Saturday Art Challenge

30.05.2020

Creating Waves

Hello!! Welcome to another weekend art challenge!

The images above are of the progress of a painting that I created using scrap paper, a sponge and a palette knife. Finishing off our water themed week – I thought it would be nice to create some waves on paper. The great thing about doing this, is that it’s fun, easy and any mess just creates great texture for your ocean picture.

Here are the steps I took:

Step 1: Create a basic background with dark colours. I used a sponge to make a textured blueish sky. A palette knife to create lines of dark blue for an ocean, and another clean sponge to create a sandy / rocky beach texture.

Step 2: I found some old tracing paper and cut out jagged wave shapes. I stuck these over my ocean and onto the beach to try to represent the white horses washing into the shore line.

Step 3: Once I had my background sorted I used a painting sponge to keep adding layers and splashes of colour. You will see that I left a patch of white in the sky to represent the sun and light filtering through clouds.

Have fun! See what happens!! Scrunched up paper tissue also makes great textures, as does water colour paint when painting on to a wet surface.

Let me know how you get on!
Best wishes,

Emma

Friday’s Letters

29.05.2020

Bees, bugs and butterflies!

Hello everyone,

Thank you for all your interactions and lovely words that you have sent me this week. Some of these words have been sent just for my eyes, so instead I am going to share these beautiful stag beetle sketches. They were drawn back in the 1990’s, but my stag beetle Saturday Art Challenge prompted a memory and the sketches being dug back out by ‘M’ who kindly sent them in to share.

‘M’ also sent the the following two sketches, the butterfly also from an old sketch book, the moth a recent sketch. I think you will agree that these are gorgeous, and inspiring, I want to draw more!

At my allotment the honey suckle is blooming and I’ve been busy enjoying the bees visiting to enjoy the heady scented blooms. I also found these tiny little critters on a leaf – I think they are shield bug babies!

Look out for the Saturday Art Challenge tomorrow – where we will be making waves on paper!!

With best wishes for a calm and happy weekend.

Emma

Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class

27.05.2020

Pools, ponds, lakes and rivers

Welcome back to another Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class.

As mentioned on Monday, the whole theme this week is based around water, for a bit of fun for half term week and the opportunity to have a virtual adventure!

As many people visit natural beauty spots when we can travel I decided to use the water theme to get us thinking about fun and beautiful interactions with water. I hope that you enjoy the tasks!

Task 1: (5 mins) Skimming stones. Did you ever skim stones as a child? If you did you will know that the aim was to find the most satisfyingly smooth flat pebble possible. To hold it between finger and thumb, and with a flick of the wrist to send it sailing across a smooth body of water so that it literally skimmed and jumped across the surface.

In five lines write about skimming a pebble! (Don’t worry if you haven’t skimmed a pebble before – write about what you might expect to find if you did).

Task 2: (10 mins) Words on Water! I love words! In Robert MacFarlane’s book Landmarks he includes a glossary of words that relate to landscapes and nature, at the end of each chapter. How many words can you find to describe water? Write a list of as many words as possible. Once you have done this write a description of a pond, pool, lake, stream or river that you have visited, use as many of the words that you can.

Here are some words to get you started:

  • Shimmer
  • Glisten
  • Ripple
  • Splash
  • Lap

Task 3: (10 mins). Imaginative Task: Imagine that you are walking by a large lake, or body of water (this can be anywhere in the world, I like to imagine the blue fjords of Norway for this task!) The day is bright and sunny. You come upon an old but sturdy wooden boat. The boat is filled with cushions and blankets, it looks safe, inviting and comfortable. Two oars rest at the sides. There is a sign by the boat saying it is free to borrow. Describe what happens next……

Task 4: In detail: Have you ever stared into a pond or a rock pool, or even a deep puddle? In one paragraph create a sketch with words describing the detail of what you saw….if you feel stuck use the photograph below for inspiration!

As usual, I hope that you have enjoyed this creative writing class, and hopefully it has given you a little online break using the imagination for a joyful nature based experience.

