Art Outdoors

The beauty of nature is something I will never fully comprehend. When I step back and look at even simple things like leaves and sticks and the grass in the backyard, I’m amazed.

This world, the only one we have, never ceases to simply live. Which is a really good thing when one ponders this. But seriously, how much of our natural world we take for granted. When you step back and think about what there is around us, it’s truly a miracle. I’ve had the good fortune of living in a suburban area surrounded by farms and woodlands.

I’ve also lived among the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan. While a special place in my heart exists for the city, there’s something wonderful about waking up in the morning and seeing trees and amber sunrises. Oh, did I mention how nice it is to have my son be able to play in space on green grass?

The Art Of Nature

Nature and art will forever be linked in my mind. Nature is a work of art on many levels. There are countless shapes and lines. Everything from the grass to the clouds are made of geometric shapes. Nature is the ultimate designer. I even love looking at tree bark.


Tree Bark In Light by V. Vicari 2018


What I love about this image is all the detail. The lines, various tones and shapes in the bark. When I capture images like this I bring up the blacks on the exposure. What I can see in the shadows help to emphasize the other aspects of the image. The bark has much to offer.

The texture of the bark is what originally attracted me to this image. It’s a natural piece of abstract art. Jackson Pollock has nothing on nature. Yes, I just compared tree bark to an American master, but I digress.

For those of you who enjoy the technical stuff this image was captured on my trusty Nikon D3300 with exposure 1/200 sec.; f/7.1; ISO-400.

I spend much time drawing various pieces based on the the shapes and lines in nature. A mandala without a leaf is lacking in my opinion. But nature has much to offer as far as developing our artistic skills.

It’s Practice

One of the best ways to practice drawing or illustration is to get out for a hike and then take some time to draw what you see. Or, bring your camera. If you’re not a sketcher, taking photos is a great way to immerse yourself in the art of nature. When I suggest taking photos, I mean take a bunch of photos.

It’s called practice.

Last year, I was in upstate New York, a little town called Mt. Vision. I experimented with manual focus on the D3300 and one of the images I captured was this:


This was simply a random capture of some trees against the overcast sky. But it was a practice in light. And of course, light is everything both in photography and drawing.

A good illustration incorporates a bunch of different light and dark areas. So once again, here’s nature teaching us some art. Did I also mention it was super quiet? The lack of light in the foreground made the trees feel taller and a little ominous. Yet, I was relaxed.

And cold. It was super cold.

The Shapes Of Nature

The dark of the trees made it feel colder. As if the environment wasn’t welcoming some dude with an old DSLR. But I persisted. Hard, I know.

Capturing this image taught me a few things:

  • Light is fleeting.
  • Framing your image is essential.
  • Always wear a hat in February.

Now back to the shapes. Do you see the different lines? What about the angles the branches make? Take a look at the tree to the left and see the V shapes exposed by the sun. That’s nature’s way of teaching some geometry. But again, the shapes are key.

I can now take this photo and use it as a reference. It’s not a great image by photography standards, but as a reference photo for an illustration or simply adding some trees to a mandala design or an imaginary landscape, it’s perfect. That’s the point, if you you’re struggling with your creativity, spark your own.

There’s no rule saying you can’t create your own inspiration. Take reference photos, look at other artist’s work, read. Read some more. You would be amazed how much inspiration you gain from simply reading.

How Do You Focus?

Finding creative inspiration is challenging enough. Once you find it, how do you keep the focus? Focusing your creativity is, at least for me, harder than finding the creativity.

I simply can’t stay focused. My mind wanders. I’m admittedly easily distracted. It doesn’t take much actually. A YouTube video, my son, falling snow.

Distracted artist’s are nothing new. In fact, I think distraction is part of the creative life. Almost a prerequisite. Regardless, there are a few ways to focus on your creativity.

One method I’ve recently started is focusing on one thing or theme in my work. Narrowing my creative focus to a single theme has, albeit slowly, removed many distractions. So for example, I’m using more floral art in my mandalas. A few flowers growing out of a mandala or maybe a tree or three.

Focusing on this one theme achieves two things: first it’s practice. My floral work is improving. Everything from the petals, to the various lines and even a few branches are getting better each time.

Second, focusing on one theme actually sparks more creativity within that theme. Keep with me on this: the more you practice one thing, the more ideas come from that one idea. It’s a creative cycle that really improves one’s work.

Speaking of distraction, I actually was just interrupted by YouTube once again. A little Clapton for your listening pleasure:


What About Nature?

What does all this have to do with nature? Nature is full of distractions. But these are good distractions because nature is about beauty. It is art. Living art.


“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”

-Frank Lloyd Wright 

While I’ve ranted somewhat against distraction, I’m fine with being distracted by nature. To get lost in nature is actually a good thing. I think it’s healthy. If you stop and literally smell the flowers or listen to the birds you will find inspiration.

Nature has this ability to pull you in. Your brain and your physical being are connected. Think about a beautiful sunrise. The orange and amber hues. The strata lit by the sun.

Fresh snow laying over grass. That smell of a cold morning. It’s invigorating. Let your mind wander and enjoy what nature provides.

Now sketch it. Let your pencil go. Let it have a mind of it’s own. The best way to feel the inspiration is to practice what you feel.

Study the trees. The leaves and the clouds. Look at the light as it reflects on the ground. Whatever you see, just sketch it.

Wrap Up

The art of nature is truly a miracle. Every shape and line we know as artist’s exist in nature. The environment, our beautiful world, is full of beautiful biology and geography. It’s more than a ball of rock in space. It’s a unique, soulful sphere of life. The abundance of beauty is undeniable.

Capture it. Use it as inspiration. Whether your taking a reference photo or painting in watercolor, use the shapes you see. Feel what nature has to give us.

We live on a canvas. Use it for all it’s worth. Stay inspired. Most of all, capture nature and memorialize it. As our climate changes so does our environment. I hope you find the inspiration you need to stay creative through the simplest of natural things.

I also encourage you to check out organizations such as The Nature Conservancy and The World Wildlife Fund.

Thanks for reading!


Art Outdoors was originally published on Vincent Vicari Art

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