How To Draw Standing Up

Learning how to draw standing up can make you a better artist in addition to multiplying your drawing opportunities! Here, I describe several mistakes you are probably making right now and how to avoid them. I also provide several keys to this essential drawing skill.

Everyone knows how to draw sitting down at a desk! Unfortunately, the most interesting things to draw are out in the world! If you want to draw these things you have to go out, stand up, and draw them in the field. Sometimes, it is possible to find a bench in just the right place or bring a chair with you. Otherwise you are out of luck. Unless, that is, you know how to draw standing up. If you are interested in field sketching, urban sketching, or nature journaling then drawing standing up is especially important.

Draw Standing Up: Three Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Get rid of your backpack! For the best results you need to get a shoulder bag aka messenger bag. This will make drawing standing up easier, faster, and more comfortable. You can see some examples and reviews of such bags in these videos.
  2. Don’t use a soft cover sketchbook! One essential aspect of drawing standing up is having a god way to brace your sketching surface. If you use a hardback sketchbook of the right size it is easy to hold your journal in the corner of your arm. Check out this review of my favorite sketchbook.
  3. Don’t use regular watercolor brushes! If you use regular watercolor brushes you will need to have an open container of water. This is really hard and inconvenient when standing up. Instead you should use Pentel Aquash Waterbrushes or other similar brushes. These brushes hold water in a small reservoir built into the brush. Check them out here.

 

 

Nature Observation: How to See More With Your Nature Journal

Nature observation used to be essential for your survival. You would not be here today if your ancestors were not observant. This was the case for most of human history. If you didn’t pay attention to plants you could get poisoned. And if you didn’t notice patterns in the tall grass you might get eaten. So how does this apply today?

Your survival is no longer as dependent on your observation skills in nature. However, your quality of life and the richness of your experience can still be improved by developing this skill. In fact, many modern humans walk through the world like zombies. We don’t notice the world around us.

“You see, but you do not observe. (…)The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

Sherlock Holmes

Holmes would have made a great nature journaler and I wish he were still here to teach us. But since he isn’t here are 12 observation tips I came up with on a recent nature journaling outing.

12 Nature Observation Tips

1. Have a focus. Start with a focus in mind and you will be able to observe more deeply and not get distracted. A taxon target or other is a good way to do this. Choose a taxa such as plants (kingdom), or birds (class), or bees (family.) You can also focus on a location, a type of interaction etc.

2. Use binoculars. Sherlock always had a magnifying glass because it allowed him to zoom in. If you use close-focus binoculars like I do you can look at close details and further away objects.

3. Sit still for a bit. While sitting still is a lost art in the modern world it is essential for better nature observations. By staying in one spot for a while you will see more animals as they get used to your presence.

4. Draw a diagram. I’m surprised Sherlock didn’t use this tool more. Today we know that drawing is one of the most powerful learning tools. You will notice way more just by trying.

5.Zoom in and Zoom Out. Most people see the world from the same magnification all the time. Practice zooming in and out intentionally to notice more.

6. Don’t Let What You Think You Know Get in the Way of Learning New Things. We have a lot of baggage when we go into nature and we are the most over-informed generation of humans. This information can be wrong and it can prevent us from noticing real things.

7. Don’t Be Too Focused. Don’t focus so much that you are not aware of new and perhaps extraordinary things that happen around you.

8. Quantify Your Observations. Use specific numbers and measurements instead of vague words such as: many, a few, or a lot.

9. Go Deeper With One Subject. Take the time to drop in deeper with one subject. In this way you are bound to find something of interest even if the subject isn’t your favorite at first.

10. Verbalize What You See. Do not worry about what other people think. It is ok to talk to yourself. In fact, by verbalizing what you see you will improve your recall and enhance your visual memory.

11. Compare Observations of Similar Things. The human brain notices more when it compares two things than when it looks at things in isolation. This is called a joint comparison.

12: Look Closer. A lot of the most interesting and important things in the world are small. By looking closer you will learn a lot more.

Nature Observation Skills Will Help You See More in Nature

If you follow all of these nature observation tips you will be a Nature Sherlock in no time!

How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Do you want to learn how to nature journal?  Do you want to avoid the most common  beginner mistakes? In this video I show you 10 steps to getting started with nature journaling.