If you have any work that I can include in Friday’s post I would love to share your work (it doesn’t have to be from this session, it can be writing done from previous weeks classes, or something else that has inspired you).

I look forward to hearing from you!

With best wishes,

Emma

Monday’s Poem

25.05.2020

As it’s bank holiday Monday, and half term week, with many of us still shielding and restrictions in place, I thought it might be fun for us to take a virtual day trip!

My favourite places to visit for a day out often involve water; walking along a river, dipping my toes in the freezing North Sea, or (very occasionally wild swimming….brrrrrrrrr).

To kick start the week I thought I would include these two beautiful poems written by my sister. The first about a coastal walk, the second about wild swimming! I can feel the chill tingle of cold water just reading the second poem! I hope you enjoy!

I hope you have a restful bank holiday Monday. Look out for Wednesday’s Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class. This week’s theme is on ponds, lakes and rivers. See you soon. (And – for what it’s worth….my sister has always been the one swimming, I’m the one usually hopping about, up to my knees in cold water, shrieking!!) If you can get outdoors and are lucky enough to have water nearby remember to only swim where it is safe to do so!

Best wishes,

Emma

Saturday Art Challenge!

23.05.2020

Beetle Mania!

Hello! Hope you have all had a good week and are ready for a nice relaxing Connect to Nature Art Challenge!

A bit of synchronicity occurred this week – one of my children’s homework from school was to complete line drawings of beetles. I absolutely adore beetles, all the shapes and colours that you find are brilliant for drawing and having fun with. I especially like making my own version of Beetle Drive (a quirky and brilliant British game) and drawing made up beetles as I go along.

For some absolutely inspirational beetles check out Golly Bard another of my favourite artists!

So here is my art work that I did this week – and I will take you through the process so that you can make one of your own:

Materials:

  • Sketch pad (I used brown paper which is lovely to draw on – however anything will do!
  • Pencil crayons, and even better – if you have them – water soluble pencil crayons.
  • Water colour tube paint – white.

Task: To draw a beetle from a photograph to learn in detail about a beetle!

  1. Choose an awesome picture of a beetle – I found a picture of a stag beetle online to work from.

2. I like to start drawing from one focal point of the beetle and work outwards rather than doing an outline. I used an undertone colour (dark brown) to basically start drawing all the shadows that I could see. From there I start sketching in outlines of details around the shape that begins to appear. As the beetle is symmetrical I tried to work from one side to the other to match up the proportions.

Top tip: Use reference points on the beetle to measure distance. Notice what different parts align to on the shape.

3. Once my drawing had got going I used a grey to add in the lighter shades and a yellow to highlight areas of body joins. I noticed that the horns were brownish red so used a nice earthy red to achieve the colour.

4. Once I had created my basic shape and undertone shadows in dark brown, I went over them with dark blue (blue and brown mix black and make a much more natural / interesting colour than flat black). As this began to give off a blueish hue – I went back over them again with dark brown to achieve the lovely reddish black colour that I was looking for.

5. I used water soluble pencil crayons, they basically mix like paint with a damp paintbrush. When I was happy with my drawing I highlighted areas with a damp paint brush to further blend the colours and create a smoother finish – mimicking the hard shiny shell of a beetle.

6. The final stage was to use a tube of white water colour paint to apply highlights to really make my beetle look shiny! I waited for my sketch to dry before getting a pointy thin brush. I dipped the brush in water and then very lightly in the top of the tube of paint and applied highlights of white that had been caught by the light in the photograph that I was drawing from.

My next task is to research further about the stag beetle – label the parts and go on a stag beetle adventure to actually see one in the wild!!

I hope you enjoyed this little task – please do email me with any sketches that you produce, I would love to see them. Also feel free to use your imagination and draw freely if you don’t feel in an observational mood. The main thing is to have fun!

See you next week for more creative writing! As it is bank holiday weekend and lots of people enjoy visiting natural beauty spots (under usual circumstances!) I have chosen a water based theme for all of next week’s tasks. This will start with poems inspired by wild swimming and follow with a creative writing class on pools, lakes and rivers.

