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Creating Andy Goldsworthy Inspired Environmental Art

Andy Goldsworthy Inspired Environmental Art

Welcome back to Golden Road Arts for another of our free art lessons for children. If you missed our last lesson, we heard from Portland artist and musician Tony Furtado on the processes behind his ceramic animal sculptures.

In today’s lesson we’re looking at the work of British artist Andy Goldsworthy. Barbara Mason will be discussing the creation of art pieces and sculptures using items found in the natural world.

The Land Art and Sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy

Follow along with Barbara Mason as she recreates the natural artworks found in the sculptures of Andy Goldsworthy. Use organic materials to design unique creations based on the environmental art movement (also known as land art or earth art).

Materials Needed for Andy Goldsworthy Inspired Art

  • Decorative rocks
  • Plant materials
  • Kinetic sand
  • Sheet pan, 1-inch deep

See images from the Andy Goldsworthy lesson further down the page.

Learn About the Land Art of Andy Goldsworthy

Read through the following transcript to learn about the techniques of British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.

Hi, this is Barbara Mason, and this is Golden Road Arts. Welcome back. We’re going to talk about a really interesting artist today. We’re going to talk about Mr. Andy Goldsworthy.

Now, Mr. Goldsworthy was born in 1956, so let’s see how old is 1956? I think he would probably about be about 64. Anyway, so he’s had a very interesting career. He was born in England and now lives in Scotland, and he started out working on a farm when he was young.

And so, when you work on a farm, a lot of things you do are repetitious. You just do one thing and then you do another thing and then another thing. Sometimes you do the same thing over and over and over again. And when he was working on the farm, he spent a lot of time outside and he really loved being out and looking at the land and seeing what Mother Nature could do. And so, he got really interested in doing artwork that involved the land.

So, I’ve made a small piece kind of like Andy Goldsworthy’s here and what I’ve used is, because we can’t really do this outside, I have used some kinetic sand which is this stuff right here in this box. And so, the difference between this and regular sand is it sticks together. So, when I push this down here you know I can make a mark in it and it just stays there and it won’t move until I take it apart and make it move or if I slide it a little bit, but the idea is I was able to put all these light colored rocks down the middle and then the darker colored rocks on the outside.

And so, you would think, well where do you find these rocks that are darker on one side and lighter on another? So that I could go down the edge and have it look like it was intentional. So, the dark rocks would be really on the outside. And so, where I got these rocks, I bought these rocks. It’s hard to believe that I actually bought rocks, but I did. But you could probably find them in your yard, or someplace close by, and I actually bought these rocks at a store that does stuff for aquariums.

And so, when people have aquariums, they buy these rocks and they put it in the bottom of the aquarium underneath the water. I don’t think it really makes the fish happier, but I think it makes a place for it to just look better in the water. And anyway, so you can see now I’m adding a little darker row right down the outside. So, I have all my rocks separated into little cups and you could do the same thing.

So, I’m going to make a different one today. And I want to talk a little bit more about Andy Goldsworthy. You know how he was able to preserve his work – he photographed it. So, you know, if you lay out a whole bunch of rocks on the ground? What’s going to happen to them? Somebody’s going to come along and they’re going to take one, or they’re going to pick it up, or there’s going to be water running across it. It’s going to move the rocks. And so, they’re not going to stay there forever. So, he understood that his work was not going to be permanent. It was going to be part of the landscape, and then eventually it would just disappear, will go back into the landscape.

OK. So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to move my first creation over here and I got these little pieces of what looks like real grass, but it’s not real leaves. I got it at the Dollar Store. So, everything that I got today looks like it came from the yard, but it really didn’t. Well, maybe the sand did. I don’t know what they do to the sand to make it stick together, but it’s pretty interesting. Maybe they put some kind of oil in it or something. And it comes out of the bag. And this sand is pretty expensive, too. I can’t believe I paid all this money for sand, but I did.

It was very fun to play with and you can use it over and over again for all kinds of different things. So, you can smash it and squash it, and you know, it really can look like the ground. But if you were outside, you could use sand from your sandbox. Maybe your teacher would bring in some sand for your room. Then you could do something similar in your room. I wanted to make this demonstration small enough that you could actually do it in your room. You could get a sandbox and you could actually do something similar to what Mr. Goldsworthy was doing.

And we’re going to put some pictures on the Internet. They’re going to show you some of his work, and he is a pretty amazing artist. And, of course, as he got older, he started doing things that weren’t quite as heavy. When he was young, he did things that were, you know, he was moving huge rocks around, just picking them up and shifting them and moving them to kind of make the landscape.

OK, so now you can see what I’ve done is I’ve just kind of flattened this dirt. And the kinetic sand is down into my tray here. And then what I have is I have some green leaves. And I have some orange leaves. Just like fall would be a good time to do this, you could think of fall and then I have yellow. So how would we do this? What if we took the orange? And we just started laying them down like this. And so, of course, what’s going to happen with leaves when the wind blows? They’re going to go everywhere, aren’t they? So, of course, if you do this in your room at school, or in your yard. You know, in the fall, when all the leaves are down, you know you’ll be able to get something that won’t stay there very long. But you know that’s part of the charm of Andy’s work.

