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.


Experimenting with Drawing/Painting Tools Made from Natural Materials: Mark Making and Landscape work

Now that I have made a substantial amount of natural drawing tools inspired by my field option “drawing as experience” and in particular the “materiality of drawing” session, and artist Stuart Cairns: I decided it was time to experiment by drawing/painting with the different tools to see what kind of marks they made. Each tool is very different and creates a very different mark, some of the marks are more controlled and the tools used to create these are more closely related to traditional drawing tools, however, other tools were difficult to control on the surface of the paper. As I created more marks, I started to get a feel for the abilities of the tools and what I would use them for if making a painting. Eventually, I want to incorporate the use of my own natural tools into my final piece for this project and so experimenting with them is key.

Mark making experimentation gave me confidence in my tools. I knew what kind of marks I could achieve from them and which weren’t as successful as others, for example I have learnt that the leaves on tools should be dry as if they are fresher they bend and don’t create much of a mark. Many of the marks were quite scratchy and textural and I could see how this could lend it self to depicting the contours of the mountains of the Brecon Beacons, so I started experimenting with doing so. I didn’t really think about colour much here, I just squeezed out paint and let my tools blend the colours on the paper. Obviously when using my nature tools for a final piece colour would be more carefully considered.

I was suprised at how well I was able to achieve a likeness to the mountains through the use of only tools made from natural materials like twigs, leaves, foliage, grass and tied together with string. The outcomes are freer and less controlled with more expression I feel that regular painting tools and of course I controlled the tools, but nature made the marks. Experimenting with ways of engaging and connecting my work with nature, I think this is one of the more interesting methods, both the tools and the outcome is made from and by nature. I will start to think about how I could consolidate my project and include key elements like the use of tools and having natural materials within the outcome.

NEW WAYS OF APPLYING PAINT: Paint Performance Module Integrating into my Subject Work

Within Paint Performance we have been learning about new ways of applying paint. Even though we have been working abstractly within the module, I felt like I could apply what I had learnt to produce some more figurative yet uncontrolled painting experiments documenting landscape.

The three elements I have taken influence from are:
– Painting with my left hand – unnatural, more difficult to control the paint
– Painting with the body – (in this case, in the form of finger painting)
– Painting with something other than a brush – (in this case, a stick and a palette knife)



Painting with my left hand initially produced a more free, less controlled painting. I found it difficult to control the paintbrush and my hand didn’t seem to know how much pressure to put on the page. I really like the loose, squiggled and scuffed line work that this has produced in the first image. However, when creating the second image, I felt as if my left hand got used to painting a bit too much and so the outcome was more controlled and not as successful in my eyes. Painting with my left hand has helped me be more expressive in my mark making and because it was more difficult I felt as if I concentrated more.



Painting with my fingers made me feel closer to the artwork as I could actually feel the painting going onto the board with my own skin. A paintbrush can be quite disconnecting from a work in comparison to the human body. It was very difficult to achieve any detail with my fingers, but I like that about these pieces. I think the blended quality that they have is successful and you can see the movement of my fingers within it which is interesting because you can see evidence of a different process from using a brush. I really enjoyed this process and it encouraged me not to worry so much about what the outcome looked like.


im6 im1

When using a palette knife and sticks to apply the paint, the movement of the tools was just as controlled as if I was using a brush due to the fact I was applying the paint with my right hand. However, the marks made were entirely different to if I was using a brush. They are a lot harsher and there is an element of scratching into the paint within them which I am rather fond of. I think I could integrate all of the above techniques in some way into future works.

Working with new ways of applying paint has been an interesting experiment that I think has made outcomes with successful elements. Paint Performance has definitely inspired me to be more experimental and to think about the limits of painting with a brush. I am confident that I will use more natural implements to apply paint with and link in with my concepts and I will consider my reasoning for using a brush more carefully when applying paint.

I would like to make some experiments and paintings that include natural materials mixed into the paint. I started experimenting with this before undertaking the performance module but it took a sideline as I became involved in it. This is a good thing because it gave me a chance to experiment with the mixing of materials. We added soil and leaves into the paint in our final performance and It added very interesting textures to the work. I am now confident that this could make for successful paintings and I look forward to producing work with this knowledge.

Thoughts: Project Direction: NATURE

As I work through my project, I am becoming more interested in creating work that has a connection to nature, or that contains nature within it. Initially, I started with the influence of John Piper and after researching his work discovered a connection to place that he was trying to achieve. He wanted to capture the personality of the rocks and the feeling of the grass etc. After working under his influence, I have experimented with portraying a connection to place, as he has, which has led me to collecting organic material from the place and using it in my art work, drawing with it and painting onto it.

I now feel that my project is moving towards the concept of a connection to nature and using nature itself as a surface to work on as well as a medium to mix into paint etc. I feel that incorporating nature into landscape paintings makes them more significant because you can see the organic material that you would usually find within the landscape on the board or the canvas. You can imagine being amongst the leaves and twigs in the landscape and this could mean the individual viewing the work has a more sensory and immersive experience of the painting.

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.

leaf8 leaf10 leaf13 leaf15 leaf12 leaf16 leaf17leaf9leaf11

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.

ROMANTIC LANDSCAPES: A lecture by Jon Clarkson

What is my place in the world?

Do I belong there?


Caspar David Friedrich – Monk by the Sea

white monk

Comparing it to a classical Landscape – Richard Wilson, The White Monk 1760-65

Caspar David Friedrich – Morning in the Sudeten Mountains 1810-11


How does Friedrich’s painting differ from wilsons? Colour palette, mood.

