Autumn Nature Art

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Seasons (Fall or all), Weathering, Ecology (Repurposing)

Language Arts – Literature

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Arcimboldo, Andy Goldsworthy, Patrick Dougherty

Portrait, Environmental Sculptor, Installations, Photography


Arcimboldo’s “Autumn”

In the 1500’s, an artist named Arcimboldo was a court painter in Vienna and Prague. He painted the riches of the realm. Instead of just painting these riches individually or in a landscape, he combined them into creative portraits. Above you will find “Autumn”, a portrait from his Four Seasons series. How many fall items can your students find? Read more about Arcimboldo and see a variety of his other portraits here:

Today, environmental sculptor, Andy Goldsworthy doesn’t paint nature items. He uses the outdoors as his medium and his canvas.  Using what is around outside at the moment, Goldsworthy assembles his art installations right where he finds them. Upon completion, he photographs them for posterity and leaves them to nature. Can your students identify the season Goldsworthy created the installations featured in the following post?

Patrick Dougherty is another contemporary environmental sculptor. He creates humongous architectural sculptures made from only sticks. Check out Dougherty’s web site. The Home Page has many examples of his work. Also, be sure to go to the News section of this site and check out the CBS Sunday Morning video and the Highlights Magazine article.

There are two books for primary students which might work well along with this unit. I love the picture book, Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert. It includes illustrations of a man, animals, birds and fish all made out of leaves. A Stick is an Excellent Thing by Marilyn Singer is a poetry and outdoor activity book. 

After studying some of the above artists, wouldn’t it be GREAT to go out for an all things autumn scavenger hunt with your students. ( I always went out and accumulated some extra stuff beforehand.) Then ask students to create their own nature installation right out there in nature. Depending on what other units your class is studying , they can do images of pattern, portraits, leaf men, animals, or architectural structures. Have your camera ready! For older students, you could take photos over time to show weathering. ( Students may have to use rocks and sticks as skewers to hold their installations in place, so they don’t blow away on the first day.) As you can see, this general lesson can be tweaked for students of all ages.

Enjoy your time in nature and I hope to see again very soon!!!


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