What is land art ? How to practice ?

Land art makes a simple landscape the support of a life-size artistic creation. This art of the ephemeral from the USA is within everyone’s reach. It leads you into a new relationship with nature and time, in all simplicity. This art can be practiced alone, with others, with children, in the middle of nature or in a garden. To become a land artist, let yourself be inspired by nature…

Land art… What is it?

History sheds light on this art like no other… And for good reason!

A desire for freedom stronger than anything!

Land art was born in the United States of America at the end of the 1960s. While the country was growing, a strong ecological movement was developing there. Artists are inspired by it to affirm their desire for freedom. Art no longer wants to be locked up in museums, it wants to free itself from codes and technical constraints! Nature becomes the eldorado of free artistic creation. Thus was born land art: nature became both a source of inspiration, a material and a work of art. The American Robert Smithson is an emblematic figure. Discover his giant work Spiral Jettyproduced in 1970 on the shores of the Great Salt Lake (Utah), to understand the approach of land-art.

Meet and respect nature

By freeing himself from workshops and museums, the land artist rediscovers nature. He replaces brushes, paints and frames with pebbles, wood, sand, water or leaves… Nature is the kingdom of land art and its only inspiration. This presupposes a new attention to landscapes. Contemplating, listening, observing, marveling… It’s a new look at the environment. It is enough to let emotion and imagination speak, to enter into friendship with nature to create a unique work.

Incidentally, this artistic research helps to become aware of the fragility of nature. In its own way, land art sensitizes people to the environment, those who practice it and those who admire it. Because in the spirit of land art, we refrain from damaging a natural space; the work must be done respecting the site. The human footprint is made as light as possible.

Let time slip away

Creating a work of land art means accepting the rhythm of nature. The seasons pass, the wind blows, the rain falls… Land-art is ephemeral! Most of the time, the work only survives a few hours or a few days of natural movements. This school of the present moment upsets the amateur artist in his desire to preserve and protect the fruit of his work.

Land art requires a little humility in this regard. Abandoning to nature a work to which we have just devoted time… not always easy! Fortunately, you can immortalize it by photo. To enter the cycle of time, you can also create an evolving work. By recreating it several times during the year, it will change with the seasons. You are not done marveling…

Solitary expression or collective creation

The great workshop of nature is open to all! No need to bring your brushes, no need to be a good draftsman. Everyone can let their imagination run wild and enter into dialogue with a natural space. If land art lends itself to individual artistic expression, it is also easy to implement by a group of adults or children. It is a simple and friendly family or educational activity. If we consider a common work, land art reveals itself to be a real school of nature and human relations. Some structures even make it a privileged opportunity to develop the cohesion of a group. There’s nothing like it to stimulate creativity, relieve stress and forge team spirit!

How to practice land art?

It is a simple practice within everyone’s reach. Even if certain rules apply to the amateur artist, all it takes is a small corner of nature to give free rein to his imagination.

Land artist without knowing it

Do you remember your first snowman in the family garden? And the little mountain of pebbles patiently built on a mountain path? And the sandcastle fashioned on the beach? And this painting of shells offered to mom? Children are naturally curious about nature. They like to model, collect, transform and use natural elements. If you’ve ever waded through the snow or sand, picked up chestnuts and fallen leaves, you’re ready to move on to land art!

Find a little piece of nature

After admiring the Spiral Jetty of Smithson or The wave by Jean-Bernard Métais, among a multitude of contemporary works of land art, you might hesitate to take the plunge… Don’t worry, you don’t need to have several hectares or tons of materials. Land art makes fun of proportions. Small or big creation, it doesn’t matter! To create a work, a piece of garden is enough. During your walks, you will always find a roadside or a small clearing that inspires you. In town, a public garden can offer you all the space you need. Start in your garden – or even on your balcony! Anyway, don’t wait for the summer to get started; all seasons are ideal for land art!

Prepare a theme or… improvise!

Two approaches are possible in land-art:

  • Choose a lieu or one material particular. This choice being made, let yourself be inspired…
  • Choose a theme. You are then looking for materials related to the theme. This approach works particularly well with children.
  • To attach elements to each other: you will find on the spot herbs, vines and other rods to use to bind the elements. The clay will serve as your glue. But as long as you are still a beginner, bring a ball of string and a natural glue.
  • To cut or peel elements: a pair of scissors or a small sturdy knife.
  • To draw on the ground: some chalks.
  • Draw a basic figure or shape, which you will then fill in. Draw a large circle, a silhouette, a figurative or geometric shape… Then arrange the elements inside according to your taste.
  • Start with one color. Choose a dominant color (or several colors). All of your elements will be chosen based on color. Play with a color gradient, the result is always spectacular.
  • Create a 3D artwork. A stack of stones and pebbles chosen according to their shape and size; a mobile of branches, leaves and twigs; a skewer of multicolored leaves stuck vertically into the ground… Be inventive!
  • Try to make a work spotted on the Internet. If a contemporary work inspires you, do not hesitate to reproduce it on a small scale. For the pleasure of doing like the grown-ups.
  • Imitate nature. Some animals exhibit real works of art without complex. Try to reproduce a spider’s web or a bird’s nest… Not so easy!
  • Create artwork that contrasts with the site. This time you play with natural objects to create a form that is not at all. Simple clear parallel lines formed on a dark ground can have an effect!
  • Illustrate a story. To amuse children, ask them to illustrate an episode of a story with nothing but natural elements. It’s up to them to imagine the landscapes and draw the characters with the means at hand.
  • Make a collective fresco. Everyone brings their part to the natural fresco, the theme of which is fixed beforehand. Allow some space. Each participant can also create one of the paintings forming an ephemeral gallery.

Whatever the method, you still have to determine your type of achievement. A figurative or abstract form? A floor drawing or a three-dimensional work? A creation on dry land, on water, hanging from a tree…? This will partly depend on the natural site you have chosen and the material used.

To create a piece of land art, start by collect the items. If your idea is to make a mineral work, for example, pick up the pebbles or pebbles to arrange together. In land art, materials collected on site are preferably used. Out of respect for nature, do not transport its elements far from their place of origin. The idea is to temporarily transform a natural space, not to distort it. At the beach, for example, shells and pebbles remain in place. Otherwise, it is no longer land art!

Some ideas for your future land art creations?

It’s decided, next Sunday you will make your first natural creation! Here is some practical information and a suggestion box for your future works.

The land artist’s toolbox

It was said that the elements of the work will be discovered and used on site. However, some supplies may be useful if you are new to this art.

If you want to add small items decorative (strands of wool, pearls, etc.), some precautions are necessary to avoid polluting the site. Either you recover these objects after the final photo, or you only use rapidly biodegradable objects (walnut shells painted with water-based paint, for example).

What materials to use?

It’s simple: almost anything you find in nature! With the exception of objects necessary for the life of nature, such as a bird’s nest, you can collect all kinds of objects. Dead leaves, twigs, pebbles, small plants, bark, pine cones, driftwood, shells, algae, earth, sand, snow, water, etc. By looking for something to carry out your artistic project, you will quickly discover how generous nature is!

A few ideas for creation:

It goes without saying that your inspiration and your imagination being limitless, you will find many other ideas for land-art creations…

Above all, don’t forget to take a photo to keep track of your creation. And come back a few weeks or months later to the site. There is sometimes a little something left, which will not fail to bring back good memories.

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