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Where the Wild Plants Are (Grades 3–5)

Inspired by Louise Jones’s AK Public Art Project Wildflowers for Buffalo, 2018

Background

The floral motifs artist Louise Jones incorporated into Wildflowers for Buffalo were inspired by the local landscape. She works in a distinctive aesthetic that merges botanical realism with a stylized, sinuous technique that draws from her Chinese heritage.

Based on conversations with horticulturists as well as her own research, Jones identified a number of plants native to the region as the basis for this mural; these include (from top left to bottom): red clover, coneflower (echinacea), burdock, chicory, Queen Anne’s lace, thistle, lamb’s quarters, swamp rose, and yarrow. The artist was drawn to these species not only for their connection to the Buffalo region but also for their role in herbal medicine traditions as aides for bringing about well-being. Later, she supplemented this selection of flora with what she called “special cultivated guests”: strawflowers and pussy willows that she encountered thriving on a farm in Eden. At 80 feet tall by 160 feet wide, Wildflowers for Buffalo is the largest mural of Jones’s career.

Louise Jones’s Wildflowers for Buffalo, 2018, at 465 Washington Street in Buffalo. Photograph by MK Photo.

Materials

  • Objects collected on a walk outside (or photographed with a camera)
  • A container for gathering outdoor objects
  • Drawing paper
  • Pencil
  • Coloring materials (crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc.)
  • Journal (optional)

Vocabulary

Mural: a work of art (usually a painting) created directly onto a wall

Composition: the arrangement of elements in a work of art

Discussion

Begin by using the Teaching Tips and Tools for Discussion. An example of how to bring in information about the artist from something your student observed: If they mentioned that the flowers look like ones they have seen before (or may even have in their garden at home or at a family member’s house), share that the artist choose flowers that grow natively in our area or that she saw somewhere on her visits to Western New York. She felt it was important that her painting was not only meaningful to her, but represents the area where the mural is located.

Have your students watch the following video:

At the end of the video, Jones says she wants her drawing to look beautiful when it is completed. Do you think she was successful? Do you like her idea of using something that grows locally as inspiration? What is something that grows around your home, school, or nearby park that you would want to draw or paint?

Artmaking Activity

Overview: In this activity, students will go on an outdoor walk to find inspiration for their nature drawing. They can visit their backyard, neighborhood, or local park/nature preserve.

Ask students to go on a nature walk to find inspiration. Their inspiration could be any type of plant that they find, or perhaps some interesting leaves or pinecones. They should look for things that they find enjoyable. Another option is that the teacher goes on the nature walk and creates a video of herself, or live streams the walk to the class.

Students can:

  • Bring a container for collecting objects
  • Bring a camera to take photographs
  • Bring a journal

Once they have their plants/objects for inspiration, the students should proceed to the artmaking portion of the activity. Take this time to talk about composition and how placement can play an important role when one begins to draw. Show Jones’s mural to talk about how she decided to make her composition. Point out how some flowers are in clusters and some are on their own; have students use that as a starting point. Do your students want to put all their objects in a cluster, or perhaps some together and some on their own? Have them work on their placement before they begin drawing.

When students have their composition set, they should draw their objects. Have them sketch everything in pencil first and then trace everything in thin black lines (or another dark color).

Once it is time to add color, encourage your students to use their imagination. Perhaps they can use colors that are unusual or different, or add something fun to the background of their drawing.

When they have completed their work, have them hang it up in a location where people walk or work. In the video above, Jones mentions that she hopes people notice her mural on their way to and from work and while looking out the window of their office. You can use this statement to encourage your students to do the same with their artwork.

A teacher's example project for the artmaking activity

Movement Activity

Overview: In this guided movement, students will “grow” from a seed into a tree, inspired by movements from yoga, such as tree pose. Benefits of doing yoga with students include an increased ability to balance their emotions and help manage their stress (read more).

  • Begin in a “seed” pose (rock or child’s pose). Have students remain here for a moment and breathe.
  • Next, move into low cobra pose (also known as baby cobra), as if they are growing into a “seedling.”
  • Next, encourage your students to go into a full cobra pose.
  • Pause for a breath and then bend back into downward dog pose.
  • Then, students can walk back their hands so that they are in a forward bend.
  • Have them slowly “grow” into a tall tree (mountain pose) and then move into tree pose.
  • Ask: What did you feel? Which position was your favorite? Why?

Drawings by Suzie Molnar

Wrap-Up Discussion

  • How did you like using inspiration from outside to make your artwork?
  • Do you prefer to use your imagination or actual objects to draw from? Why?
  • If you got to put your artwork on a big building somewhere, where would that be? Would you want a lot of people to see it and take photographs with it?

Optional: Share your creations on Twitter or Instagram with #AKBeyondWalls and #MuseumFromHome!

Additional Resources

 

 

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