Look forward to seeing you then.

Best wishes,

Emma

A beautiful beetle designed by my son 🙂

Friday’s Letters

22.05.2020

Words from the Woodland

Hello,

I hope you have all had a good week. This week I received this beautiful prose from ‘K’ who has written about the woodland. I think this is a powerful piece of writing and also a great metaphor that we could relate to many human experiences. I also found a great article all about the Japanese culture of Woodland Bathing and its benefits for wellbeing! If you haven’t heard about it you can read more here.

Here are ‘K’s’ brilliant words:

The Woodland.

The trees congregated together at the top of the hill, all competing in a slow gladiatorial contest for light. Historical evidence of previous battles won and lost played out in their branches. The winners standing tall, and the losers bearing bent limbs and scarred bark. The battle, although competitive, was far from prominent and despite this continual effortful struggle, there were few outwardly visible signs. By contrast the woodland appeared as a picture of natural, graceful, elegance, a place to escape, a place to be enchanted. 

The trees themselves were a mix of native species of oak, elm, and ash, all short three-letter words, but certainly not short in stature or character. Ancient trees with the wisdom of experience, as well as knowledge gleaned from the observation of events across the passage of time. 

When amongst these great grandfathers of the tree world time stood still and nothing really mattered. Concern over past mistakes, struggles of present existence, and the onward dilemma’s to be faced, all disappeared into the canopy above. Like filtering air, the trees tickled worrisome thoughts from the mind with their whispering branches and dancing leaves, recycling it into something good, something productive, something nice, anything but worrisome. 

But it is not only the trees that contribute to this lightening of feelings the flora and fauna do too. Audibly the birds are in charge, crispy chirping rings out with an alarm like tendency, coupled with the number and variance of species it culminates in a cacophony of sound rinsing the leaves in song. Then there is the melodious tunefulness of the true vocalists, those vying to be heard, ‘my song is the best’ they sing, with a projection and fullness it is as if they are singing for the very first time, and when you really listen, it is as if you are hearing it for the first time too. 

The sounds move about the trees with the beating of their wings. Darting in flight it is as if the birds are physically dancing to their own tunes. This audible movement creates an orchestral quality with a natural rhythm. It floats into the ear to calm and soothe even the most troublesome mind. Each moment in time entirely, and perceptibly, different to the one before, a unique avian soundtrack.

The trees listen intently and constantly to this song, with occasional individuals bowing to the beat of the music, whilst adding their own touch of harmony by rustling their leaves as is if they are humming along to the tune. The music gets absorbed into their very cells, and the trees grow in slow melodic time to the theme tune of the woodland.

So although all you see is a group of trees, when you get beneath the veneer of the bark, and you truly listen to what they are saying, the woodland not only speaks historically of competition, rivalry, and battles with adversity, but also right now, right at this present moment, they are speaking and breathing a tranquillity of silence which when you find it, is very hard to ignore.

Let me know if you have a favourite Wood that you visit, or an interesting woodland experience to share.

Look out for tomorrow’s Saturday Art Challenge – I’ve been sketching beetles this week and will share the process of using pencil crayons and water colour paints to create a stag beetle sketch. Stag beetles also live in the woodland – but I’ve heard that they come out after dark! Let me know if you have seen one!

See you tomorrow!
Best wishes,

Emma

Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class

20.05.2020

The beautiful Goldfinch

Hello!

Welcome to this week’s Connect to Nature – Creative Writing Class. I like to choose topics for each week’s theme based on recent observations that I have made in the natural world.

Over the last few weeks I have been very aware of goldfinches. Despite all the lush green foliage (which can make them hard to spot) I have had some lovely encounters on my allotment plot and walking by the River Ouse in York. A flock of goldfinches is called a ‘Charm’. I always think of them as a good omen. I love their jewel like red faces, a splash of colour amongst the tree line and the flash of gold on their wings when I catch them ahead of me. This week’s class is inspired by the goldfinch and their beautiful jewel like colours.

