Connect with art, nature and people around you


‘The rural landscape of Herefordshire’ was the starting point for our loan of 26 artworks to St Michael’s Hospice, Hereford. Patients, staff and volunteers all took part in the following activity which you can try too, either as a group, with your family, or even on your own. The activity explores our relationship with nature and the trees that grow around us, giving us a chance to reflect on the things we value most of all.

Sticks and Stories workshop at St Michaels Hospice. A Paintings in Hospitals creative activity based on Jill Rocks The Story Stick.


This activity is inspired by The Story Stick, a sculpture by artist Jill Rock. In the 1990s, Jill spent time with Aboriginal artists in the Australian outback. This experience reconnected her as an artist with nature. On her return to London, Jill picked up a piece of tree bark, cleaned it, and painted it. The Story Stick, a painted birch branch, is typical of this approach of painting on objects from nature.

Jill Rock, The Story Stick (detail). Part of the Paintings in Hospitals collection.


This activity can help with self-expression, personal identity, and communication within a care community or at home. It can stimulate confidence and memory, and improve hand-eye coordination.

You will need:

  • Sticks from your garden
  • Clippers or sturdy scissors
  • White paint (household or acrylic)
  • Thin strips of masking tape
  • Poster or acrylic paints in various colours
  • A jam jar or vase

Let’s get started:

  1. Choose a stick and trim to a size and shape that looks good to you.
  2. Paint the stick white all over to help make the final colours stand out.
  3. When dry, use the tape to make spiral or striped areas along the stick.
  4. Now paint the stick with your favourite colours.
  5. Once it is fully dry, carefully remove the masking tape.
  6. Display in a jar with others by your group or make your own series of sticks over time.

A vase filled with story sticks

Stick stories

While making each ‘Story Stick’, here are some things to think or talk about. If you are doing this on your own, you could write these down as you go.

  • What or where is my favourite tree? How old or big is it?
  • What do different trees represent to me? Does this change in summer or winter?
  • What do I know about my family tree?

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