How do the painters think about religion?

Wilson seems more distant from religion than Friedrich. Friedrich is thinking of religion organising our relationship with the natural world.

In Caspar David Friedrich – Monk by the Sea – What time of day is it?

Written about as a lightless dawn. For the monk, the dawn isn’t important as it is for the pair on the mountain in the other piece.

Do you think that this place is real or imaginary?

It is a culmination of experience . Long flat horizon. Empty paintings.

Jan Van Goyen – View of Harlem 1646


Alternating pattern of light and dark, Colours lighter in the distance, more full of colour in the foreground. There is more cloud perspective than in friedrichs work. Friedrich’s is much flatter. Distance becomes flatter and more immense because there are no markers in it.


Mark Rothko 1969 – Is there still distance in this picture? Does it look like a place to you? There are similarities to Friedrich’s work. It is stark and there is a fluctuation between flatness and deep space.

There is a lot of fine detail in Friedrich’s Monk by the sea. It makes it look more like a portrait of the place. When you notice a painting has fine detail, you walk in closer to it. Having an intimate relationship with the work. The artist must be thinking about where he wants the spectator to be. The monk isn’t entirely resolved in himself.

What is the relationship between these figures and their surroundings?


Caspar David Friedrich – The wanderer above the sea of mist

The figure is taking possession of a view, dominating the landscape. He wants to be there and he is in control.

Caspar David Friedrich Chasseur in the Forest

The Chasseur in the Forest 1814

The landscape is dominating the figure here, he has no horse, he is lost and not in control. He’s french, the forest is german. Friedrich is a nationalist. German land rising up against the french invaders. Vulnerable.

Romantic Woodland circa 1824-5 by Francis Danby 1793-1861

Francis Danby – Romantic Woodland landscape 1824-5

Will nature accept us? Romantics think of nature in a more psychological way than an ecological way.


Anselm Kiefer, Varus 1976 – For Kiefer, Germany begins with Slaughter in the forest.


Marina Neudecker – Things can change in a day 2009

Models in vitrines suspended in liquid. Does the vitrine intensify the situation or distance you from it? Like a cinema screen, they encourage you to project yourself into the scene.

How does a group rather than a solitary figure alter the confrontation with nature?


Caspar David Friedrich – Chalk Cliffs at Rugen 1818 – less vulnerable, more people – However, not a strong sense of communication.

CLASSICAL LANDSCAPE: A Lecture by Jon Clarkson

Is the Visible World enough?

Classical Landscape is a name given to a type of painting – developed in the 17th century. Related to History Painting. Some have narratives and some don’t. Mood and atmosphere is conveyed within the paintings

Is the artists job simply to record the appearance of the world, or to transform it?


Nicolas Poussin – Landscape with a Calm 1650-1. Based in Rome. Peaceful/neutral. More movement in the sky, contrasted with a static lake and a still and calm foreground. The people are small and insignificant in comparison to nature. A vision of an ordered, harmonious society.


Nicolas Poussin – Landscape with St.John on Patmas 1640
Is the relation betweeen humans and nature the same as in the Landscape with a calm? How is history represented?
It is more like land left behind. Have humans taken advantage? Have they moved on? Even though, John is sitting, he is not really entwined into the work like the people in the other piece.


Nicolas Poussin – Landscape with the body of Phocion – carried out of Athens 1648. This has a narrative. Alternatiing bands of dark and light. Neverending path it seems. The city is close enough to be important in the painting, but far enough away that we stop being able to see how we could get there. There is a complicated visual access to the city


Nicolas Poussin – A Roman road. An announcement of technological Power. Political, This kind of depth, perspective is highly technologically advanced for the 17th Century


Charles Sheeler – Classic Landscape 1931
Where is the nature in this Landscape?
It has gone, However: there is natural organisation in the pile of earth and sand


Charles Sheerler – American Landscape 1930
Is he being ironic calling this a landscape? Even though there is no nature within the picture, it is a man-made landscape. Does he want us to find these scenes beautiful or ugly? Brighter lighting, reflections, some bright colours, making it look more appealing but very geometric.

Scenes from the Passion: Late 2002 by George Shaw born 1966

George Shaw – Scenes from a Passion: 2002: Paints areas where he grew up. A question is posed about the conventions we use to describe reality

George Shaw – The blocked Drain – 2010
(not a version of Poussins roman road) but does our knowledge of it affect how we view this?
The first road seems new and innovative. George Shaws seems barren and disregarded.


Gregory Crewdsen, The madison 2007
Takes still photos, but like a hollywood movie. The road is always the same road continuing. Imagining the thoughts of the landscape from the figures perspective.


Gregory Crewdsen, untitled (Beneath the roses) 2007
What is the relation between nature and culture here?
Organic elements separate from man made, degraded nature. The nature is not lush greenery, it is weeds. Could be hopeful after destruction, is nature reclaiming it?


Gregory Crewdsen – Beneath the roses 2006
Beneath the surface, looking deeper, a metaphor?
Relationship between the two people – could they be lovers? Could be an attacker and she is a victim. Soothing or disturbing? Degraded nature again and disturbing elements.
Nicolas Poussin – Echo and harcissus 1630


Eduardo Manet – Le dejuner sur (l’herbe 1863)
Do these paintings change the way that we look at Crewdsen’s photographs? In what way?