Awe, wonder, empathy, caring – just a few of the ways you might respond to animals. Maybe you like interacting with them. Stroking an animal’s fur, grooming a horse or feeling a pet or companion animal’s warmth beside you can all be reassuring and therapeutic. It’s interacting with another living being, a feeling of connecting and relating. There’s no need for spoken language, which can also be helpful if people have speech or communication issues. Some people take therapy animals into care homes, and more schools now have a school dog. Care farming creates opportunities to relate to farm animals, maybe familiar ones, like cows and pigs, or the less familiar, like alpacas.
Some of us respond to wild animals: to the unknown, the elusive, the thrill of a sudden glimpse, sheer wild and untamed nature. The UK has comparatively few wild mammal species, but still a sighting of a stoat perhaps, streaking across the road, is possible, or of an urban fox, kindling your imagination. Even looking out for signs of wildlife – burrows on a bank or mole hills on a roadside verge – can open a window on a different, hidden world. I remember once seeing a mole above ground during daylight, alive and moving but out of its element, and it set me imagining what its underground life is like.
Like birds, animals add movement and energy to the outdoors. They live their lives largely unaware of us, wild and free but alsp dependent on getting through each day. They are unpredictable. They open up new perspectives on life, for they’re oblivious to issues which might preoccupy us.
Wildlife film making and photography open up another world of opportunity to experience wild animals, wherever you are. Watching wildlife on screen is stimulating, a burst of colour and movement and life. Photography itself is powerful, and some images stand out. I was immediately struck by a 2005 photograph I saw by Paras Chandaria, of a giraffe on the edge of Nairobi, amidst low trees, with the city’s skyscrapers silhouetted behind. The image was taken to highlight all that could be lost to a new railway line. And yes, the more we see wildlife’s fragility the more we might treasure what we see.
For me and for many other people, art becomes a way to interact with wildlife. It’s an opportunity to observe more closely, to focus on what truly sets an animal apart, to enter their world. Trying to capture an animal’s expression or the look of their fur can become very absorbing! And in that time, other issues can recede for a time and you can zone out and concentrate on creativity. Participants in my Birds A-Z Challenge last year shared how alongside the art itself, learning about the world’s birds was a very positive experience. Now it’s the animals’ turn, as my Animals A-Z Art For Wellbeing Challenge is set to start on August 4.
There’s no need to commit to the entire A-Z, participants just sign up and then take part as and when they want to! From alpaca to zebra, via donkey, gorilla, giant panda and tiger…Each week we’ll focus on a different letter of the alphabet, to draw, paint or occasionally craft animals beginning with that letter. Participants will receive ideas, and an example image with instructions, by email each week, and there will be a dedicated private Facebook group for participants to share artwork, tips and ideas. It will also be an opportunity to explore how and why wildlife (and art) help boost wellbeing, so you could also share sightings or photos…– to sign up please go to Animals A-Z Art For Wellbeing Challenge Tickets, Thu 4 Aug 2022 at 15:00 | Eventbrite
Or if you would like to share thoughts now about how animals impact on wellbeing, then it would be great to hear them in Medley’s Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/359291215486002 Thank you.