Best Books for Nature Journaling

What is your favorite nature journaling related book?  Do you use books that don’t have ‘nature journaling’ explicitly in the title?  Join Marley and me for this episode of “The Nature Journal Show” where we share the best books for nature journaling.

The subject of nature journaling is quite the multi-disciplinary one.  Natural history, ecology, art technique, mindset, and many other areas of study combine to make this unique subject.  Which categories are most important, are up to you.  But if you are looking for a place to get started in terms of resources, check out our list below.  We include some of the best books for nature journaling that have many of our fellow journalers going ‘Aaaaah!’*

*A quick note before we begin: Please don’t go out and buy all these books!  Please be selective – not each book will be everyone’s cup of tea.  Check your local library for hardcopies and audiobooks (or befriend a librarian).  Check your child’s school library and have them borrow books for you (hey, worth a shot!).  See if there are nearby nature journalers who might want to share books.  Ask in the online community to see if anyone is getting rid of any nature journal books and is looking for a new home for them.  Who knows, we may even start a traveling book collection or a nature journalers’ library someday!

In addition to listing the books we have also included links to many of them in case you want to buy them. The amazon links are affiliate links so we will get a small percentage if you use the link for a purchase without any extra cost to you. This helps support the Nature Journal Show. Where possible we have included the links to the author’s websites so they get the most benefit from the purchase.

Check out our list by categories:

Best Nature Journaling Specific Books

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws https://johnmuirlaws.com/product/the-laws-guide-to-nature-drawing-and-journaling/

How to Teach Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws and Emilie Lygren https://johnmuirlaws.com/product/how-to-teach-nature-journaling/

Keeping a Naturalist’s Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson

The Curious Nature Guide by Clare Walker Leslie https://amzn.to/2VMyKvP

A Life In Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal by Hannah Hinchman https://amzn.to/3hEjSaq

Best Natural History and Ecology books for Nature Journalers

The Diversity of Life by E.O. Wilson a great book about the evolution of biodiversity from one of the foremost naturalists and biologists of today. https://amzn.to/3zeDGHA

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley

Braiding Sweetgrass and Gathering Moss, both by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Roadside Geology of Northern California

A Tracking Companion by Marley Peifer https://www.blurb.com/b/8746087-a-tracking-companion

When You Are Lost by Joy Colangelo

The California Field Atlas by Obi Kaufmann

Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel

How to Identify Plants by H.D. Harrington

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

The Total Skywatcher’s Manual

Secrets of the Oak Woodlands by Kate Marianchild

Best Field Guides for Nature Journalers

What it’s Like to be a Bird by David Allen Sibley. An amazing new look into bird’s lives  https://amzn.to/3ziQfBw

Sibley Birds East by David Allen Sibley https://amzn.to/3hEZPZI

Sibley Birds West by David Allen Sibley https://amzn.to/3zgGd3W

Reptiles of the Galapagos

https://www.tropicalherping.com/science/books/reptiles/reptiles_of_galapagos.html

Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals  https://amzn.to/3EkmyUz

The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws

Mammals of the San Francisco Bay Region by William D. and Elizabeth Berry

The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Other Nature Art Forms

California’s Wild Edge by Tom Killion and Gary Snyder. A beautiful collection of landscape prints, poems, and history of California’s coast.  https://amzn.to/3kdp9Yw

Also by Gary Snyder and Tom Killion:  The High Sierra of California https://amzn.to/3hCVK8q

Planet Ocean, Dancing to the Fossil Record by Ray Troll. Beautiful illustrations and stories about paleontology and fossils. A fun read and amazing pastel art work. https://amzn.to/3Ceciv9

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Frontiers of Enchantment: An Artist’s Adventures in Africa

Best Art Technique and Sketching Books for Nature Journalers

Rosalie Haizlett’s new book: Watercolor in Nature (coming November 2) https://amzn.to/39d0oFv

Cyclopedia Anatomicae: More Than 1,500 Illustrations of the Human and Animal Figure for the Artist https://amzn.to/3k8Jzlf

Animal Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger https://amzn.to/3hyxZOw

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain https://amzn.to/3tHHwI2

Dibujar la Naturaleza by Juan M. Varela Simó. One of the best books about nature sketching in Spanish. Many examples of nature journal type approaches. https://amzn.to/3zlhLi8

