Sunday, January 20, 2013

Art and Nature: How the Natural World Boosts Creativity

Here's something interesting a friend shared with me... an article that presents an argument against deforestation from an artistic point of view. Edinburgh University's Iain Woodhouse, who maps forests using satellites, photo-shopped the trees out of some famous paintings to show the aesthetic value they have. Below is van Gogh's "Olive Trees with Yellow Sky and Sun" with and without trees.

The second one is pretty boring. Unfortunately, deforestation is happening more and more as the human population grows. More room is needed for us to live, grow crops, and raise livestock. Everyone knows that trees are important in carbon sequestration, soil integrity, and providing habitats for wildlife. But I also believe that preserving forests is essential in preserving our happiness and peace of mind. How depressing would it be if there were no more places where you could go hiking and camping, or just go for a walk? Of course there will always be national parks and such, but I wouldn't want to have to travel far to enjoy nature. I'd rather have it right outside my door. Maybe that's just a result of where I'm from, which is surrounded by woods. But I lived in a city while going to college and I can honestly say I was not as happy there simply due to the surroundings. Nature provides us with inspiration... how many great works of art are landscapes or seascapes, or portray animals or flowers? Without inspiration from nature, the work of artists like van Gogh, O'Keeffe, and Monet would be virtually non-existent. As an artist myself, I wouldn't know what to paint if nature were eliminated as subject matter and inspiration. An article from Psychology Today states:

The study of the relationships between mental acuity, creativity, and time spent outdoors remains a scientific frontier, but the latest research suggests that exposure to the living world can enhance intelligence for some people. This probably happens in at least two ways: first, our senses and sensibilities are improved through our direct interaction with nature (and practical knowledge of natural systems is still applicable in our everyday lives); second, a more natural environment seems to stimulate our ability to pay attention, think clearly, and be more creative, whether we live in suburbs or urban neighborhoods.

The article states that one study from the University of Illinois found a reduction in ADD symptoms in children exposed to nature. Another article from Psychology Today states that a 2012 study from the University of Kansas concluded that "people from all walks of life show startling cognitive improvement — for instance, a 50 percent boost in creativity — after living for a few days steeped in nature." Not really sure how they measure "creativity" though. A 2006 study from Denmark found that 58 percent of children who were in close touch with nature often invented new games to play, but just 16 percent of indoor kindergarten children did.

One of my paintings... sans trees, this would be an empty field with a rock. Super exciting.

I think the most fun times I've had were outdoors... kayaking, hiking mountains, exploring underground caves, etc.. I've had more fun going to log cabins in the middle of nowhere than going into cities. Maybe that just means I'm a sociopath. Whatever the case, nature is fun... try to spend more time outdoors. You will feel better and apparently be a more creative person. The more people that appreciate trees and the environment, the more people will take steps to save them.

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