The lovely thing about writing about nature is that it opens up curiosity about the natural world. The more observations we can tie into a narrative, the more likely we are to learn and to appreciate those things around us, so we will use the goldfinch as a starting point and see where it takes us!

So let’s begin!

Task 1: (5 mins) A group of goldfinches is called a charm. You often see them moving between trees and hedgerows. In ten words describe a group of finches or small birds gathering within a hedgerow.

Task 2: (5 mins) The goldfinch has links to Christianity. Some say that the goldfinch flew down and plucked a thorn from Jesus’s crown of thorns, which is why the goldfinch’s face is stained red with Jesus’s blood. Since that time the goldfinch has been seen as a symbol of resurrection and passion.

Think of something else red in nature, describe it in detail without mentioning the name of it – if you can, read your work to someone and see if they can guess what it is. (Here are some ideas to get you started: Poppies, cherries, ladybirds, bullfinch, toadstools, maple leaves.)

For an extra challenge: Can you make up a story to describe how your chosen item got its colour?

Task 3 (10 mins) I had a lovely conversation with someone the other day about my love of goldfinches. They discussed with me a time spent travelling to visit First Nations People in America and the use of a totem pole to represent animals with meanings to individuals in their culture. (If you want to learn more about totems there is a little three minute video on this link). We were discussing that a goldfinch would have to feature somewhere on my totem as a symbol of good luck and my love of nature and freedom

If you could choose five animals or natural things for your totem what would you choose and why? Are you particularly drawn to certain plants or animals? What do they represent in your life, how long have you been drawn to them? If you haven’t got a particular favourite animal consider which animals you most look out for in the wild.

Task 4: (5 mins) I absolutely love the colours of the goldfinch. Think of something in the natural world that has vivid jewel like colours and has taken your breath away. Write a short paragraph about it. (Here are few couple of my favourites to get you started: Tansy beetles, Himalayan poppies, sunsets)

I hope that you have enjoyed this class and the journey it has taken us on thinking about the rich colours in the natural world and how stories are entwined with natural phenomenon.

For an absolute visual treat I recommend looking at Georgia Cox’s art work, one day I am going to treat myself to a goldfinch print! I love the detail and colours that she uses in her art work.

I hope that everyone is keeping well and safe! Look out for reader responses on Friday and I will be back on Saturday with an art challenge for you.

Take care!

Best wishes,

Emma

If you are new to the site, or haven’t visited in a while here are some of the most recent posts from this blog:

Please leave a comment if you wish! You can reach them by following the link at the end of each post. Or you can email me with your thoughts and any creative writing.

All photos of goldfinches taken from pixabay.com

Monday’s Poem

18.05.2020

A Few Words on Behalf of Local Residents!

By Richard Morgan

Be us ever so humble
We hope you won’t mind
If we put a few words in for our kind

We have waited beneath
While rain and wind above clattered
For us fast asleep its really not mattered

Now the warming Spring sun
Has stirred us out of our beds
We’ve burst through! And, a bit early, are showing our heads

Not celebrities or toffs
Few of us foreign of birth
Just most ancient peasants of this English earth

We are the boy and girl next door
We don’t often turn heads
Like those colourful blooms in your garden beds

But do stop for a moment
On your countryside walk
Just for a bit, leave your mobile phone talk

If you look up quite close
You’ll see our beauty and grace
And we hope for a moment we put a smile on your face.

This gorgeous little poem was kindly contributed by my friend Richard Morgan after I spotted it on social media. As Spring draws to a close and we approach summer I thought it would be lovely to include this little nod to all the little gems that line our hedgerows, pathways and wild places. The first wild flowers of Spring are the first signs of hope for warmer weather and signal nature’s rhythm and change. I hope you enjoyed this poem as much as I did.

See you on Wednesday for the next Connect to Nature Creative Writing Class. This week’s theme is the beautiful goldfinch. Hope to see you there.

With best wishes,

Emma

Saturday Art Challenge

16.05.2020

Creating Images from the Imagination

Welcome back to another Saturday Art Challenge.