How to Nature Journal

  1. First, choose your location wisely. Choose a location that is close, convenient, and comfortable. This is a common mistake that beginners and experienced nature journalers both make. You don’t need the most exciting wilderness location to nature journal.
  2. Next, get your supplies ready. One mistake that many of us make is to get more art supplies than we really need. All you really need is a good bag, a sketchbook, a pencil, and whatever you need to be comfortable in nature. For a review of what I use see Journaling Kit Review
  3. Capture the context quickly. Whip your nature journal out and start using it as soon as possible. A common mistake is to wander around for too long waiting for inspiration. There is no perfect subject and the muse will not come to you if you don’t  get some pencil miles first. Start by putting metadata, sketching a map, or getting other contextual information on the page.
  4. Warm up your brain with “I notice, I wonder, it reminds me of.” Before you get caught up in trying to paint a portrait of a bird or flower start with this simple observation exercise. In this way you will warm up your observation skills and you will breach the barrier of the blank page.
  5. Now, draw a landscapito or paint a scene. Drawing a small landscape or scene will convey the feeling and ecology of a place. These will help you remember your trip and they look great on the page combined with your other notes and drawings. However, there are also side benefits of sitting still this long. Birds and animals often come close! For more on drawing landscapitos see these videos

“The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes”
–Marcel Proust

Next 5  Steps

  1. Draw a Diagram. The next step is to draw a diagram of something that you are curious about. By making it a diagram you take the pressure off of it being a pretty picture. Use arrows, words, and numbers to add information that you can not convey with the image itself.
  2. Ask more questions. This is one of the most powerful tools of nature journaling. By practicing asking questions we sharpen our ability to learn new things.
  3. Stop before you are done. While you might be tempted to push yourself at first it is actually best to stop while you are still having fun. Start by giving yourself short outings that leave you wanting more. Like the small servings at a fancy restaurant.
  4. Get yourself an Ice Cream. Now that you have completed a session of nature journaling get yourself a reward. You deserve it and by rewarding yourself you will help ingrain this new habit.
  5. Review your work and share it: When you get home you can accelerate your learning by reviewing it, researching further, and getting feedback from others. What do you notice about your pages? What could be better? Can you think of more questions? Are there parts you would like to add color to now that you are home? Are there things you want to research further? Now is also a time that you could draw more detailed drawings based on photos you took on the outing, especially of fast moving birds or insects that you could not capture in the field. Sharing online and getting feedback from other nature journalers will also help you a lot.

how to nature journal

Bullet Journal Review and the 7 Benefits of Journaling

Have you heard of the Bullet Journal? Six months ago I bit the bullet and decided to try this journaling system. Since then I have journaled every day and analyzed the system. In the following video I review the product from bulletjournal.com. In addition, I compare the benefits of bullet journaling to my list of the 7 Benefits of Journaling.

You might like bullet journaling if:
  • making checklists makes you happy
  • you love analog planners
  • you like lining up moleskine notebooks on your bookshelf
  • stationary is second nature
  • you like gel pens
  • being more organized is a goal
  • nice calligraphy on your shopping list makes you feel good

Before trying bullet journaling I had been journaling for over ten years. In that time I had tried many methods of journaling. I tried stream of consciousness, I tried gratitude journals, and I tried the 5 minute journal system promoted by Tim Ferris. Most recently, I started nature journaling which has changed my entire life.

The first time I heard of a bullet journal was on instagram. As an avid journaler I had searched #journal several times and seen all of this bullet journaling and “bujo” stuff come up. At first it just seemed like an aesthetic trend then a legit method for life improvement. I’m not sure why six months ago I decided to try the system. I ordered a journal made specifically for bullet journaling from Ryder Carroll, the originator of the method. This is not necessary but I wanted to start with the real deal. See my initial unboxing and review here.

So, what are Peifer’s 7 benefits of Journaling and how does the Bullet Journal rate?

7 Benefits of Journaling and the Bullet Journal

  1. Commitment and Attention: The first benefit of journaling is it focuses your attention and makes your commitments more clear. Especially with an analog system there is only so much you can fit on a journal page. This makes you get clear about your priorities and work your attention muscle. The “Bujo” method definitely taps into this benefit.
  2. Visual-Verbal-Manual: You learn better when you combine the visual, verbal, and manual parts of your brain. Studies show that even doodling off topic during a lecture can improve your memory of the content! As an analog method that often incorporates drawings or graphics the bullet journal method achieves this second benefit.
  3. Externalizing your Thinking for Objectivity: The next benefit of journaling is critical yet overlooked. By getting your ideas and emotions on paper you can look at them more objectively and make better decisions. Depending on how you use bullet journaling you can check this benefit off the list.
  4. Externalizing your Thinking for Mental Space: However smart you are there are only so many things you can hold in your head. The fourth benefit is making more space by getting some of that crap onto paper. Once you have your ideas or shopping list on paper you can think on a higher level. Bullet journaling excels on this one especially in the way that it can help you see larger chunks of time. Specifically, the “Future Log”, “Collections”, and “Migration” features help achieve this benefit.
Before we go into the next 3 benefits a little side note about aesthetics. If you spend any time looking at bullet journals online you might get intimidated by how artistic and colorful and perfect they look. A shopping list becomes a work of art. If you start bullet journaling with this in mind you will set yourself up to get few if any of the 7 benefits. Therefore, don’t focus on the aesthetics.
bullet journal example
Don’t try to make your Bullet Journal as precious as this one from Grandezzasjournals

