees fahrenheit. The upper area of thermosphere is where many of our man-made satellites orbit- including the space station and space shuttles. Above the poles in the Thermosphere is where the northern and southern lights or auroras are displayed through energy from the sun exciting gases.  In the Thermosphere is the Ionosphere. This region is where atoms have become ionized by ultraviolet radiation. This is the area where radio waves can be bounced around the world using predetermined angles, eliminating the problem of the Earth's curvature.

Exosphere: Any area above the Thermopause.   

So there you go, that is what's above us at any given time. So the next time you look up, keep in mind all the layers you are looking through. Our atmosphere can affect our view of sunsets, and sunrises and the clarity of stars at night.

If you have any thoughts or comments, please leave them here or email me at:

Until next time...have fun out there!


  1. That's just the kinda activity my son loves. Of course, I always tell him, 'if you see a red mushroom in the forest, eat it immediately.'

    Lovely blog, Shawn! I'm gonna have to scroll back ...


  2. It is great that you included little things that too often we pass right by with out noticing. Great blog!