Embracing Art

I wrote this article for the Audubon’s weekly column:

Embracing Art
by Jennifer Schlick


Anything can be a “canvas” for nature tangles – even painted rocks.

I don’t remember the incident, but the story continues to be told about the day I came home “sick” from the first grade. My mom says she gave me a bath and got me settled on the couch – where all sick children wait for health to return. Eventually she got me to admit that I wasn’t sick at all. Apparently my class was making a farm mural. Each child was assigned something to add to the scene. I had been asked to draw a rooster and, well, I didn’t know how. My first traumatic art moment.

The following year, on one of those warm, wonderful, almost-summer days, the art teacher, thinking she was doing us all a big favor, took our class outside to sketch in nature. I remember this one and it still gives me a knotted stomach. I spent half the class trying to decide WHAT to draw, and the rest of the time trying and erasing until there was a hole in my paper. By this time, age 7, I had decided that I couldn’t draw and that art was not for me.

IMG_9746   IMG_9842
The leaves on the left were part of the inspiration for my first ever “Nature Tangle.”

IMG_0724 Nest Box Nature Tangles

At one of our Secret Gardens Tours, I found this birdhouse decorated with Nature Tangles!

In my late thirties, in an attempt to face my fear of art, I signed up for a drawing class.  After introductions (and true confessions), my wonderful instructor said something that completely changed my outlook. “Drawing is a learned skill. It’s not that you CAN’T draw. You have never been taught. You have never learned to draw.” How liberating! I still “can’t” draw, but now I know it is not because there is an innate deficiency in my character, rather simply because I haven’t practiced drawing. Now, when I see opportunities to make art in community with others just for fun, I often take advantage. Such was the case a few years ago when at the Allegany Nature Pilgrimage I saw a listing for something called “Nature Tangles.” After a quick overview of this easy-as-doodling technique and looking at some samples, we took a walk outside looking for the patterns and lines and textures that might inspire our own creations. And once inside, transferring that inspiration to paper, we were all in the zone – uninterruptable, absorbed. When the announcement came that class was over, we were shocked; the time had flown by!

My drawing was no masterpiece, but it was good enough to display in my office! And the process was absolutely meditative.

Boy Fairy

One of Sarah’s wonderful fairy creatures – Boy Fairy

The Nature Center is pleased to offer you the opportunity to experience Nature Tangles (and overcome your fear of art?). On Saturday, August 15, 2015 from 1:00pm until 3:00pm, fine arts teacher Sue Yauchzy will lead us through a process not unlike the one I experienced at Allegany. She and I have had fun going through the art catalogs to purchase sketchbooks, pencils, markers, and erasers – all of which will be yours to keep after class so you can keep on doodling!

If three-dimensional art is more your cup of tea, you might consider joining Sarah Hatfield to learn some of her techniques for making imaginative creatures. On Saturday, August 22, 2015 from 10:00am until 12:00pm, you can turn pine cones, acorns and their “caps,” dried flowers, twigs, and bark, into fairies, birds, squirrels, or dragons. These whimsical creatures sit nicely on window sills and fireplace mantels, or tuck neatly into spots in your garden where they can stand guard over your flowers. I know there’s at least one of you out there who wants to learn how because you wrote it on the evaluation form after the Woodcock Whirl, where Sarah’s creations graced the tables.

Girl Fairy

Another of Sarah’s creations: Girl Fairy

The Audubon Nature Center is located at 1600 Riverside Road in the town of Kiantone, one-quarter mile east of Route 62 between Jamestown, New York and Warren, Pennsylvania. Learn more about the center and its many programs for adults and children by visiting http://JamestownAudubon.org or calling (716) 569-2345.

Jennifer Schlick is program director at the Nature Center.

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