Inspiration for Turning an Autumn Walk into a Work of Art

Our theme for this November week is gratitude, and we have been talking with the children about how gratitude can be both a joyful and a serious feeling. When we stop to notice and appreciate the things in our lives that are special or beautiful to us, gratitude can feel uplifting. On a day like Veterans Day, however, we may feel solemn as we feel thankful for all the people who have served in the military and protected our country.

The themes of appreciation and thankfulness were woven into our art lessons, where the children have been looking at works by the British artist Andy Goldsworthy. Goldsworthy creates sculptures out of the materials he finds in wild places, like stones, twigs and fallen logs, to express his admiration for the beauty of the natural world. As he explains, “I take the opportunities each day offers: if it is snowing, I work with snow, at leaf-fall it will be with leaves; a blown-over tree becomes a source of twigs and branches. I stop at a place or pick up a material because I feel that there is something to be discovered.” He then lets the natural conditions of the landscape—rain, wind and tides—have their way with his creations. “Each work grows, stays, decays … Transience in my work reflects what I find in nature.”

One of the Goldsworthy artworks we shared with the children was created for Veterans Day, which is celebrated in the United Kingdom as Remembrance Day. Many people in Britain wear a flower pin, a red poppy, on November 11 to honor the soldiers who died in World War 1. The poppy symbol comes from a famous poem about the poppies that grew on soldiers’ graves near the battlefields in Belgium.

Goldsworthy put together Poppy Stone on the rocky coast near Folkestone, the English port from which 10 million soldiers sailed to fight in the war. As he explains: “At Folkestone I got up early one morning ahead of an incoming tide and covered a boulder in poppy petals. It was calm and the sea slowly and gently washed away the petals, stripping the boulder and creating splashes of red in the sea. The harbor from which many troops left for war was in the background.”

The scene the artist created, of red petals floating away in the sea, is both beautiful and sad. You can see a picture of the artist constructing his piece below.

May Goldsworthy’s poetic rearrangements of nature make you think about all the brave and beautiful things we are grateful for.


Below: Andy Goldsworthy constructing Poppy Stone, an ephemeral work in honor of Remembrance Day, November 11.