Art, naturally

Polar-Bear-(Monochrome)©Stanley Lopata

Art Group Wanstead has launched a nature-themed challenge for local residents. Group founder Donna Mizzi introduces the project and explains how you can get involved

Most of us will continue to spend much time at home this year, but are you getting rather tired of seeing the same old street features while taking exercise around Wanstead? If so, this may capture your imagination…

Much as NHS rainbows added colour to our lives, the artwork and creativity of local residents – adults, teens and children – can add interest and vibrancy to our area. And art spotting can be an uplifting visual surprise for passers-by.

For that reason, Art Group Wanstead (AGW) – which has organised Art Trail Wanstead for a decade – this year urges residents to use their creativity and show their own work in front windows and gardens this spring and summer. ‘The year that nature took centre stage’ has been chosen as the theme by members of AGW. Local estate agent The Stow Brothers is supporting the project.

Most of us have appreciated the importance of nature over the past 12 months, and this is an amazingly wide theme. Your work can include anything connected with the natural world, on earth and beyond. You might be inspired to include a forest scene or your pet in the garden. Some of you have already focused paintings and photography on Bruce, the black swan which appeared on Eagle Pond (overheard comment: “See how black lives matter!”). Of course, rainbows will also never go out of fashion.

Work will only be limited by your imagination, and could include gardening projects or installations, and displays on your window-sills. You may want to place abseiling figures descending from climbing jasmine or hang your own hand-painted summery baubles from trees. If you’ve always wanted to make a topiary feature out of your hedge, then now is the time to do just that. If you want to create extravagant birdhouses, give it a go. Want to try your hand at mosaic with some of your broken china? Crack on.

Work can be paintings or drawings displayed from inside your front windows, or could be art in any form – including photography, pottery, glass or stonework and collages. One of our artists has suggested using outside fairy lights in a new creative way for summer evenings. Or paint and decorate jam jars to create lanterns. Battery nightlights are an inexpensive way to add safe candle effects, especially when children are involved. These Easter school holidays are a good time to start. On fairer days, children could even do chalk pavement art outside your home. Any materials, including recycled items from the home, can be used. Plastic bottles can often be cut into a myriad of forms and shapes for the garden: lightly sandpaper the plastic and add permanent felt-tip colours for rainproof features. Our website will gradually also feature some inspiring ideas and tutorials.

Naturally, some outside artwork will get weather-beaten in the months ahead. So gradually remove faded work and replace it with new art. As well as making you feel good, doing more work can even help develop skills that you might not have realised you possess. Release your inner Picasso, or simply enjoy adding splashes of colour.

There are no fees or registration requirements for this project. We are not calling for residents to join the group. We will just ask you to send us an email to tell us which road you are on and when you are starting to show your artwork. That way, we hope to list local streets (not house numbers) where artwork can be spotted, and maybe even build up a trail. Anyway, first step first. Start thinking about what you would love to create. Then set about doing it. Later, if you can send us a photo of your artwork or installation, we will start a photo feature on our website.

AGW has been established for encouragement and cooperation, not for critical assessments. This project is about enjoyable participation at all levels. As a voluntary, non-profit-making organisation, we have only one strict rule about our chosen set themes – and that is you don’t have to stick to them! They are there to inspire, but if you want to do something else entirely, go ahead.

If you have friends or relatives outside the area who wish they could take part, encourage them and tell them to email us some details. We’d love to know the furthest participant. Keep an eye on our website over the months ahead, but for now, fix your sights on your own homefront art space.

To notify the group of your participation, email mail@artgroupwanstead.com. For more information, visit wnstd.com/art