Thursday, February 1, 2018

My first year of Nature Journaling

A little over a year ago I began seriously looking into the nature journaling concept--learning about nature by carefully and deliberately observing and sketching and note taking. I wanted to do something more with my birding than just playing tag by checking off birds from the checklist.

In November 2016 I started with the post: I notice..., I wonder..., It reminds me of... Nature Journaling where I gave a brief overview. I bought materials in December and began sketching in my own journal.

By January 2017 I had bought two books on the subject and wrote a review on the best: Book Review: The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling. The author of this book, Jack Laws, teaches classes and continues to post articles and YouTube videos of his classes. His best video on Nature Journaling as a subject is here: Deep Observation and Nature Journaling. This video predates his book by about 2 years, but is very much an overview of what his book would become. Excellent, excellent, excellent!

As a whole, I've kept the Nature Journaling practice in the manner Jack Laws presents, but personalized it to fit my already-established style of nature observation. The prescribed method would be to take the journal with me and record my observations immediately in the field. However, I find it works better for me to take numerous photos of my nature observations and put down my observations and drawings later at my desk. I sacrifice some immediacy and prolonged observation for more drawing and art time--often creating several drawings for weeks after the field trip.

While Nature Journaling is about recording what you see, and not creating "pretty pictures," I find I'm enjoying the artistic part of it. I did some pen-and-ink drawings many years ago. Now, however, I find that I enjoy graphite sketching and colored pencil artwork. Colored pencil is a very slow and detailed process--perfect for me in the evening in my studio.

Online I have found a highly-skilled artist who teaches colored pencil art (and many other mediums). Lisa Clough of Lachri Fine Arts uses YouTube to great advantage. I've been tempted to sign up as a Patreon supporter for only $4 per month for access to her full-length tutorial videos. But her shorter free versions provide great instruction for now. Her style is "painterly" colored pencil art, blending with mineral spirits and many, many layers. It creates artwork like a painting with photo-realistic detail.

There is quite a quality difference between my recent works and when I started a year ago. In fact, I actually see improvement from piece to piece in recent works. And I can see plenty of room for future improvement. I don't really have a "style" of my own yet in technique or composition. Following are some recent examples of entries into my nature journal.

Nature Journal page: Dixon Lake and Yucca drawings
Page scan 1. Part of a nature journal entry for Dixon Lake.

Nature Journal page: Buckwheat and Yellow-rumped Warbler eating Laurel Sumac seeds
Page scan 2. Another journal page for a trip to Dixon Lake.

Baird's Sandpiper graphite drawing
Baird's Sandpiper at Imperial Beach, California. Graphite drawing.

Black-and-white Warbler gesture sketches
Page scan 3. Quicker graphite gesture sketches of Black-and-white Warbler compiled from rather poor-quality photos.

Black-crowned Night-Heron colored pencil drawing
Black-crowned Night-Heron at Vista, California. Colored pencil painting.
First time using Fabriano Artistico paper.

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