I discovered some great little online courses recently, run by the University of Tasmania. They’re all centred around art, health and wellness, each on a different aspect of art and design. So far I’ve signed up for The Art of Wellness: Visual Arts and Health; Inspired by Nature: Outdoor Therapeutic Environments; and Creative Expressions: Storywriting, Journalling and Poetry. Each of them has a couple of practical assignments, which I must admit I’ve not been very conscientious about doing.
The Art of Wellness covers photography, sculpture and drawing and I haven’t done any of those yet, although I have good intentions. At the moment I’m working on Inspired by Nature, which has two practical exercises. One of them is to design a community eco-arts intervention, something that leaves me feeling somewhat confused and confounded. I might come back to that. The other, however, is a bit more up my street – wildcrafting.
You may already be familiar with Andy Goldsworthy, who has to be the poster boy for this kind of thing. He makes the most amazing, ephemeral sculptures out of natural materials such as wood, ice, leaves, and so on, and then photographs them. They’re stunningly beautiful and exquisitely crafted. This isn’t the only way to go with this assignment and you can interpret it how you like, but I thought I’d give this approach a go.
It’s amazing how difficult I find it just to go out and play. I went out to the garden, thinking I’d look for inspiration and the first thing I noticed was last year’s dead stems, foliage and other debris crowding the border and threatening to smother the new growth. An hour later, I’d cleared and composted quite a bit of it and thought perhaps I’d just do something quickly, to satisfy myself that at least I’d tried. It felt frivolous and time-wasting and I had to push myself to do it.
Since it’s Valentine’s day this week, making a heart out of the proliferation of red berries on a tree that I don’t know the name of, seemed like a reasonable way to go. A stone bench in the garden, covered in moss and lichen, offered a rather nice background – I thought the greens would contrast nicely with the red of the berries. I made my little heart and duly photographed it, but it looked a little bit lacking. I had the idea to surround it in little pieces of gravel and it looked a lot better. Then I noticed the bright yellow leaves on the hedge and began to play with placing them around the heart. Finally, I finished off by placing more red berries at the tip of each leaf. Andy Goldsworthy eat your heart out!
It really was great fun and I could have spent hours out there, trying out different ideas. I’d love to do more, but my inner adult is trying hard not to allow that, and it brought it home to me how hard I find it just to play, without feeling guilty. In truth, I might not have done it at all if I hadn’t thought that it would provide material for a blog post. That’s a little sad. The other thing I realised is that it’s very tricky positioning little bits of things just so, and my admiration for AG has soared to even greater heights.
If you’re interested in any of the courses, you can find details here. The first one- Art of Wellness – is free, and after that they’re each a very reasonable 20 Australian dollars (about £12 in UK money).