The Last 3 Benefits

  1. Venting: Do you have a friend who always complains to you? Or maybe your sister? Chances are good you do this to someone also. So why not use your journal instead? In fact a journal is a great place to vent. Depending on how you use your bujo you may or may not get this benefit. Don’t miss out. Incorporate it somehow.
  2. Chronology and Trajectory: The bullet journaling method shines in this department. Since the human brain is not great at understanding longer stretches of time or remembering specific details from a few weeks ago a journal can help you visual a chronology of your life and see the bigger patterns. This can help you envision where you are going. Many people use their Bujo to plan their life trajectory and personal goals.
  3. Record: The final benefit of journaling is to provide a record. However, this can be a controversial one. Sometimes, people even burn their old journals! A bullet journal does a great job of this because of its inherent organization system. If you use the indexing feature and collections you will have no trouble searching through old Bullet Journals and finding a record of what workout you did 5 months ago.

 

Nature Hobbies in Your Journal

Do you have nature hobbies or art hobbies beside nature journaling? Have you ever wanted to bring your nature journal along to your other hobby? In this video, I try to do just that! Then, I share 5 tips for nature journaling your outdoor hobby and my personal experience trying to nature journal on a fishing trip.

Do you like camping, gardening, hiking, birding, botanizing, sailing, kayaking, or horseback riding? Have you ever wanted to go deeper into your hobbies? You’re in luck because journaling can help.

If you are already nature journaling then you have a head start but if you are a total newbie that is fine. A nature journaling perspective can be combined with almost any hobby. Not only that but this perspective will help you maintain a useful record of your nature adventures.

Nature Hobbies and Journaling Tips to Remember:

  1. First, you will need to address some of the mental obstacles listed below.
    • Number one, a limited definition of what journaling is used for will get in your way.
    • The second mental obstacle is your own inner critic. For more on how to deal with this see Nature Journal Class: Unlock Your Potential!
    • Third, fear of Judgement.
    • Last, creating new routines and escaping ruts.
  2. Once you overcome the mental obstacles you will need to simplify your kit. Since you are combining two hobbies you are likely to have a lot of gear.
  3. Next you will need to focus on the essential aspects of your nature hobby. What is the most important part to capture in your journal? Since you have limited time you must focus.
  4. After you find the essentials you will need to decide what nature journaling techniques will work best. Luckily there are a lot of great techniques to choose from. For example if you are mountain biking cross section map of the terrain would be great! If you are gardening, change over time would be good.
  5. Lastly, if you are really struggling finding the balance try switching roles for a bit. Maybe on one of your trips you can focus on journaling the action while your friend does all the fishing or plants the flower bed.
Nature Hobby Fishing and Nature Journaling
It is possible to nature journal and enjoy an outdoor hobby such as fishing at the same time.

 

 

Pets in Your Nature Journal

Pets and nature journaling are a match made in heaven. If you have a pet and you have not nature journaled them yet then you are missing out! In this fun conversation you can learn: four benefits of nature journaling your pet and ten tips to do it better.

Recently, I interviewed Gargi Chugh and Akshay Mahajan about their nature journal pet named Mithuni. Akshay and Gargi shared their excitement, inspiration, and a lot of practical ideas. Even though they have an exotic pet their encouraging ideas apply to cats and dogs as well. First, lets look at some of the benefits.

3 Benefits of Nature Journaling Your Pets

  1. The first benefit is availability. Because many people have busy schedules they might not have time to go to a park frequently. They might get home after dark. However, if you have a pet, you can connect with nature at home. Your pet is an ambassador of nature and a fascinating subject. In short, your pet is more available then the wild animals outside.This also allows you to try more nature journaling techniques.
  2. Next benefit is a fast feedback loop. In the interview Gargi shared how a fast feedback look can accelerate learning. Because you can see your house cat every day it takes less time for you to recognize patterns and make connections. On the other hand you might only see a bobcat in the wild once a year(if you are lucky). Therefore it is much harder to make observations and learn about the bobcat in your nature journal.
  3. Third, by nature journaling your pet you can deepen your connection with the animal. Due to the amount of attention you are directing towards your animal your bond with the animal can grow. Akshay and Gargi found that they have become quite connected with their pet mantis over the weeks that they have observed it so closely.

