Creating Nature-Inspired Art

Speckle Seed by Elena J. Perez. Mixed paper and acrylic

By Elena J. Perez

I feel lucky that I live in a place that makes it so easy to get out and appreciate our natural environment! I notice nature around me from the time I wake up to the sound of doves outside my window, to the weather, and to the deer always lurking in my backyard.

When I go out in the morning to feed the birds and scare the lurking deer, I appreciate the delicate apricot blossoms, the patterned ice in the bird bath, and the bark on our ancient fruit tree. Our apricot tree is so amazing. It is more than 70 years old. I love that it is both smooth and textured. It has yellowish-greenish lichen that must be older than me! The arborist who trimmed it for us gave us his professional opinion of: “I can’t believe this thing still fruits.”

Take a closer look at the details of a pinecone next time you are outside. (Photo by Elena J. Perez)

I take a morning walk with my family around the neighborhood. Aaaah, the New Mexico sky! Clouds are the ever-changing visual art canvas! Should we have our own Cloud Appreciation Society?

We kick a pinecone down the street. The growth patterns in a pinecone are almost always a sequence of Fibonacci numbers. My daughter and I have enjoyed looking for different pinecones on our walks. Next time you kick a pinecone or notice a strange one, pick it up and look at the pattern.

I am a seed appreciator. I took an outdoor landscape painting class when I was a student at UNM. We hiked all over New Mexico. All over. So many of my classmates painted these huge landscapes. I would come home from our hikes with these tiny seeds, pieces of the landscape that I had collected and put in my pockets, and then when I put them on paper, the seeds ended up much different in scale. They ended up taking up the whole paper. My art teacher was like, “What are you doing?! Keep doing it!”

Philadelphia Seed Red by Elena J. Perez. Acrylic on paper.

Little seeds I picked up sometimes became intertwined with imagined new seeds. For this piece, I started out by making the shape of the seed with paint. I scraped the paint away to make the shape I wanted, and it started looking good. It reminds me of something in nature, but it’s impossible; a memory.

Sometimes I just start with materials and a familiar shape. With the piece below, I thought I was going to make seed pods, and just ended up with a very bird-like shape.

Bird Eye by Elena J. Perez. Paper and clear acrylic.

Have you ever passed by the Lantern Seed Tree (also known as the Golden Rain Tree)? We have them in our neighborhood. The pods shiver in the wind and you can hear the seeds rattling around in the lovely thin skin. I represented that transparency through a collage.

Philadelphia Seed by Elena J. Perez. Mixed paper and acrylic.
A pod from a Lantern Seed Tree. (Photo by Elena J. Perez)

I’ve ended up exploring seeds a lot in my art, experimenting with the shapes, and moving from paint over collage, to just collage. And it really all started because seeds were something I could bring home with me from my walks.

Sometimes, and these might be those times, you have to entertain yourself. If you need a little help, nature is always presenting a show! Use your senses to enjoy the sounds, views, and tactile offerings from nature. What in nature inspires you?