Richard Shilling- Land Artist

On a scale of 1 to 10 for an inspirational experience, gazing at the photography of Richard Shilling’s earth creations is about a 100 for me.  After discovering his work for the first time, I immediately hiked into my forested backyard, found a form of green leaves that I liked and built a small mandala on a rock.  His creations are incredible in handwork and yet humble in their simplicity, with seasonal contrasts and landscape replications, cozy and sweet and profoundly intricate.  While walking in the North-West of England, Shilling stumbled upon a creation made by Andy Goldsworthy, and was immediately inspired to direct his own artistic talents towards the creation of land art.  Since then, he has developed his own smaller-scale, ephemeral sculptures using only the materials he finds while out in the expanse of nature’s studio and has published 5 books of his work, including Land Art For Kids, which, as a homeschooling mother valuing nature as the greatest teacher, is a sign of a good man doing a good thing.

Besides the beautiful photography, I was also struck by the insightful descriptions of his time spent in nature building such sculptures.  His blog stories are both funny as they reveal the reality of the attempts and follies of making nature art, the mistakes of cotton trousers and leaky trainers, or the kinds of thoughts that float through a mans brain (Why when someone says “say when” do we say ‘when’?) as he waits for the sun to move.  His stories are also deeply thoughtful, as in his contemplations of revolution and liberation around the world, or which are those pivotal moments in our lives that anchor us to our own creational journeys.  I have enjoyed his words as much as his images.  I admire his knowledge of the trees and plants that grow in the areas in which he works, and his observations of leaf shape and colours in different seasons.  Certainly his lifestyle is one to be inspired by- earning a living by playing out in the woods, taking pictures, and writing stories about it.  I have already come to the conclusion that if money were not needed in my life, I would be doing more activities which I am drawn to do with my heart and creative instincts in contribution to my family, the earth, and the community in which I live.  It is with much trust that we put our creative drive first, and our bank accounts second, and know that we will be given what we need to continue in good faith.

Land Art does not need to be slotted in with high profile and elite artist circles.  Children and adults everywhere can benefit from connecting with nature through the process of creating something outside with the materials that the earth provides.  There are no limits to what one could do with the variety of tools, seasonal environments, and ecosystems.  It gives us the opportunity to observe and learn while “just playing”, something that children are exceptionally good at.  By letting go of the attachment to outcome and focusing on the experience of just being in nature, we can celebrate the beauty and uniqueness of everything that the earth offers and allow our minds to settle into the present moment.  Land Artists out there who have become “high profile” artists are a great reminder to the world of art that creativity can be as humble and as public as a piece of driftwood in the glow of the rising sun, and as priceless as paper thin birch bark.

“I don’t produce land art images. No, I have experiences out in nature. Observing and experiencing what I find, discovering new things and wondering at what else is out there. A finished photo is just a byproduct like oxygen emerging from a photosythesising leaf.  I love ephemeral land art. I want to experience what I experience as I make something. And once that is done the experience is over and I am happy just to leave it to decay.  Someone once said to me “don’t you feel like it is waste putting so much effort into something that may last only a few minutes?”  It is not a chore to put yourself wholeheartedly into something you enjoy, to feel connected with it, experience its intensity and have nothing but the memory left afterwards. We all do just that with many things we love every single day.”

I would be overjoyed to stumble upon a creation of earthly beauty such as Richard Shilling’s land art in my wanderings, left out to decay in it’s own journey of transforming with the elements of earth’s interconnected environment.

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