A few summers ago I enrolled in a watercolor painting class. I remember enjoying art as a kid, but it was never a focus in my life. To my pleasant surprise, painting has become a part of who I am now. Most importantly, it helps me get lost in the moment and forget about my worries.
I gravitate towards nature art painting because I love how flowers, trees, and animals are so unique, colorful, and fresh. When I focus on a gorgeous flower, for example, I feel more relaxed. This is certainly no coincidence since we know that nature can calm us. Both spending time outdoors and just looking at pictures of nature scenes can improve our health by reducing feelings of stress, anxiety, and anger. I have enjoyed developing a hobby that combines several relaxation tools from our toolkit.
Here’s a bit about my process. First, I go for a walk and look for attractive nature in my neighborhood (exercise) or I seek out nature during our travels, whether it be a trip to the beach or a science museum (awe). Then I snap a photo of it using my phone (creativity). When you are looking for beautiful images, you learn how to be more mindful of your surroundings (mindfulness). Later, when I’m ready to sit down and paint, I scroll through my images and choose one to create my artwork. I can pull up the image on my phone or computer, or I can print it out the old-fashioned way to use as a reference photo. Next, I draw the object or animal. Finally, I get creative with my color palette. I really enjoy painting natural scenery using watercolor. In addition to using the nature photos for painting, I post them on Instagram to inspire others with the beauty of nature all around us.
How Art Reduces Stress
Creativity can be such a wonderful stress buster for our kids as well. Art has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, so much so, that an entire discipline of art therapy has been developed. Art is a way of tapping into the right side of the brain where creativity, intuition, visualization, emotions, and daydreaming stem from. Here are some ways that art helps reduce stress and boost mood:
- Distraction. An important tactic in managing anxiety is to distract ourselves from what is tormenting our minds. Art is a great way to focus on something more positive, productive, and inspiring.
- Flow. Artists can become so absorbed in their work that they achieve a state of flow, the sense of being completely engaged in an activity to the point of being in a near-meditative state. When we are in a state of flow, we forgot about all of our thoughts and lose track of time.
- Mindfulness. When we are focused on an art project, we become completely absorbed into the present moment. This helps to quiet the mind as we become more concerned with doing the task at hand as completely and mindfully as we can and less concerned with judging and relating to things beyond the immediate context.
- Self-care. Having a hobby that we enjoy helps us feel more balanced and allows for mental and emotional downtime.
How To Build A Connection Of Art And Nature
Since both art and nature are such effective (and fun!) stress reduction tools, we can seek out ways for our kids to connect with nature and be inspired by it to create a masterpiece. We will be teaching them to look for beauty and awe around them, encouraging them to spend more time outside, and showing them the importance of being more environmentally aware so that they will want to protect our precious environment.
Children can really connect to nature through hands-on art projects like nature drawing. In fact, studies show that environmental art influences what children think, feel, and do about environmental issues because they remember the images they created themselves for a long time.
Nature is filled with so much beauty to spark creativity in our kids. “I love looking to the natural world when searching for inspiration for creative things to do, either with children or just for my own endeavors,” explained Lee Foster-Wilson, author of The Grown-Up’s Guide to Making Art with Kids. “With children, I think doing anything creative with them that involves nature, whether that be searching outside for natural objects to incorporate into games, creating dens in trees or with sticks, or simply looking in an encyclopedia for weird and wonderful animals to draw, gets them thinking about and interacting with the environment. I do believe that this sort of creative play can help foster a love and attitude of care and empathy for all things wild and wonderful, including other people.”
Here are some ways to harness nature art creativity in your kids:
Mindful Coloring: For children who aren’t ready or not in the mood to draw or paint themselves, consider starting them out with some mindful nature coloring. You can look for coloring books filled with images of landscapes, flowers, trees, and animals.
Nature Art Photography: Photography is a wonderful art form to help reduce stress and anxiety that we can share with our children. According to sound-mind.org, “…this particular stress management skill allows you to place your focus outside of yourself. Photography is a creative and fun hobby that can help distract you from the stress, anxiety, and depression you may be feeling.” Photography serves as a type of mindfulness meditation in which we get lost in the moment and experience a sense of flow while snapping photos with our camera. It can be quite calming to take photographs, especially of gorgeous nature and awe-inspiring images.
Nature Art Drawing: The options are endless since our kids can find inspiration to draw nature all around them, from your local park to science museums and nature centers to books. Lee Foster-Wilson’s book The Grown-Up’s Guide to Making Art with Kids is a must-have for nature drawing inspiration in your home. It is packed with how-to drawing and painting projects and creative prompts. There are sections for drawing all sorts of animals from cats and dogs to birds and reptiles, flowers, trees, leaves, shells, and fruits and vegetables. The illustrations are colorful and the instructions are simple. Your entire family will love drawing nature art using this amazing guide!
Nature Art Painting: As I mentioned earlier, my creative endeavor of choice is watercolor nature art painting. You can also use other types of paints, and even children’s paint sets. A really fun way to get your kids’ creative juices flowing is to take them outside in your backyard and set up the paint set and easel and ask them to paint what they see. Even if it’s raining or too cold outside, set them up by a window to paint. Imagine the gorgeous snow scene they can paint during a winter storm!
The trick is to expose your kids to different types of natural scenery to get inspired, such as science museums, butterfly gardens, arboretums, aviaries, botanical gardens, zoos, mountains, forests, hiking trails, beaches, waterfalls, sunsets, sunrises, canyons, and caves.
What are your family’s favorite ways to get creative with nature?