Good morning everyone! Today I am talking about nature journaling. I am a wildlife biologist’s daughter. I spent most of my childhood and early adult life outdoors and enjoying camping. My mother loved birds and plants and instilled her love of those to me. My father took us all out “into the field” from June through the end of August.
“The field”, for those not related to a wildlife biologist, means we lived in tents all summer long in the great outdoors, wherever it may be. For my growing up years that meant a place called Streeter Basin, followed by Gregg Lake, and then Kananaskis Research Centre, where we graduated to living in a trailer. At Streeter there was no-one around for miles. Just my family, Dad’s grad students (“Don’t bother them!”) and nature. We learned to love nature.
Was this scary? A bit. I could tell you stories. But that’s getting off topic. Streeter Basin was where I became interested in birds. It was also where I started drawing plants.
By the time I was in high school we started going to Kananaskis. There a kind botany professor let me tag along on field trips. My mother was in his class. He would talk about the plants. I would go off nearby and draw them.
I did try and paint a few plants as an adult, upon taking painting courses. But that was the extent of my nature drawing. Until Sketchbook Revival 2021 and John Muir Laws’ class.
After drawing the Black-throated Blue Warbler in under two hours, I was excited again! Here is a more or less cleaned up version of the original drawing, which had a lot of mistakes.
Enter my Internet search for resources. I found John Muir Laws has written, not one, but two books on nature journaling. I also found Clare Walker Leslie had a book out on nature journaling that she co-authored with Charles Roth. Hmmm… I ordered both books. (Clare Walker Leslie has a new edition of her book published this year!)
While waiting I decided to try my hand at it a second time. This time I asked a nature loving friend if she had any photos I could use as a base for my drawings – as reference. She did! I received several shots with images of birds. I decided to try again…this time I made a page for the Black-capped Chickadee.
I see several areas where I could improve my work, composition wise, artistically and with the text. However, as a starting point these are okay. I need a record to see how I progress.
The books arrived Thursday and I have been immersed ever since. They are both excellent books. Clare’s and Charles’s book, “Keeping a Nature Journal”, is good for someone who has no clue about drawing and thinks they can’t do it. John’s book, “The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling”, is more detailed and in-depth. Both excellent stuff! Both are aimed at nature lovers everywhere who want to record what they see.
I was so excited by the books I powered through most of “Keeping a Nature Journal” this weekend. I also watched a video on YouTube called “How to Build a Journal Page with Kristin Meuser. On Kristin’s advice I decided to pick a smaller watercolour sketchbook to start.
I found a red journal half the size of the large sketchbook I had been using, and redrew the first two drawings, adjusting for composition. I also tried some drawing from life, which is what nature journaling is all about. It looks pretty rough folks, but it’s a start. Practice makes perfect!
So if I appear to be neglecting my rug hooking for a while, don’t be alarmed! I am merely honing observation and drawing skills which will, eventually, show up in my wall hangings.
If you have been, thanks for reading! Have a great week everyone!