Big Draw: Climate Emotions

This is our first set of weekly drawing challenges for October’s Big Draw, which this year is the Big Green Draw #ClimateOfChange

See what else we’re doing for the Big Green Draw here

Climate emotions artwork by @My4mana (see Instagram)


We don’t think there should be one Climate Museum – ours – but thousands in homes, schools or libraries everywhere. We can learn a huge amount about the Earth’s troubles and how to solve them, if we explore human-made or natural objects and if we make art to express feelings and solutions. Our big challenge this month is that you create your own Climate Museum of all the art you make and objects you collect. Take photos of them in a display, and share photos with #MyClimateMuseum 

Climate Emotions

OK, so our first week is about emotions.

Emotions are names that we give to different states of arousal that we feel in response to situations or thoughts. The more complex or unfamiliar the situation, the harder it is to name and deal with these emotions. When we think about the Earth’s troubles, and imagine our future lives, we might have feelings we can’t name and we don’t know what to do to feel better. What if making art can help? It’s worth a try! 

Parents and educators will want to take care with young people’s feelings around these subjects. Let them choose and lead, while offering space to talk about what comes up. If you’re a young person reading this, you may want to find a friend or adult to talk to while tackling any of these activities.

First, here are some inspirations

Tai Snaith is an Australian artist. She made this painting for the Black Finch project, part of the campaign against the Adani coal mine. She wrote of this: ‘My two artworks are inspired by Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream. I feel a similar inner turmoil or trauma when confronted with the information about what our government is approving in the Galilee Basin. I am horrified that as a nation we will watch another species go extinct as a result of this decision. In my two paintings the female face reflects my personal horror, but also represents Mother Earth or Mother Nature and her horror and consequent death or illness as a result of coalmining, an outdated and greedy practice.’

Kiliii Yüyan is an indigenous Nanai/Hézhè and Chinese-American photographer and filmmaker. He worked with teens in northern Alaska (from Siberian Yukip families) whose environment and lives are being affected by climate change and other factors. He helped the teens to make two masks, one to express their grief and one to express their joy, then photographed them.

Look at the surreal landscapes of Emmanuel Depoorter. They don’t directly express emotion but are more like dreams, exposing the strangeness of how humans interact with nature.

Some drawing challenges you can try

Sensing nature

Emotions come from our bodily sensations of the world – blue skies or a snowstorm, bird song or bullying shouts, roses or smelly feet, ice cream or poisonous berries, cuddles or slaps. When we remember unpleasant sensations in the past, or worry about them in the future, this can lead to troublesome emotions. 

One way to overcome troublesome emotions is ‘attunement’ – to pay attention to how sensations from the world create emotions in your body. Take some drawing materials outside, into a garden or park, or bring some nature indoors. Make several quick drawings. Draw the feeling when your feet are on soil or grass. When skin is in wind, sun or rain. When you’re touching bark or crispy leaves. When you’re hearing wind in the leaves or planes going overhead. When you’re smelling plants or compost bins, or anything around you.     

Make a thing of it

A way to express emotions is to turn them into things. If your feelings about the Earth’s troubles could be summed up in an object what do you see in your head? You could draw this imaginary object, or make it with a modelling material. Then, if you like, write a label for the object, using these prompts:

  • How does it make you feel?
  • What do you want to do about this feeling?
  • How much do you feel able to do this action?

Filled with feelings

Create a self-portrait that shows the emotions inside rather than the appearance of you from the outside. You could draw the outline of your head and top half of your body. Use symbols, colours and shapes to express what you feel in your shoulders, your neck, your head, your heart, your lungs, your stomach, your arms. You could combine collage elements with drawing.

Explore more

Watch this short film by our young associate, Seamus Coyne-Bailey – interviewing young people about their climate emotions. (PS He has deliberately created a dimly lit film, to create a particular emotional atmosphere.)

Find out what are the best coping strategies for difficult climate emotions.

If you want to learn more, read Anouchka Grose ‘A Guide to Eco-Anxiety’

Watch Dr Renee Lertzman’s TED talk: How to turn climate anxiety into action.

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