10 Tips for Nature Journaling Your Pet

  1. Measurements are one of the best tools to use with your pet. Therefore it is useful to start nature journaling as soon as you get a new pet so you can track its growth. There are also other ways to use this tool.
  2. Try creating a journal just for journaling and sketching your pets.
  3. Don’t decide in advance what information is important to record. If you try to create categories in advance you will limit your ability to learn about your animal. You might not foresee what is most important.
  4. Since you don’t know what categories of data about your pet will be most interesting or relevant try using dates as categories. In this way you can just record whatever observations from that day and categorize them later when patterns emerge.
  5. Next, instead of focusing on pretty pet portraits try using diagrams. Diagrams are much easier and fun to do and more rewarding. You will also learn a lot more than if you tried to paint a Mona Lisa of your cat. For more about diagrams check out this awesome class.
  6. Start nature journaling your pet as soon as you get it. Documenting the growth of a pet is very rewarding!
  7. Try setting up experiments to answer your own questions. What fun experiments can you set up with your pet?
  8. m
  9. Try to answer your own questions before you look it up on google.

Avocado Seed Journaling in Your Nature Journal: 100 Days

Have you ever sprouted an avocado seed? What if you journaled an avocado seed’s germination for 100 days? In this video, I interview Kate Rutter who did just that! She shares some amazing journal pages, sketching pro tips, and some wisdom that applies to all kinds of journaling and art.

We eat so much avocado that we take it for granted. However, there is a whole world of learning inside that little seed. That’s one of the things that Kate Rutter learned in her 100 day challenge. Following are some of the things she learned.

Lessons from an Avocado Seed Project

1. First, find a small focus. Most nature journalers and nature lovers want to go to wild, exotic places and study “fancy” things in nature. However, focusing on something small and committing to it proves very rewarding. Because when you pay that much attention to anything in nature you open up whole worlds of fascination.

2. Next, establish creative constraints. While “constraint” does not sound like the sexiest word in the art vocabulary it is actually essential to good art and science. Kate created clear limits on materials, subject matter, and format. This helped her make it a routine. It also helped make for a more clear comparison of the avocado pit progress.

3.  But how do you keep from getting bored? Try looking deeper and more carefully. You can also do research about the bigger context. Kate did pages where she brought in outside research about avocado trees, the etymology of the word avocado, and science behind the germination of avocado seeds.

4. Last but not least try going public. During her project Kate has been posting on her twitter, a dedicated Tumblr page, and on the nature journal club facebook page in addition to her own website. Because of this she has received lots of feedback, questions, and suggestions. In addition the public nature of the project has helped her stay accountable to maintain her 100 day goal.

 

Avocado Seed nature Journaling for 100 days

Nature Journaler Interview

As a nature journaler I am always curious how others got started nature journaling. And what about you? Do you ever wonder about the story behind the nature journalers whose sketches and paintings you see online? In this episode of The Nature Journal Show we learn about Melinda Nakagawa, her experience with nature sketching, nature education, and how she started a new nature journal club in Monterey California!

The first thing that I was impressed by in our conversation was that Melinda started nature journaling in 1998 since the term nature journaling has not been around for that long. Her first nature journal pages were from a whale watching trip. Before this however she was already an avid note taker and had used journaling in a diary sort of way.

After nature journaling on her own for some time her husband bought her a book by Clare Walker Leslie. Soon after that she also got the nature journaling book by Hannah Hinchman. Now she could see that other people were nature journaling too. A little bit later she got the book by John Muir Laws. While all of these books inspired her it was the Wild Wonder nature journaling conference in 2019 that really lit her up. Because of the incredible feeling of the nature journaing community at that event she decided to start her own nature journal club where she lived in Monterey California.

Four Nature Journaler Tips

1. First of all combine nature journaling with your existing interests. Melinda grew her nature journal practice from her birding and marine biology practices.

2. Next, build your skills of existing skills. Are you a note taker or a poet? Do you draw diagrams for work? Are you a data scientist? How can you use your existing skills in your nature journal?

3. Third, connect with community. By connecting with community you will get more motivation and you will learn faster. In addition, it is much more fun! Melinda got a huge burst of inspiration after she went to the Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference. Community can be online too.

4. Last but not least, start teaching nature journaling. Even if you are a beginner nature journaler there are people who are more new to it than you. By sharing what you have learned so far you will accelerate your own learning and reinforce your skills. Start before you are ready.

