Belfast Castle Forest

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Photos: Belfast Castle Walk to Outdoor Studios with Haiku Poetry by Nora O’Baoill

Making a Scene in Public: Art Therapy and Ecology Workshop

This workshop, for art therapy students at Ulster University, Belfast School of Art, will explore the creation of land art within the nature of public spaces. Working with found and natural materials in outdoor studio areas, artworks will relate to both personal and collective themes. Therapeutic situations will be encountered en route through the examination of outdoor habitats. We will consider how art therapy can be choreographed through spontaneous relations with environment. Artworks will be both site specific and portable, assembling ingredients of location in an attempt to enact the energies of participants with the character of place.

“An art therapy environment is not a background, but the scene for experiences in the making.”

READ: The Nature of Art Therapy Blog, Topics Related to Art Therapy Practice within Natural Surroundings or With Natural Materials 

ART MATERIALS FROM NATURE
BERRIES, POLLEN, MUD, BRANCHES, LEAVES, MOSS, LICHEN, CHARCOAL, FLOWERS, STONES, SAND, WEEDS, BARK, GRASSES, PINE CONES, PINE NEEDLES, ROOTS, VINES, CLAY, RAIN WATER, WATER FROM A LAKE, WATER FROM A RIVER OR OCEAN, BEESWAX, ROSEHIPS, HERBS, STEMS, SEEDS, SNOW, FEATHERS, NATURAL DYES, FLOWER/PLANT/VEGETABLE/BARK PRINTS, SEEDPODS, RUBBINGS FROM NATURAL MATERIALS, REEDS, HAIR, SEAWEED

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Photo by Mary McClave

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Photo by Mary McClave

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Workshop Preparation List

Please bring along the following on Wednesday, September 26th
1. Clothing for all weather possibilities. Outdoor walking shoes for uneven terrain and gloves for hand protection.
2. Pen/pencil for writing
3. Tape or glue stick to attach small collections from nature into your sketchbook
4. Pencils, charcoal, markers, etc for sketching/mark making
5. A fully charged phone or camera for taking photographs
6. A small bag to collect found and foraged art materials from nature or envelopes for the same purpose. The envelopes could also be attached into your sketch book.
7. A sketch book
8. A mat or blanket to sit down on
9. A drink and a snack

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Photo: Shelter in the Phoenix Park, Dublin

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Photo: Artwork produced at Belfast Castle Art Therapy Workshop at the Northern Ireland Group for Art as Therapy Summer School

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Photo: Mud with gold paint at a primary school garden studio.

What is Land Art? Land art is usually made in relation to a specific landscape or location, using collections of natural materials found on site. Land art can be left within the landscape, to be affected by the elements, or it can be transported into a studio space or gallery. This form of art is subject to change, it is ephemeral subject to decay and the impact of ecological processes including the effects of weather. Land Art can also incorporate walking, as a way of drawing upon the landscape. Walking artists consider forest paths to be like lines of drawing, a way of making one’s mark by foot, or taking a line for a walk. Walking artists Richard Long and Hamish Fulton use collections of words to illustrate their journeys through landscapes. Long uses the term textworks to describe the way individual words can encapsulate the essence of nature walks.

Pamela on Ground

Workshop Themes
Art Therapy Out of Bounds
Social Environments
Land Art
Enactments
Choreography of Space
Therapeutic Situations
Habitats
Conditions of Nature
The Artistry of Location

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Photo: Art therapy forest studio.

“Making art within a natural setting expresses themes related to growth, decay and processes of change, as well as cultural traditions associated with different seasons of the year…The natural world’s aliveness and diversity illuminate the potential for artistic exploration that unites the materiality of the natural world with the materiality of the human condition…infusing art therapy with new frontiers of accumulative creation.”

