As an artist, it can be easy to get caught up in your work. Often times you might find yourself spending hours upon hours sitting indoors, staring at a canvas or computer screen. I get it, as I'm guilty of prioritizing the creation of art over everything else all the time. However, taking the time to step outside and explore nature is vital in so many ways. Getting out into the outdoors can do wonders for your mental health, creativity, and overall well-being.
Nature has a certain way of inspiring and rejuvenating us in a way that nothing else can. The colors, textures, and shapes found in the natural world can fuel our imagination and provide what seems like endless inspiration for our artwork. Whether it’s the vibrant colors of a sunset, the intricate patterns found in a leaf, or the gentle curves of a river, nature offers an endless supply of creative inspiration.
But the benefits of spending time in nature go beyond just inspiration. With a quick search online you'll find references for numerous studies showing that spending time outside can have a positive impact on mental health in many different ways. Exposure to nature reduces our stress, anxiety, depression, all while improving our mood, cognitive function, and health. If there is ever any doubt in my artwork, it just seems to fall apart the moment I begin soaking in the outdoors.
When we’re out in nature, we’re forced to slow down and pay attention to the environment around us. We’re able to disconnect from the stress and distractions of everyday life, and focus on the present moment. This is why I love to explore the wilderness because all of this becomes heightened and I'm forced to focus on the present. This mindfulness is so beneficial for my mental health, helping me to feel more grounded and centered in what's truly important in life. This shift in attitude then carries over when I return to the studio to paint.
In addition to improving mental health, spending time in nature can also help us overcome artist's block. When we’re feeling stuck or uninspired, taking a break and stepping outside can provide a much-needed change of perspective. Sometimes, all it takes is a walk in the woods or a stroll on the beach to spark a new idea or solution to a creative problem.
But getting outside doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. Drawing or painting somewhere outside of your home with other artists or simply spending time with friends and family in nature can break the cycle as well. The social connection and shared experiences can help to foster a sense of community and support, which is especially important for artists who often work in isolation.
It’s important to remember that although we all share it, everyone’s relationship with nature is different. For me, a hike in the mountains may be the perfect escape, while for others, a quiet moment in a garden may be more to their liking. The key is to find what works for you and make it a regular part of your routine.
A big part of why I began plein air painting was because of all this. Painting on location can be incredibly beneficial for mental health and creativity. Being exposed to the elements, changing light, natural sounds and smells, can all help to stimulate the senses and inspire creativity. Although this can make it more challenging, it also becomes more meditative and calming, providing a sense of mindfulness and relaxation which transfers to my artwork back in the studio.
When painting outdoors, we are forced to work quickly as the light and weather conditions are constantly changing. This can help to break down any perfectionist tendencies, encouraging spontaneity and experimentation, leading to new ideas and techniques. Plein air helps me connect with my environment on a deeper level.
It’s always important to prioritize yourself over your art because after all, your artwork requires you to be at your best. While it can be tempting to spend all of your time indoors, I encourage you to break the pattern and see what happens. Art is a lifelong journey. It's critical that we see the bigger picture and focus on our experience as artists and less on the minute details of a single artwork.
Grow Your Painting Skills and Resources
Instant access to 1000s of royalty-free reference photos of landscapes and wildlife as well as step by step oil painting videos. Checkout My Memberships for more info.
I'm Chuck Black, landscape and wildlife artist based in Southwest Montana.
Note: By purchasing through these links, you're supporting our site at no extra cost to you.