For more about Melinda and her work check out her page here.
Nature journaler page from Melinda Nakagawa
Poppy Timeline from Nature Journaler Melinda Nakagawa

For more tips for nature journal newbies check out this video here.

 

 

Tree Drawing In Your Nature Journal

Tree drawing is a cornerstone of nature art in general and nature journaling in particular. When you learn how to draw trees better your sketchbook or nature journal will improve greatly.

So if drawing trees is so important why do so many people do it wrong? People learn bad tree drawing habits at an early age and we also tend to focus on the wrong things when we look at them. Despite all these problems there are a few tips that can help you draw trees better.

Five Tree Drawing Tips

  1. First, take a different perspective. Most tree drawings, even technically skilled ones, show the tree from the same boring perspective. Especially,since we are nature journaling and our goal is to learn it is important to look at things from new vantage points.
  2. Next, look for cylinders. If you want to draw realistic tree shapes you need to understand cylinders. Tree trunks and branches are made of cylinders. You need to be able to accurately observe and sketch cylinders from different angles. (Be sure to watch the video for a special trick for learning this). Not only will this technique help your drawings of trees but it will also help your figure drawing and animal drawing.
  3. Third, separate volume from texture. If you just spent thirty minutes or three hours accurately drawing a tree and its shape you don’t want to ruin it. One potential way to ruin it is by trying to add in all the complicated texture of the bark. Instead, try showing the bark in a separate drawing. And if you do decide to draw trees with bark texture, keep it limited and suggestive. Otherwise you risk messing up your whole drawing!
  4. Next, look for major value blocks. Value is the difference between light and dark. Most people focus on the idea that a tree should be green, however capturing the values is most important.
  5. Last but not least, keep it simple. If you can keep your tree sketch simple you are more likely to succeed and/or try again.

If you want to see another tree drawing video with great tips check out this one from John Muir Laws teaching at the nature journal club.

Tree Drawing nature journal
Tree Drawing fun with the North Bay Nature Journal Club

Nature Journaling For Kids and Families

Nature journaling for kids could be the solution for your summer. Are your kids already bouncing off the walls at home? Are you worried about them losing focus, losing momentum, or falling behind?

What if there was a way that your kids could be inspired to learn, you could relax, and your whole family could spend quality time learning about nature, science, and art? And all of this without driving anywhere or compromising your family bubble.

1.   What is it?

The Nature Journal Family Summer is a month long fully engaging learning adventure. This distance learning course will provide focused connection time for you and your kids while also nurturing a deeper connection with nature. The curriculum delivers exciting applications of art, science, math, and language. It also develops invaluable transferable skills such as focus, scientific inquiry, critical thinking, self-awareness, and visual problem-solving. When you sign up you can count on a structured learning experience that lets you simply relax and follow the journey with your kids.

Details:

A.     June 8th -July 3rd

B.     Four families

C.     One or two parents and one or two kids per family

D.    Kids: age range (8-15)

E.     Cost: $450 for three family members for four weeks

F.     Add-ons: $75 for every kid or parent over three total family members

G.     $100 for additional family check-ins

2.   Your Teacher

Marley Peifer has been teaching nature journaling to kids and adults for over five years. He frequently co-teaches and collaborates with John Muir Laws, one of the founders of the nature journaling movement. You can see how Marley brings a fun, personable, and in-depth approach to teaching in his weekly nature journal show. nature journal for kids class

3.   How it Works

Everything is designed to allow the maximum benefits of a learning community while also providing individual attention and flexibility for your family’s schedule. This takes pressure off the parents, provides a healthy peer-based motivation for kids, and allows for varying ages and learning styles.

A.     Week One: Plants

i.          Introductory Meeting just with parents

ii.           1.5 hour Group Class with all families on Zoom

iii.           40 minute Family Check-In with Marley and your family

iv.           Two fun 30 minute follow-along activity videos to use at your leisure during the week

B.     Week Two: Animals

i.         Group Class with all families

ii.         One Family Check-In

iii.         Two activity videos at your leisure

C.     Week Three: Connections

i.         Group Class with all families

ii.         One Family Check-In

iii.         Two activity videos at your leisure

D.    Week Four: Exploring Deeper

i.         Group Class with all families

ii.         One family Check-In

iii.         Two activity videos at your leisure

iv.         Final Journal Share with all families on zoom.

4.   What you need

Each participant needs:

A.     A sketchbook or journal. Dimensions of around 8.5×11” is best. Printer paper stapled together or simply bound and held on a clipboard can work in a pinch but is not ideal.

B.     Pencils or pens.

5.   Sign up

Reserve your spot before June 6th by emailing Marley at marley339 @gmail.com