A teacher friend of mine recently told me a story about a school inspector who when visiting a primary school, found the children copying pictures of ducks out of a book when a duck pond was in full view outside the window. This got me thinking about the importance of art in our lives and how it is influenced by nature.
We tend to think of nature and art as unrelated experiences. One is outside, the other is inside. Yet the way we as humans experience nature and art goes way back to our Neanderthal ancestors and their cave paintings.
Nature has inspired more great works of art than we can imagine.
Whether we are inside an art gallery admiring a colourfully painted landscape or traipsing through woods noticing the way the light filters through the canopy of trees, art gives us a partial understanding of nature and vice versa.
Engaging with art, whether we are viewing it or making it ourselves gives us a visceral experience and this aesthetic emotional experience can be a great way to engage with nature. Imagine if the school children had visited the pond, engaged with the ducks, laughed at their antics, and then used the book as a guide.
Ever since we as humans began to make art, nature has been the dominant theme. It is the palette through which artists reflect on the human experience.
Art is integral to making sense of the natural world. It is also largely inspired by it.
Art and science also go together with art providing the user-friendly translation for many scientific ideas. Scientists can benefit from art. DaVinci, Galileo and Michelangelo were all visionaries whose art informed science.
My father was a chartered engineer. He designed fire engines. I remember his beautiful paintings of the fire engines as they would look going down the road. His artwork then got more and more intricate as he drew the designs for the engineers to work to and actually build the engines. I still have this picture he painted as a child in school when he had already developed his fascination with vehicles and transport.
Imagine a child, who, through art, becomes fascinated with something in the natural world and then goes on to study the scientific aspects of the subject.
A picture really can be worth a thousand words.
An environmental project could be overwhelmingly complicated yet sometimes a single image can cut through all the facts and make a person actually feel something - happy, sad, even positively inspired.
An artful interpretation of nature can, and has, inspired some of our greatest actions. And, whether we come to these moments of understanding and virtue by way of art or nature first, it’s in connecting these experiences that we get the greatest benefit.