5 Artful Ways to Savor Fall
This is what I know: Seasons come and seasons go.
The past few days there’s been change in the air. Literally. Cool winds are here. I’m under no illusions, though. Where I live, near Washington DC, September can be the hottest month. Still, as a soft wind blew the treetops today, I saw some leaves floating down. Autumn is quick on the trail of summer.
It’s easy to miss the changing of the seasons at first. It’s subtle. The Japanese maple in my front yard is already showing some yellow on the topmost leaves but it’s barely noticeable.
Some years autumn can seem to come and go in the blink of an eye. But if we start to pay attention now, we can savor the season right from the beginning, witnessing as nature magically transforms the temperature of the air, the smells and colors around us.
Much of art making is about paying attention. Noticing light and shadow; color; line; shape. All this noticing adds depth to our days. As we watch the season change, we watch time unfurl, and maybe even stretch it out a bit with our attentiveness.
Here are a few artful ways to observe nature as she transforms right before our eyes.
5 Artful Ways to Savor Fall:
1. Photograph the transformation as it’s happening. Lots of people travel to see the changing colors of fall. I love that – I think the more we appreciate nature, the better care we’ll take of her.
When we take photographs we get to compose the picture plane, like we do when drawing or painting on a canvas. Noticing, paying attention to framing the photo to highlight our vision. This time of year, with deep colors in the fall sunlight, is a spectacular time to go out and take pictures.
Here’s a photo I took on the Potomac River this weekend. The leaves piled onto the branches became a couple of dancing sculptures, voluptuous in form. Don’t they look like they’re dancing?
Taking pictures is a great way to notice shapes, color and the overall scene.
Try this: Find a place you’ll be able to return to over the next weeks, one with deciduous trees. Over the weeks, take photos of the scene from the same vantage point. You’ll have a visual display of time and transformation as the colors turn. You can even continue through to the bare trees of winter, and maybe even to snow covered ones.
Consider too, the time of day you take your pictures. The sun can be harsh midday, but early and late in the day can give a softness to the light.
2. Watch leaves fall. Sometimes I imagine the olden times, when people were more in synch with nature. I bet they paid a lot of attention to the light, the dimming of the day, and to the changing of the seasons. Back then, our ancestors were in touch because it was imperative for their survival. They had to know when to sow and when to reap, when to forage, when to seek shelter. I wonder, what was it like to be so acutely aware of all the quiet changes?
If we can make a little time each day to sit outside, even as the weather cools, we too can notice changes as they happen, just as our ancestors did so many years ago.
There’s such pleasure in watching as leaves waft down to earth on a breeze. Some spin, some float, some get blown away. It’s a joy to behold.
3. Create a leaf sculpture. One of my all-time favorite artists, Andy Goldsworthy, composes art from natural materials, usually out in the wild. He waits until the perfect light , photographs them, and then leaves the piece to disintegrate naturally, as all things do.
Here’s what Andy Goldsworthy says about nature: “We often forget that we are nature. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.” Goldsworthy’s a truly amazing artist. It’s riveting to watch him work and hear what he has to say in the documentary Rivers and Tides, Working with time. It’s absolutely worth your time. Phenomenal.
Try this: Go to the woods. Collect leaves of various colors – or just one color. Arrange them, and rearrange them until it feels just right to you. When you have a piece you’re happy with, take a photo and share it in the comments or send it to me! I’d love to see!
4. Draw a leaf. When the leaves change color, bring some into the house. You can arrange them and enjoy the colors, or you can try drawing them.
If you’d like to draw one, try this: Take a leaf and lay it out in front of you. Notice the overall shape of the leaf. Draw it about the same size it is. Let your pencil touch the page as your gaze touches the edge of the leaf. Hold your pencil with a light touch – a leaf is light. Be like the leaf. This light touch will allow you to gently reproduce the leaf’s ins and outs. When you’re ready, draw the intricate veins. Notice, notice, notice. Allow your pencil to flow with the undulations of the leaf. If you don’t like your drawing, who cares? You’ll know a leaf like you’ve never known a leaf before in your life. Now, draw it again. Second drawings are usually better than firsts.
If you’d like your drawing to have color, try colored pencils, layering color to achieve variation. Or you can add color with watercolors. The joy is in the doing, and the noticing. Each leaf is so amazing – you could choose any one and it will be worth drawing!
5. Paint or rub on a leaf. Some things never get old. It’s still fun to make leaf rubbings. Try this: put a leaf, or more than one but separated, under a thin sheet of paper and, using the side of a crayon or oil pastel, rub over the paper to see the textures of the leaf appear from below. You can continue to work on it after you’ve got your rubbing, playing with color and line, or using it for collage.
You can also try painting on leaves. Here’s a particularly beautiful piece from China:
How do you notice and savor autumn? I’d love to hear!
To all you are,
Thanks so much for reading! My new book, Studio Stories, Illuminating Our Lives through Art is coming out next month!
All art/photos copyright Lauren Rader unless otherwise specified. All rights apply