He didn’t care if it didn’t stay there very long. He just wanted to do it and he said that. Moving pieces around outside was a lot like picking potatoes. You just pick one and then you pick another one and then you pick another one. So, I guess he must have spent a lot of time when he was a young man picking potatoes working on the farm. So, I’m going to show you some pictures of some of his work.

So, we’re going to do yellow on one side, and of course, it can be your work, so it can be any way you want it. Maybe I’ll put some orange on the outside of the yellow. On this side. Make it more attractive. So, you could do this with pieces of paper too. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be leaves. I just got leaves because I’m thinking about Mr. Goldsworthy and what he used. All the things he used that were outside.

I’m going to put some leaves here. So maybe the leaves will go to the edges of the pan. Maybe a yard. It would be our yard if it was a real yard. We’re going to leave it to the edge. So, of course, this is not nearly as stable as the rock. So when we move this, when we pick this up to move it, things are going to shift. But that was one of the things that Mr. Goldsworthy thought was good about his work. He thought it was wonderful to make it and take a picture of it and then let it just go back to the way it was. It would just shift, and he thought that was really part of its charm.

And so, he became pretty famous. He did a lot of work for museums. He did a big installation in the museum in San Francisco. As you walk into the museum, he was trying to make it look a little bit like the land would look after an earthquake. So, there’s a lot of big cracks in the entry to the museum. And I think he just took a hammer and hit the rock and broke it to do that. So, it was an unusual thing for him to do that. So now we have our Andy Goldsworthy thing here and I could just push this down. Try to make it stick more into the land – well our sand land.

OK, so, do you think if Andy Goldsworthy were here, he would like what we did? I don’t know. Move this over just a little bit now and I’m going to show you. Oh, I have some different leaves here that I forgot to use. Let’s use some of these. Oh, these are little tiny green ones. Let’s put these on it. Yeah, on the edge. Is it really pretty? Think of all the stuff that you could find in your yard that you could do something like this with. You could do leaves, you could do rocks, you could do pieces of wood. He did a lot of work with wood, where he bent the wood and stacked it up and moved it around. So, we’re going to put a lot of pieces of his work on the Internet, so you’ll be able to see it.

And because Andy Goldsworthy is still alive, a lot of times we talk about artists and they’re famous, but they’re dead. You know, they lived a long time ago and they did amazing stuff, but they’re not alive anymore. So, it’s kind of fun to talk about an artist that we know well. We don’t really know him, but we know of him that he is still alive and still making work. You know, he’s probably not doing this much work.

So, one of the things I wanted to show you was, as he got going, I’m going to just move this up here to the front. One of the things that I want to show you is one of the things that Andy Goldsworthy did with leaves, and so you can see this is very similar to the thing we did with leaves. It’s a little different, this is, it just says yellow and red leaves. So, I don’t know exactly what kind of leaves they are, but they’re really beautiful.

And then here on this one, he’s actually stitched the leaves together and hung them from a branch, which is pretty interesting. So, when I show you here, here’s another thing he did with leaves, what looks a little bit like what we did, but not exactly. And so, he just did this on the ground, knowing of course that as soon as the wind comes up that this is going to be gone, then it won’t last at all.

And then I wanted to show you that he planned the work that he did. He didn’t just go out one day and say, OK, I’m going to do leaves. He thought about what he would do and how it would look, and he would do some sketches so that he could see what he might do.

This looks like it might be, looks like it might be wood or rock. I don’t think these are leaves. There’s another one here that’s very similar. And also, sometimes he would just dig up the land and he would just pile up the dirt. And there’s an actual finished picture of this one in here that we can also put on the Internet that you can see where the land was all piled up and they just dug it out and piled it up. And of course, eventually, this is going to go back to just being a field. But for a long time, it’s going to look like this.

And so, you can see how photography was a really important part of his work. He had to take a picture of it so that he could show what he did. And so consequently he’s published many, many books about his work because everyone wanted to see it. And of course, if you live far away, you wouldn’t be able to see it. This is something that he did with rocks, and you see, he started out and just this pile of rocks. And then he piled them up like this. And I have no idea how he managed to make these stack, so they didn’t fall apart.

And I think, you know, sometimes you’ll see somebody who’s stacking rocks on the side of a river or by the side of the road, and they’re balancing one rock on top of another. Well, Andy Goldsworthy was sort of the father of balancing rocks. So, whenever you see rocks balance, you can think, oh, that person probably knows about Andy Goldsworthy. So, I hope that this will be a fun thing for you and that you will go out into your yard and look at things a little differently and think, what can I do with the land? In my small little area, that would be a fun piece of art. Wouldn’t be permanent, probably, but it would be really fun to make it and fun to look at it. And then maybe you could get your mom or your teacher or even you could take a picture of it. If you have a phone, you can certainly take a picture of it with your phone. Thanks very much for joining me at Golden Road Arts today. This is Barbara Mason, and I’ll see you next time.

Browse Art Lessons From Golden Road Arts

Golden Road Arts is the home of free art lessons for elementary and middle school children. We create a range of video tutorials, art literacy guides and other exciting content to help children’s creative development. To see more, watch our free art lessons today.

Nature art of British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.

Kinetic sand artwork by Barbara Mason.

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Andy Goldsworthy Proposal for Lambton Earthwork III.

Japanese maple patch leaves artwork by Andy Goldsworthy.

Environmental art using kinetic sand and flowers.

Lambton Earthwork land art sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy.

Balanced Winstone sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy.

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