This week’s creative writing class online was all about The Secret Garden and creating imagery using our imagination and observation.

Using the lovely visual language of art we can often bring together feelings about places by sketching out themes and ideas from memory. This is also a good task for observational drawing, if you sketch a place from memory and then go and compare your sketch to reality, you really begin to take in all the detail and start to give more thought to full observation.

When I make imaginative art I love to collage scrap materials and junk that I have found (this is especially good in the spirit of St Nick’s recycling and eco-friendly theme!)

So this week’s task is all about re-using and re-cycling to create a piece of art evoking a feeling from our imagination.

This week I was inspired by a camomile tea box and an invoice from a gardening firm that had a beautiful design on the back:

I was inspired thinking about Secret Gardens. I love tangled leaves, tree canopies, undergrowth and wild places. When I started to create my art I was thinking about beautiful overgrown gardens which are full of wildlife.

I was also thinking about a picture I took of the Herb Robert and the beautiful leaf shapes of the plant. I drew out half a leaf on the back of a piece of card and then scored the card down the middle so that I could create a symmetrical shape when I cut it out.

In the end I didn’t complete quite as intricate shape as these leaves, but I might go on to make some similar to these.

Once I had my shapes cut out I started to arrange them on a page in my note book. I wasn’t interested in creating a polished picture, it was more about evoking a feeling. I began to add in other scraps of paper and interesting cut outs. The next thing that I want to add are images of my favourite birds – goldfinches. To do this I have found some pictures in an old bird book that I will copy and print to collage in at another time.

So this is my work so far! A messy page of cut outs and torn paper, but I love the vibrancy and colour and this may inspire a painting at some point. Once I have added birds and more images I will upload the final collage ‘sketch’ in a couple of weeks. So here is your weekend challenge:

Task: Your weekend challenge is to find recycled goods, paper and patterns to collage into an imaginative picture evoking a feeling or memory of a natural space. The nice thing about collage is that we don’t have to worry too much about making an accurate line – you can tear, cut, rip and stick and have fun arranging the pieces until it feels right.

I hope that you have fun and enjoy this task. I would love to receive images of your results if you feel like sharing them with me (just check out my contact details for where to send in the website header).

I have a lovely poem about wild flowers which will be posted out on Monday. Next week’s Creative Writing class will be on the theme of goldfinches and wild birds. See you then! (Please also feel free to leave a comment if you want to let me know how you got on with this task.)

Take care.

With best wishes,

Emma

Friday’s Letters

15.05.2020

Connection

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all keeping well and safe. It seems that things have been quieter this week. Some people are feeling very tired of lock down and finding even the smallest tasks challenging, some have found one or two things they enjoy and are simplifying life. Either way I wanted to write first and foremost to say I am thinking of ALL of you and wishing everyone well and that this situation improves soon.

As a key worker lots of people often say to me they wish they were doing more to help. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone and to everyone that is staying home and keeping safe: You are helping hugely in taking pressure off the system and stopping the spread of COVID even further than it has gone already. Thank you.

So this Friday’s letters are pictures. Images of hope and new life and connection.

Mark sent me these lovely pictures of the River Foss and the gates of St Nick’s taken on a daily cycle ride. One day I plan to walk along more of the Foss, there are so many hidden beautiful stretches.

I also wanted to share is this absolutely gorgeous picture of a little hedgehog, currently residing in Meg’s garden! We believe there are little hogs in the nesting box and Meg promises to send photos when the wildlife cam snaps them. It’s heart warming to see new life happening around us.

So, I hope that everyone reading this knows that I am thinking of you out there and sending a message of hope. No matter what, we will do our best to stay connected, no matter how long this situation continues.

I will end with this little haiku I left on twitter the other day:

Cheer is a cup filled
With the closeness of friendship
Quietly I wait

Take care everyone. I have a lovely, easy, creative art task being posted out tomorrow for the Saturday Art Challenge. I hope to see you online for that in the morning.

With best wishes,
Emma