Working towards my Assessment Space: Painting with Natural Paints and Tools

Assessment is approaching, and I am starting to think about consolidating my project and working out what I want to show on the wall. I have sifted through my experimentation and come to a conclusion as to how the greatest connection between art and nature is made, simply by being more natural with my materials and more inventive in my approach to how I use them rather than just sticking them to the surface etc.

My project started off being inspired by a landscape painter, I have always been interested in Landscape and producing landscape style pieces with these materials will not only emit a connection with nature but the landscape in my eyes will be more connected to the outdoors as it incorporates items from the environment. I challenge traditional flat landscape paintings and reinvent them using natural materials. People recognise a landscape painting and so using this imagery as well as my natural paints and tools to make art will emit a connection between art and nature to people more recognisably and somewhat expose them to and reconnect them with nature in a world that is growing more and more urbanized.

Triptych Landscape Painting

I have produced a triptych of landscape paintings connected to nature in far more ways than just the imagery. The landscape images themselves are taken from nature, I have referred to the shape of twigs to determine the shape of the mountains and hills. The paints used to paint these are made from natural materials and they have been applied with brushes and tools made from leaves, sticks, grass, pine cones, etc. The colour palette has only emerged from what nature has to offer and so is recognisably natural.

Working with nature is a highly experimental and interesting process, each paint incorporated a different texture into your work and each tool creates a different mark.

I definitely think these pieces are successful in portraying a connection between art and nature. When I started experimenting with these ideas, I would never have imagined I would have ground my own paints and create my own painting tools (inspired by field). Experimentation and trial and error have been key elements in my work and have aided my success.

A relationship between the art world and the natural world is clearly evident here and against a white wall I am confident that the natural colour pallette will stand out and so I have chosen to use these within my assessment space, I feel that the paints I made and the tools I produced are artworks in their own right, taken from nature and utilised as art materials and so I will be displaying these in my assessment space as well. As well as these pieces and my tools and paints, I will paint a line drawing style landscape onto handmade nature paper with each of the 16 of my tools and display those aswell. Mark making has been integrated throughout my project and so showing the marks that the tools can make more gesturally to accompany these more clean final style outcomes could make for an interesting display utilising nature in art.


Drawings: Drawing/Painting tools made from Nature

I have been making tools to draw and paint with out of natural materials and playing with using them to make marks and images etc within this project, in a recent tutorial, my tutor suggested that I should draw them. I started drawing the tools with a variety of media.

I had thought about drawing the tools before inspired by the work of Stuart Cairns but I didn’t really have a reason for doing so. As I have experimented with the tools, I have grown to see them as art objects in themselves and not just tools for creating art and so I definitely think they are worth being drawn and being used to draw with.

Collecting my Own Natural Materials: Making Painting and Drawing tools and Paints

I was incredibly inspired by the “Materiality of Drawing” session within the “Drawing as Experience” field module and was highly drawn to the work of Stuart Cairns who makes drawing tools from found objects and draws them. In this session, we started experimenting with making our own tools and using them to make marks. I have taken inspiration from this into my subject module and I have started to make tools from natural objects and bound them together with string. I have experimented with a vast variety of methods of connecting my work to nature and place but hadn’t thought about the fact that I could actually make the tools I draw or paint with from nature. After discussing this idea with my tutor, it was agreed that I should pursue this further and document the collecting of the objects and the making process, I decided to do this through video. For me, the process of collecting, being amongst nature and making tools both out in the environment and back inside is very therapeutic and I have accompanied the documentation with a sound track to reflect that.

This video portrays me collecting and making my tools in the surroundings of the Brecon Beacons National Park. I intend to use these tools to draw/paint a landscape piece of the Beacons with the marks the tools make embedded in the image. The image will have a deeper connection to the specific place, nature and environment because it was produced with tools made from natural objects collected in the place. I will document the process of creating the piece with the tools also.

I am looking forward to using these tools to make a piece and to see what kind of marks are made and outcome is produced. Thinking towards final pieces for this module, I think a physical connection with art and nature is the stronger one and maybe I could create an outcome or series of outcomes where nature is used in the work, and the tools used to create the work are also natural. This is just an initial Idea at the moment. I definitely want to make more of a range of tools and collect more materials to do so. I also think the string makes the tools look less natural and so when I make more I will bind them with Grasses.

Making Paints from Natural Materials

I decided I would have a go at making my own paints – made from the pigments of natural materials. I went for a walk around the landscape of Brecon and collected a variety of natural materials to make paint with. These materials included: Leaves, small stones, different coloured flowers, soil etc. I did some research into potential ways of producing my own paints and came across egg tempera. I decided to experiment with making egg tempera paints from natural materials. I ground up the natural materials using a pestle and mortar then added egg white or yolk or both. I painted these outcomes onto paper and then added lemon juice which changed the colours and sometimes lightened the paints. Bicarbonate of Soda was also added which thickened and darkened the paints. This Process has quite an obvious connection between art and nature and is definitely more successful than mixing nature into acrylic plasticy paint. This allows the natural materials to make the artwork.

