MIXING NATURE INTO PAINT: Working on a Larger Scale and Reflection

Continuing my Experimentation creating a connection between art and nature in an urban and technological Society. I have experimented with mixing natural elements into paint and using the mixtures to create landscape paintings to portray a connection to nature and attempt to somewhat reconnect the viewer with the natural world. My thoughts behind this experimentation were that after viewing flat generic landscape paintings of the Brecon Area in Local Galleries, I thought they were nice depictions for someone to hang on their wall and have memories of the place, but I didn’t really think they connected with the place or connected the viewer with the natural world. I decided to experiment with producing landscape paintings incorporating natural matter (from the place depicted) into the paint to connect the piece with place and nature more deeply.

I started experimenting with mixing soil and twigs into paint and applying them to the surface, incorporating colours inspired by my original starting point piece by John Piper. Even though this is only an inital experiment, I don’t think it is very successful, there are too many areas on the surface of the piece that do not include any natural elements and are just painted. I don’t think that this piece particularly emits a deeper connection with nature or place and so I decided to continue experimenting incorporating more nature into the work and attempting to cover the whole surface in this mixed up nature embedded paints.

I do think that these paintings are more connected to nature than if they were just flat paintings and I think they would encourage viewers to think about the natural world and therefore experience a slight reconnection with nature. However, I’m not sure how strong this would be as the natural objects are mixed into synthetic paints that are plasticy and bright. I do think the textural element of the works is particularly interesting but these experiments are quite small, I wonder how the impact would be if the painting was on a large scale and the natural elements were even more prominent on the surface. Would they appear hidden under paint or would they give a new dimension to the painting and a deeper connection with place and nature? I experimented on a larger scale in an attempt to find out.

Working on a Larger Scale

I am pleased with how this piece looks visually and texturally, I think viewers would enjoy looking at it. However that is all I’m pleased with, After creating this larger image I do not think the technique of mixing natural elements into paint is particularly successful in creating a connection between art and nature other than the fact that the materials are put together on the same for surface. I don’t think that this piece would reconnect people with the natural world as the natural elements are hidden under synthetic plasticy acrylic paint. I didn’t really think about the unnatural qualities of acrylic paint but I think it is evident in this piece that there is nothing natural about it apart from the materials that are embedded within the paint. The colour choice is poor as well. I wanted to incorporate colours from the original piece I looked at by John Piper and colours that I had experienced being in the Brecon Beacons but I feel the whole thing is too bright and doesn’t look natural at all. It doesn’t capture the natural feel I want it to and I think this is mainly down to the man made paint use. I think I need to move on from this and progress and physically make my own paints/pigments from natural materials. That way it would be all natural. I also wouldn’t be able to control the colours that occur as they will also come from nature. Displaying the jars of hand-made nature paints with the piece could be interesting, the paints also being artworks themselves. I have learnt a lot from producing this piece and need to create a deeper connection to nature and not combine that with synthetic material because it defeats the object. Lastly, I think the image is too tight, it isn’t expressive or gestural enough.

I am thinking now about making my own paints from nature and using tools made from natural objects to apply the paints. I could display the paints and the tools with the work. Hopefully using the tools will make the work more gestural and less illustrative and also a deeper connection to nature will be evident because nature will have made the mark in the form of applying the paint and in the paint itself.


RIVER WATER: Watercolour Experiments

Exploring with integrating nature into my art and attempting to portray a connection between the art world and the natural world, I decided to collect a jar of river water and use it to paint watercolours with. Here the materials from nature and art are together on one page, natural river water and paint from watercolour tubes. They are working together to create the outcome.  I expected the water to be more dirty and muddy perhaps, but actually it was very clear.

I decided at this stage in the project, I need to move away from the colour palette in John Piper’s work and so just freely applied colours using the river water to blend them together. In keeping with my projects to connection to a place that means something to me and that I connect with, inspired by John Piper I have depicted simply the Brecon Beacons. I do think these little experiments would have been more interesting if the river was a bit muddy or the water wasn’t so clear because it would have changed the colours and texture. However, controlling the elements from nature is out of my hands, I just use the elements to make the artwork. I have incorporated a natural material in the work here, but I could also look at the river as artist and put my pieces in it and see how it changes them etc.

