I have always loved to draw, I have always loved to travel, and I have always loved to discover new things. One of my goals has always been to learn one new thing each and every day, whether I am traveling across the country, hiking through the woods, or just taking a walk in my own neighborhood. Nature journaling became a natural thing for me to do, a good way to record what I had learned.
I spent a lot of time wondering how to get started. I read several books on the subject, looked at several examples of nature journals…and then I read a few more books on the subject. Eventually I realized it was time to just get started!
A nature journal can be anything you want it to be. I finally figured out that my journal should show what I was interested in, in a format that I liked and that served my needs for recording my world. I now have several nature journals in which I draw and record what I see…one even serves as a drawing, photo, and study journal, and it is my favorite!
So, here is where I am right now, here is how I am recording my adventures into the world of nature…
This is the first book I started, and the one I use most often. It is a large spiral bound sketch book. I use it for my everyday type journaling…when I want to record something I see in our yard, or on a walk. Because I feel rather sheepish about sitting on the sidewalk, drawing something in someone else’s yard, I often take a picture of it and draw the object when I return home. As you can see in the photo, sometimes I draw the object I am most interested in, like the large nut, then simply color over the leaf of the tree from which the nut came, giving me its simple outline. I always make note of the time of day and of the weather.
I noticed, when I was outside in the yard this morning, that our potato plants are blooming…those blossoms, seen in my featured image above, are destined to be my entry for today!
My favorite journal is the one I call my drawing, photo and research journal. When we are out and about, I take many photos. Sometimes I want to know more about the object I have photographed, so I do some research. As in the case of the great blue heron pictured above, I went back to several other pictures of blue herons I had taken, chose one to mount as a photo, drawing several others to show the herons in different poses. The long neck intrigued me, and I wanted to know more about how it works. So, I studied some diagrams of the neck structure, read about how it works, and drew a skeletal image of the neck.
Missouri is known as having one of the very best conservation departments in the country. in addition to doing a great job of conserving our “wild” spaces, they do a tremendous job in community outreach. Recently, I joined a nature journaling group sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation. We travel to various MCD sites, journaling different highlights that each has to offer. This month, we journaled and studied wildflowers, in June we will look carefully at butterflies. One of the best things for me, and a reason I joined this group, is that I don’t feel silly sitting and drawing…everybody with me is doing the same thing! I also enjoy the opportunity to share information and ideas with the other members of the group.
One thing I have already learned by working with the group is to record, in writing, things I want to remember about the object I am drawing. An example of this would be the Star of Bethlehem which was closed when first we passed it at 10 a.m., but was open and beautiful on our return trip later in the day.
So, my advice to anyone interested in nature journaling is…just start. You are the only one who is going to critique your work…it is for you! If you feel like you need some basic guidelines in how to get started, a very good book on the subject is “Keeping a Nature Journal”, by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth. It was published by Storey Books and is available from Amazon, or where I found it, at many national and state park visitor centers.
Have fun journaling your world!