Mother Nature's Palate
For some artists, creating a thought-provoking piece doesn't require a canvas or frame. Using only materials found in nature, such as flower petals, seashells or tree branches — even sand and water — "environmental artists" construct amazing eco-friendly artwork. For example, the above color wheel was created by artist Richard Shilling using autumn leaves and a circle of ash bark.
From stunning stone sculptures to strategically placed leaves, we've rounded up a gallery full of amazing environmental art. Click on for more natural beauty.
Flower of Life
Environmental art is also known as land art, earth art, ecological art, nature art or green art.
The above design was photographed on Jericho Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia, during the 2008 Canadian Earth Day celebration. Although the creator is not known, the photographer noted that the piece was made using beach sand, rocks, seashells, cedar bark, driftwood, twigs and flowers, as well as green and dry leaves.
Environmental artworks can be painstakingly intricate or beautifully low-key. This piece was created using sticks found in the historic woods of Scotland's Highlands. The small twigs were placed in the snow in a clearing near the woods so that they would catch the sun's rays and create a long, slender shadow.
Nils Udo, a German artist who has been creating environmental works since the 1960s, often makes "ephemeral art," or artworks that exist for only a limited amount of time as a result of the natural materials used to make them. Thankfully, photographs render the physically fleeting artworks as frozen in time for viewers to enjoy.
Udo made the above work in 1990 by creating a stick dam to hold back bindweed flowers, also known as morning glories,as they floated along a stream in Réunion, an island located in the Indian Ocean.
This sculpture was made from stones found on Nine Wells Beach in Pembrokeshire, Wales, during low tide. Many environmental artworks are temporary, and are left to break apart or decompose naturally. This piece only lasted a few hours before high tide washed it away.
Environmental artist Hazel L. Terry arranged the dry seashells of razor clams, which are characterized by their long, rectangular shape, in flower patterns along the beach in Kirkcaldy, Fife, located on the east coast of Scotland.
Nils Udo's"Nest in Red Clay" was created by the edge of a forest in Clemson, S. C., in 2005. The artist dug a hollow in the bright red soilto suit the large nest, which is rimmed by grass and trees.
The nest itself was constructed using long pine trunks, with the interior made of green bamboo sticks that taper toward the bottom. The center of the nest consists of the bare clay dirt.
Environmental artist Gloria Lamson created this piece, called "Seaweed - Light" in 2006 on the shores of a beach in Port Townsend, Wash.
This sculpture was made from the trunk and root ball of a camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora) tree and is approximately 11 feet (3.3 meters) high and extends 19 feet (5.8 m). Called "Monumental Environmental Artwork," the sculpture was made by environmental artist John Dahlsen over the course of two years. The tree was first donated to Dahlsen by an eco-farmer in its raw state, with its roots compacted by a hardened black soil.
The artist cleared away the embedded soil, and shaped the tree's roots into an overall roundish shape. Once he had smoothed down the tree's surface, Dahlsen applied three coats of organic oils, along with a final coat of beeswax mixed with jojoba oil for preservation.
Another view of John Dahlsen's fallen tree sculpture from a different angle. The piece was photographed while on display during the 2010 Swell Sculpture Festival, held in Queensland, Australia, where the artwork won the "Swell" sculpture prize in the Environmental Art category.
Seaside Shell Designs
This piece, created by Gloria Lamson, is called "Mussel Shells with Incoming Tide" and consists of empty mussel shells arranged on the beach of a small, unnamed island in Southeast Alaska.
Richard Shilling created this ephemeral sculpture of carefully balanced stones in 2009. Shilling cites Andy Goldsworthy as in influence in some of his earlier environmental artworks.
Artist John Dahlsen made this piece, titled "Driftwood Assemblage #1," from driftwood collected from Australian beaches. The artwork displays the fascinating ways in which the wooden sticks have been modified and weathered by the ocean and nature's elements.
Autumn Fire Wheel
Land artist Richard Shilling used the brightly hued leaves of a Norwegian maple to showcase the colors of fall. The center is a tight spiral he wove to hold the leaves and twigs together.
Seashells, driftwood and chunks of coral are draped and strung over dried-out, sun-bleached tree trunks. These unique sculptures grace the tropical shores of Gili Meno, one of the three Gili Islands off of Lombok, Indonesia.
Greenery plays an important role in environmental art, with trees, leaves and flowers often incorporated into artworks.
This piece was created by artist Susan Shanti Gibian, who shaped an invasive grass species to form a heart. By pulling the grasses aside, the artist revealed the more fragile native vine growing underneath. The artwork, called "Ephemeral Wonder," was part of an outdoor exhibit in a pine grove at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, N.Y.
To mimic the colors of molten flowing lava, Nils Udo placed red and yellow blossoms within the cracks of hardened lava rocks. The piece, called "Flowers and Lava Flow," was created inRéunion, an island located in the Indian Ocean.
This tranquil piece, called "Floating Stones on Broken Ice," was created by Gloria Lamson in 2002. The artist carefully placed rocks atop floating pieces of ice in Wyoming.
Sycamore Seed Sun
Another environmental artwork that incorporates leaves and branches, this piece was created by Richard Shilling in 2011. The dogwood ring is lined by sycamore seeds, which were gingerly tacked onto the circle using thorns.
Artist Richard Shilling created this sculpture from snow, ice and maple leaves in Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire, England.
Called "Small Lake," this breathtaking piece was created by Nils Udo in Vallery, France, in 2000.
After the "lake" was dug into the dark soil, it was filled with water and topped off with bluebell blossoms. A pale hazel branch, held up by three twigs, encircles the water and dark dead leaves surround its shores.
A Splatter of Squares on the Sand
Wanting to engage the tideline and the hill along the shores of Point Reyes, Calif., artist Gloria Lamson used cake flour to create the stunning piece "Sandbar to Hill / Flour Marks" in 1998. She used a wooden board as a stencil and printmaking plate, while the fine, powdery white flour made up the marking material. A slight breeze added the feathery accent.