These experiments will be a positive edition to my sketchbook with many other experiments and techniques exploring a connection to nature. It is important to produce quick experiments a long side more major pieces to keep the ideas flowing and i find it helps keep me interested in my project doing lots of different things. I just want to keep exploring, the relationships I am achieving between art and nature are incredibly interesting to me, some are visually more successful than others but the process and material usage is of high interest in these works.

Collaborating with Nature Itself: Rain and Snow

After researching the artist Tim Knowles, I was quite inspired by the idea of “nature as artist” and the idea that you could set up certain conditions and nature could make the art or change the artwork in some way. I decided I would experiment with this idea. Experimentation from lots of different angles is important to me when creating a body of art work, whether the outcomes are successful or not.

Yesterday, It started to rain and I had an idea of how I could play about with nature having a role in art making. Quickly, I drew three different abstract landscape sketches of my chosen place of focus (Brecon Beacons) containing mark making and line work onto watercolour paper.

I drew these sketches using really cheap, low quality fine liners in the hope that they would be impermenant. I then placed the drawings outside, weighted them down with some stones and watched out the window as the rain hit the surface of the paper.


A few minutes later, to my surprise, it started to snow and so two natural weather conditions: the rain and the snow were responsible for the changes that happened to my artwork. The rain and snow played a key role in the creation of these works and the experiment was successful as the outcomes are highly interesting.

The moisture from the weather caused the ink to run, creating very appealing outcomes. As well as Tim Knowles, this exercise was also inspired by my field option: Drawing as experience. Within this option, there has been a much great focus on process than on the outcome and there has been a lot of uncertainty and unpredictability surrounding what the outcome would look like. The outcome of these pieces could not have been predicted and the process before the outcome is what links in with my subject work more closely. I set up the experiment and then the natural weather created the final outcome, I had no part in the watery marks. In a way, I guess you could say I collaborated with nature to create these works.

A Connection to Nature: Painting Landscapes onto Leaves

I am highly inspired by the work and the concepts of John Piper. Particularly his views about the landscape work you create having a connection to a place and therefore a connection to Nature. I have started playing and working with the idea of incorporating parts of a place and natural objects into my work with success and I think connecting my painting and drawing with nature itself is an interesting idea to work with within my project. My tutor thought that my abstract drawings were a successful and visually appealing element of the work up in my studio space and I agreed but I felt that they lacked a connection to the place I portrayed.


Over the Weekend, I went home and collected Ivy Leaves from the area of the Brecon Beacons and primed them and started drawing my abstracted landscape drawings on to them. I chose Ivy Leaves because their waxy quality means they don’t shrivel and die quickly. 



I think there is something quite charming about these delicate leaf drawings. After producing these three drawings, I experimented with adding watercolour of a similar colour palette to my chosen painting – John Piper’s Rocky Valley, North Wales.




I am very pleased with these little drawings/paintings. I felt that only drawing on paper didn’t tye in well with my project, especially considering the fact that natural trees are cut down to make it. I was restricted by the surface and so found a new surface that fits in with the concepts of my project to paint and draw onto.

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Using nature as a surface to work on is something I am keen to experiment with further. I am thinking about painting onto stone and drift wood or bark as well. After completing my drawings, I took them back out into the Landscape and photographed them back in their natural environment. My drawings have a strong connection to the place they portray because they are drawn on nature from the place and put back into the natural surroundings. I am moving away from John Piper’s influence and making a current body of work with his in mind but it is not dominating my ideas any longer. This idea was inspired by being introduced to Ian Mckeever’s Painting in a hole in the ground. He made a painting and put it in a natural landscape.  This set of photographs are incredibly interesting and juxtapose the man made with the natural. I have changed the natural environment here. The leaf would usually just blend in with the others but I guess it has a sense of power and importance because it stands out amongst them. I could also experiment with painting abstract Landscapes onto leaves in similar colours to the surroundings so that they do blend in and maybe they may almost become part of nature.

