Nature Art: An Exercise in Process Art

posted in: Fine Art | 4

To say that my son loves Dinosaur Train (#afflink) is an understatement. He is nuts about the show. Probably in part because it’s one of the few times he gets screen time (we allow him to watch sports games now and then too). Anyways, on one of the recent episodes of Dinosaur Train, the dinosaur kids discover the fun of making nature art. It’s a process art, transient arrangement of objects found in nature, created with the intent of it being changed by the elements.

Nature Art - Process Art - Betsy's Photography

The process art movement began in the 1960s.  Process art, as defined by the Tate (a really neat art museum in the UK):

Art in which the process of its making is not hidden but remains a prominent aspect of the completed work, so that a part or even the whole of its subject is the making of the work.

I love this concept, that the process of creating is as important, if not more important, than the final product.  Process art is transient, ever-changing, influenced by its environment.  When the dinosaur kids make nature art, they’re experimenting with process art.  So, back to the storyline.

The Dinosaur Train episode starts off with their mom cleaning out the nest and making a case for getting rid of a bunch of “toys” the kids don’t use anymore (leaves, stones, etc). The kids, of course, don’t want to part with their beloved things. Over the course of the episode, the kids learn about nature art from some friends, and ultimately repurpose all their old “toys” into a nature art installment that can be seen from their nest.

“Mrs. Pteranodon cleans out the clutter from the family nest and the kids are amazed at the pile of stuff – leaves, flower petals, pieces of wood, and shells. Tiny stops Mom from throwing out all the stuff, determined that she and Buddy, Tiny, and Don will find a use for it all.” – Synopsis from Dinosaur Train, Episode 27, Season 6 #afflink

After the show wrapped up, I asked Toby if he’d like to make nature art sometime. I heard a resounding “yes!” in reply. So, the next day we went outside to find some things for making nature art. Because it’s supposed to be changed by the elements, and even blow away, we had to use something found in nature (rather than our old toys, which get donated — more eco-friendly).

We gathered some seed pods from the kale plant in our garden, some clover blossoms, a dried up chive blossom, buds from a thistle plant, a dill flower, and a few rocks. I originally planned on having Toby make nature art in a container at our counter, but as we explored the items harvested from our yard, I realized that seeds were going to end up everywhere.

We took a few moments to save some kale seeds and chive seeds for next year’s garden, and then I directed Toby out onto our deck with his bin. He had a blast playing with the items in it, arranging them, running around, you name it. Someone was in a silly mood and tried to destroy his nature art before I could photograph it, but I managed to sneak a couple pictures of it anyways.



We sealed up the container, brought it back inside for later — only to find that that wasn’t such a great idea. When Toby opened it up to show Daddy his nature art, my poor husband got an allergy-inducing whiff of the pollen etc. So after that, we put the nature art items outside on Toby’s picnic table, so he could watch them get rained on and blow away.

I love the concept of nature art, and appreciate the fact that we can document these transient creations through photographs. The ever-changing aspect of nature art was helpful for my toddler in his comprehension of how things always change, and how we have to learn to accept change as it happens to us (or the things we make).

Click on any image below to view in gallery mode.

Nothing is perfect. Things unfold with a mind of their own. It’s our job to find contentment as we journey through life.

Nature Art + Process Art Resources

Some other resources and ideas for nature and process art (links will open in a new window):

4 Responses

  1. Julie

    Love, love, love nature art. What a great list of activities. Thank you for including our painting on trees post.

  2. Betsy Finn

    Thanks Julie! Glad to include your fun activity!