However, the range of colours that I have managed to create are mostly different shades of greens, browns and greys. I did produce a light blue sort of colour using blue bells and a more reddish brown using redder soils also. I experimented with pink petals and yellow petals etc. but all of these lost their visual colour and turned into greens and browns as well. Even though the colour palette may be limited, the colours are from nature and so I shouldn’t be trying to achieve colours you can use when painting with synthetic paints.

I definitely think that these natural pigment paints create a very strong connection between the art world and the natural world. I think having the formula used to create each colour is quite interesting and if displayed with a painting would definitely connect the viewer with nature and encourage them to consider it a lot more deeply. I think it is highly fascinating that I have managed to make paints from natural materials and I look forward to attempting to paint imagery with them and experiment with them further. I will experiment with painting the landscapes that I formulated from the shape of twigs.

Stuart Cairns: Influential – Tool Making

In my field option: Drawing as experience, we had a go at making tools to draw with. An artist that was mentioned in this session was Stuart Cairns, this session inspired me to make my own drawing and painting tools from natural objects to use within my subject module where the outcomes has a connection to nature because of the tools it is painted with. I decided to look into Cairn’s work further and see the construction of the tools, and research his ideas as his work is now highly influential to my current subject practice.

“Stuart Cairns works as a silversmith combining natural materials and found objects alongside precious metals to create artifacts in the tradition of tableware and domestic objects”

He does incorporate natural materials into his tool making but this is not the only kind of material he uses. Obviously when using natural materials there is an ephemerality to consider, but i have attempted to preserve the tools by covering them in PVA so I can keep them as part of my body of work. He also draws and paints the tools themselves, this is something I could think about doing, but I’m not really sure what I would gain from it apart from documenting them if they were too ephemeral and I couldn’t keep them even after trying to preserve them.

He also documents the finding of the materials and the walks he goes on etc. His work has inspired me to make my own tools but it has also inspired me to think about documentation more deeply and to document the collection process, walking through nature collecting things to make tools with and to document the making process. 

Practical Experimentation: The Materiality of Drawing

After gaining an understanding of what the materiality of drawing really was, it was put into practice through undertaking a variety of different workshop exercises. On Reflection, this practical session was the one I found the most enjoyable and the most beneficial in terms of inspiring my current and future practice.

Firstly, we were put into pairs and one of us was given an object. We were given the task of describing the form of the object so that the other person could draw it and then we swapped over. It was really challenging to have to think of ways to describe something to someone who couldn’t see it so they could represent it through drawing. I found myself thinking of the object in terms of line, shape and marks rather than a physical object. When it was my turn to draw, interpreting the description was at first really difficult but as I really thought about it, I started to make an interesting drawing that very closely resembled the object which in my case was a Whisk. This was a very valuable exercise because it took out being able to just draw what you see and you really had to consider the marks being made.


Next, we had to do the same but describe the object only by touch. Describing the feel of an object for someone to draw accurately is nearly impossible but made for a very interesting drawing containing mark making and line.  I started thinking about alternative materials to use to draw and chose lipstick. The object that my partner had was a large piece of burnt wood/charcoal with rough edges and sharp parts. It was very difficult for her to describe. I just drew how it felt to her, its very interesting what can be drawn when only guided by the senses.


Exploring the materiality of drawing further, we were encouraged to think about the materials that we were actually using to apply the paint and consider the marks that they make much deeper. Moving away from the humble pencil or common charcoal we were asked to create our own drawing tools and to experiment with them to explore the marks they made on the paper.

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I was incredibly happy with the tools I made and it has really inspired me to make some tools using natural elements and use them to draw my abstract landscape drawings within my subject work to further my experimentation into nature being intertwined into artwork. The whole idea about making your own tools to draw with I thought was a very creative idea and takes the making of a drawing to another level. It made me consider the materiality of my drawings a lot more carefully and was really pleased with the variety of marks I managed to make on paper from the tools I created alone.

Lastly, We were asked to pick an object and a strip of paper with words on it to make a drawing from. I had to consider the materiality of the object and the things I was drawing with but also think about how I could incorporate the words into the work. I picked an old rusting teaspoon and my words read “The Shadow Flutter”.


I decided I would use the words to title the piece and relay them visually by incorporating the shadow of the spoon into my work repeatedly as if it were fluttering around.

I also incorporated sensory markings of how the spoon felt, the rough texture and the smooth handle with a few grainy parts. I was so surprised to see the outcome and couldn’t have been more pleased with it. I couldn’t believe that I created a successful art piece inspired by a spoon and three words but I did. The materiality of drawing sessions have taught me to consider my materials and the marks they make in more depth and to consider the fact that an object could inspire a whole piece of art or words an artist has said or from a poem could be intertwined in some way. I have learnt that it isn’t always visual things that stimulate drawing and mark making and the combination of sensory drawing and visual objects can make successful work. These realisations are useful to think about when proposing and making my sensory story for assessment.