Creative Encounters with the Natural World: Some Prompts for Writing and Visual Art

Our natural environment has been a fertile area of inspiration for writers, artists and all manner of creative folk, ever since ancient humans began to paint on cave walls. Engaging with nature can help us forget our egos, worries and daily frustrations – and encourages our imaginations to inhabit a different world. That said, creativity doesn’t always flow spontaneously. We often need a bit of direction to get started – and this is what prompts are for. Read on for a selection of activity prompts inspired by nature and wildlife…

If you like painting or drawing:
Try to sketch or paint a wild animal, insect or plant you have spotted recently. You could try drawing from a reference photo you find online, for example, or just try drawing from memory. Alternatively, draw or paint your favourite creature or plant species, whether or not you have seen it in real life.

Draw your ideal garden, complete with your pick of plant and animal species that might live there.

Draw or sketch a natural landscape you are inspired by – have you visited it? Or is it one you dream of travelling to? What sort of habitat is it? What lives there?

If you like journaling or diary-writing:
One thing I enjoy doing is making an ‘art journal’. It’s similar to a combination of a scrapbook and a diary. The beauty of this activity is that you can fill your art journal with all manner of things you create or find. It could include drawings or doodles, cuttings from magazines or newspapers, items you find outdoors, or photographs you’ve taken. As for writing, you could include notes on your day, any thoughts or observations, your sightings of wildlife – or pretty much any topic you feel the urge to write about. The contrast between visual snippets and verbal additions can look very pleasing.

If you enjoy making collages:
Make a collage using found natural materials you have collected in your garden, or on a walk. You could use leaves, sprigs, twigs, shells, or seed pods.

If you enjoy creative writing:
Write a short story or poem about, or from the point of view of, a wild animal. What is a day in their life, like?

Write about a journey you have made where you encountered wildlife. Where did you go? What did you find there? Why were you going there? What could you see, hear, touch? Was it rural, urban, or suburban? What were you expecting to notice there? Did it match what you expected?

You could try out ‘free writing’ – an easy way to get into creative writing if you aren’t sure where to begin! You write down whatever words or thoughts flow into your mind, without being too concerned with punctuation, or grammar. Then you’ll find associated words or thoughts continue popping into your head, like a kind of word/idea association. Just keep writing  –  it doesn’t matter whether your words make any sense. The ‘stream-of-conciousness’ flow from one word, sentence, or idea to the next, is what counts. It can sometimes help to have a shaping theme or starting idea. If you like, choose one of these ideas as a starting point: the landscape, wildlife, artificial vs. organic, the divide between humans and wildlife, or conservation.

Enjoy your forays into creating! Do share with us what you make.