Mixed Media Painting: Twigs, Sticks, Tissue Paper and Collage

After creating Line drawings using twigs and thinking about how my work can capture a connection to a place, like John Piper’s does: I decided to incorporate nature itself into a painting. Inspired by the I-Pad collages that I have produced, I decided to delve into magazine collage and include it within this painting. Right now, I am experimenting with mixed media and haven’t really focussed on colour yet and so the colours used here are directly inspired by my chosen object.

Mixed Media Painting - Incorporating Sticks, Nature, Tissue Paper to create textures and magazine collage

Within his work, John Piper manages to capture a sense of texture. Aiming to achieve a textured effect within my work, I used a mixture of PVA glue and acrylic co-polymer emulsion to stick tissue paper over parts of the surface of the board that I am working on and then painted over it with an acrylic paint. The tissue piper dried hard and wrinkly creating a textured element within my work and an interesting surface for me to paint on. The magazine collage within the piece blends into the paint and is not immediately obvious within the work, however, I feel that the slight difference in colour between the magazine pieces and the angular square shapes of the cut outs adds to the element of abstract shapes within the work.

John Piper is very passionate about capturing a sense of the place and a connection to the surroundings within his work. He talks about incorporating the personality of where he is and the different textures and imagery from within it. Including nature within my work is an interesting way of capturing a sense of the place I am depicting as well as actually having parts of it in my work. I have used the twigs and sticks to create abstract marks and lines, Moving forward from the line drawings I did with them previously.

Overall, I think that this piece is successful both visually and conceptually. It is aesthetically pleasing and shows connections to the object I have chosen to make work in response to but it also plays on the concepts that John Piper is working with and the connections that he captures. Progressing, I think that I will experiment with using completely different colours to that of John Piper’s work to both move away from his influence and potentially modernise his work with brighter colours.

A Connection to Nature – Working with John Piper’s Sense of Place

Whilst researching the life, processes and ways of working of John Piper, It is clear to me that within his paintings he wanted to capture a sense of the place that he was representing. He felt close to the surroundings and wanted to capture the personality of the rocks and the feel of the blades of grass he was sitting on whilst producing preparatory sketches to paint from. He wanted to convey a part of nature within his work.

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Working with this idea of capturing an essence of a place and conveying nature within art work, I decided to dip twigs that I found among the landscape of my home area – The Brecon Beacons, into indian ink and draw with them. Here I am using nature from the Landscape to actually draw it and therefore encompassing part of the place within the drawing.


Keeping to the things I find influential from my chosen object, I used the twig to draw abstract shapes and forms and to make marks. To produce the piece above, I used a relatively small twig dipped in nut brown ink. The thickness of the Lines depended on how much ink the twig absorbed when dipped in the pot. There was something very free about drawing with natural objects and making use of fallen sticks and twigs. The twig itself, helped me express the nature of the place.


The image above was drawn with a much thicker twig and drawing with the black ink was a lot harder to control. The end was not flat either and so some additional lines were made accidentally and sometimes when attemping to draw one line, maybe three would be drawn. This gave a sense of nature controlling the piece and me having my own expression in the drawing but the twig having its own input too.

The idea of capturing a place in artwork is incredibly interesting to me and something that I am definitely going to be working on more within my project.

Working on top of Photographs, Experimenting with the Influence of my Chosen Artwork

I wasn’t really sure how to tackle incorporating abstract elements into paintings of the Brecon Mountain’s in terms of composition. I produced some quick sketches before but the abstraction and shapes seemed to look a little bit like they were just added in rather than part of the drawing. I decided to work on top of photographs and incorporate the abstraction into the shape of the Landscape underneath the paint.IMG_3555

This was definitely a worth while experiment. I haven’t really worked with creating abstract work like this before and John Pipers work is such a balanced composition and I wanted to learn how to do the same. I am investigating the visual elements of his work as well as the technical and the ideas behind it. We have been asked to make a body of work in response to our chosen artwork and for me that means lots of experimenting and trying things out. I also enjoy working lots of different techniques into a body of work that I make, rather than just painting and so working onto photographs is an interesting process.




I have also played about with how much of the original photograph is showing. I quite like the image below where more of the image is showing as it looks like reality is kind of morphing into abstraction. I think this links in well with John Piper’s work as when I look at it, I see a real Landscape through an abstract eye.