• Heather Harris

Natural Art for Intentional Living

Slow living is an increasingly popular response to a world that feels like it’s moving at light speed. By slowing down and being more intentional, people often find fulfillment and a stronger awareness of their impact on the earth. Art that incorporates nature can be a powerful element of living more intentionally. In addition to having incredible benefits for our wellbeing, it encourages us to be more conscious of our relationship with the earth.

How Art Affects the Brain

Everyone has experienced a moment of walking into a space and feeling as though something about it allows them to exhale. Interior design, especially using art, has a big impact on the brain and, consequently, the whole body.

Recently, neuroscientists have demonstrated that art literally changes the neural networks in our brains. Scientists studying neuroaesthetics have used MRIs to understand what happens in our brains when we view art. While we look at a painting, our brains create dynamic pathways in response.

It’s no surprise that art can elicit strong emotional responses, but neuroscientist Pierre Lemarquis explains that the hormones and neurotransmitters that are released benefit our physical and mental wellbeing. Depending on the artwork, viewers may experience spikes in dopamine, serotonin, or cortisone, hormones associated with memory loss and anxiety, among other concerns.

Physicians around the world are recognizing the power of art in healing human beings. The World Health Organization has even developed an arts initiative in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It makes sense that people would seek natural art to create living environments in which they can thrive.

Nature’s Role in Wellbeing

Understanding nature’s role in humans’ wellbeing is likewise an important aspect of intentional living. For decades, psychologists have studied the benefits that closer contact with nature has for human beings. One study found that simply walking in nature regularly helped improve emotional regulation and memory in participants. Another study found that similar outdoor activities reduce cortisol levels.

It’s a basic tenet of environmental psychology that our environment affects our behavior. Some environmental psychologists suggest designing homes to incorporate more nature and increase wellbeing as a result. Wood surfaces and wide windows, for example, satisfy a psychological need for shelter while providing the above-mentioned benefits of close contact with nature.

3 Ideas for Intentional Living with Natural Art

Natural art is the perfect solution for creating a living environment that best supports wellbeing. This intentional approach to life supports people in being more mindful of their relationship with the earth as well. Here are three ideas for intentional living with natural art.

Set the tone with natural art.

Using natural art in interior design allows you to set a clear tone for your space. Because the materials come from the earth, it creates a sense of connection and presence. Pieces can encourage an organic flow or grounding stillness. Either way viewing natural art requires you to be in the moment. It may reference abstract ideas, but it is grounded in something real and tangible.

In addition to setting the emotional tone of a space, natural art can be a beautiful starting point in choosing the palette for an interior. Everything needn’t be beige. The earth’s plants and minerals come in every shade from the warmest peaches to the darkest blues. Designing a space around natural art can be a creative way to pick a color scheme.

Select pieces with intention.

Slow living asks people to consider their impact on the environment, and natural art makes us all the more aware of how our interiors affect the planet. It’s important to select art with intention. While art affects the energy of a space, it also can represent our values. Choosing ethically made art reflects a larger commitment to making choices that minimize negative impacts on the earth.

Bring nature in.

Natural art can take any number of forms. The point is to consciously close the gap between nature and a human-created environment. I create my paintings using earth pigments. I forage materials from the Louisiana landscape. They are as varied as clay, riverstones, and plant matter. I then process them and create watercolor paints. Bringing nature into a living space with earth pigments is a unique opportunity to situate people back into a landscape even as modern living tries to pull us out of it.

Using earth pigments, I create paintings that encourage intentional living. You can see my original works here and prints here.