“The range of art materials available from an outdoor art therapy studio invites perceptive stimulation and can be combined with more commonly used art therapy materials in either indoor or outdoor settings. Land-sourced art materials (e.g. soil, clay, stone, sand, seaweed, shells, weeds, charcoal, ash, water, grasses, pine cones, pine needles, roehips, seeds, flowers, ferns, nuts, lichen, [moss], mud, bark, herbs, leaves, berries, and edible plants), along with landscape-inspired fibre arts materials (e.g. wool, felt, thread, handmade paper, beeswax, fleece, and natural fabrics), and construction materials for installation spaces (e.g. wood, branches, and straw bales) all invite imaginative responses that add to the participation evoked by more traditional art therapy materials…”

“Land sourced art materials, fibre art materials, and construction materials can extend the textures, dimensions, and sensations gained from more frequently used art [therapy] media. For example, paint, glue, clay or melted beeswax can be combined with leaves, pine needles, grasses, seeds, rosehips, or flower petals. Paper can be marked with mud, charcoal, soil, ash, [pollen, flower pigments], and berry juices…Pinecones, dried herbs, flowers, and leaves can be strung together and suspended from an indoor ceiling or used to embellish an outdoor den, or even worn draped across the body. Mud, dirt, berry juices, and charcoal can “paint” the skin for use in art therapy enactments, with the pigments of these materials colouring the body canvas.”

(Quotations above from Pamela Whitaker, “Groundswell: The Nature and Landscape of Art Therapy” in Materials and Media in Art Therapy: Critical Understandings of Diverse Artistic Vocabularies by Catherine Hyland Moon)

Cultivating an Art Therapy Studio: The Outdoor Studio Benefits to Wellness

  • Skill Sharing and Learning among Peers
  • Collaboration, Mentoring, Teamwork
  • Social Interaction
  • Achievement and Self Esteem
  • Cultivating nature, Enhancing the World for Oneself and Others
  • Working with symbols of Regeneration (Growth) and Cycles of Change
  • Physical release of Tension and Stress
  • Pride of Place, Making a Difference in the World
  • Mind Wandering and Reverie in Gardening and Aesthetic Experience enhances Cognitive Flexibility for Problem Solving
  • Soil bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae releases Serotonin to Decrease Anxiety and improve Cognitive Functions, Enhance Mood and Coping Abilities.
  • Foraging and Harvesting assist in the release of Dopamine which may promote  Energy and Enthusiasm.

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Photo: Cairn forest shelter, Northern Ireland

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Photo: Artist book with foraged natural materials.

Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC ) Standards of Proficiency, Art Therapy 
  • Understand how and why different approaches to the use of the arts in arts therapy and in other settings varies according to context and purpose.
  • Know about theories of group work and the management of group process.
  • Understand the role of the physical setting and the art-making process in the physical and psychological containment of emotions.
  • Understand the role and use of visual symbols in art that communicate conscious and unconscious processes.
  • Be able to use a range of art and art-making materials and techniques competently and be able to help a service user to work with these.

References for Art Therapy and Nature

Green Studio: Nature and the Arts in Therapy by Alexander Kopytin and Madeline Rugh (Editors), Nova Publishers

Nature-Based Expressive Arts Therapy: Integrating the Expressive Arts and Ecotherapy by Sally Atkins and Melia Snyder, Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life by Ian Siddons Heginworth

Environmental Arts Therapy Website by Ian Siddons Heginworth

“Taking Art Therapy Outdoors: The ‘Greening’ of Art Therapy Practice” by art therapists Vanessa Jones and Gary Nash, BAAT Newsbriefing, July 2017. Contact Vanessa Jones and Gary Nash at the London Art Therapy Centre, where they teach a course called Environmental Arts Therapy Training with drama therapist Ian Siddons Heginworth. They also offer introductory level courses. Courses are held on weekends in London parks and woodlands. London Art Therapy Centre

The Healing Fields: Working with Psychotherapy and Nature to Rebuild Shattered Lives by Sonja Linden and Jenny Grut

The Healing Forest in Post-Crisis Work with Children: A Nature Therapy and Expressive Arts Program for Groups Ronen Berger and Mooli Lahad, Jessica Kingsley Publishers

The Nature Therapy Centre by Ronen Berger

The Therapeutic Garden by Donald Norfolk, Bantam Press

“Groundswell: The Nature and Landscape of Art Therapy” in Materials and Media in Art Therapy: Critical Understandings of Diverse Artistic Vocabularies by Catherine Hyland Moon