Alaskan Field Sketches by William D Berry https://amzn.to/2XmjtlK

Art Forms in Nature by Ernst Haeckel https://amzn.to/3C82vH4

Making Comics by Scott McCloud https://amzn.to/2Xy3ykN

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud https://amzn.to/3zf6DTC

Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner https://amzn.to/2XmyhRk

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde https://amzn.to/3t2pONu

The Restless Kingdom: An Exploration of Animal Movement https://amzn.to/3hCrESd

Drawing Ideas by Mark Baskinger and William Bardel https://amzn.to/3EviZLx

Artist’s Sketchbook by Cathy Johnson https://amzn.to/3nDneOP

The Sierra Club Guide to Painting in Nature by Cathy Johnson https://amzn.to/3hFnXeI

Painting Nature’s Details in Watercolor by Cathy Johnson https://amzn.to/3zgZ9Qi

Botanical Drawing in Color by Wendy Hollender https://amzn.to/3zil9Kn

The Complete Book of Textures for Artists by Steven Pearce, Denise J. Howard, and Mia Tavonatti https://amzn.to/3hCtEKw

Urban Watercolor Sketching by Felix Scheinberger https://amzn.to/3zhs32C

Drawing Birds by John Busby

The Field Guide to Drawing & Sketching Animals by Tim Pond

The Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals

How to Draw Animals, Jack Hamm

The Art of Animal Drawing by Ken Hultgren

Bird Anatomy for Artists by Natalia Balo

Capturing the Essence Techniques for Bird Artists by William T. Cooper

Art of Field Sketching by Clare Walker Leslie

Sketching in Nature by Cathy Johnson

Drawing and Painting from Nature by Cathy Johnson

Educational Coloring Books (which you can also use for line work inspiration)

The Botany Coloring Book https://amzn.to/3zeMFsc

The Marine Biology Coloring Book by Thomas M. Niesen

A Field Guide to Butterflies Coloring Book by Roger Tory Peterson et al

National Parks Coloring Book by Peter F. Copeland

State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book by Annika Bernhard

Mindset and Motivation

Mindset by Carol Dweck https://amzn.to/3AbmMLc

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv  https://amzn.to/2VKPyTX

Nature Poetry

The Home Place by Dr J Drew Lanham https://amzn.to/39biuYA

Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry

Devotions by Mary Oliver

Please add your own best books for nature journaling to the comments below!  Happy Reading!

How to Draw Old Trees

Right now, I’m going to show you how to draw old trees. Do you remember seeing this tree in my last nature journal in the rain video? Drawing old trees is fun. Especially if you use the crazy ink technique I am about to show you…

How to Draw Old Trees

  • First, find a charismatic old tree that you like.
  • Second, make sure there is a spot the is comfortable to sit. Ideally, find a spot in the shade so your eyes don’t get blasted.
  • Third, choose a drawing approach. I used the stick drawing dip pen technique.
  • Next, give yourself a reasonable goal and stick to it.
  • Take a snack break and walk around to stretch your legs.
  • Push through any self doubt that comes up and stick to your plan.
  • Review your work objectively at the end and remember that quantity is more important than quality.

The stick technique for drawing old trees

Want to try a fun new way of drawing? I did this because I wanted to draw the tree using a stick from the very same tree! This is also probably one of the cheapest art supplies you will ever get. All you need is a container of black ink. I used this sumi ink.

  • First find and carve a stick. I like them if they are not fully dead and about as thick as a pencil. Then I carve a point that is somewhere between a spatula tip and a pencil tip.
  • Second, make sure you have a rag to wipe off the excess ink. This can be a messy process.
  • Lastly, start dipping your pen in the ink and drawing!
  • Try experimenting with different amounts of ink on the stick and using different edges of the piece to make different marks.
Feeling too nervous about this method of drawing trees?

If you are feeling too nervous about this imprecise method in your nature journal then that is probably a good sign that this technique is good for you. Many of us have perfectionist tendencies and hesitancy around mark making that inhibit our art. This manifests itself in drawing less, it also manifests itself in tentative brushstrokes and lines. By practicing with a tool that gives you less control you can train yourself against these negative tendencies. For more work on your mindset check out this post.

Want more nature journaling ideas for old trees?

Above you can see the other video I did on how to nature journal old trees. It was a different tree, a much colder day and I showed you several approaches. In this video I use more of a traditional nature journaling approach including watercolor, zoom in zoom out and more.

Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.

Need help choosing nature journaling supplies? Check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Bird Illustration with Liz Clayton Fuller

Liz does bird illustration. She paints birds for field guides. She paints birds in front of a live audience twice a week. And to top it off, she has a popular course on bird illustration and nature journaling through the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Oh yeah, she was also a teacher at the Wild Wonder Nature Journaling conference where she taught how to paint birds using gouache.

Bird Nature Journaling Vs Bird Illustration

I asked Liz what is the difference between nature journaling birds and illustrating birds. For science illustration work she has to communicate certain information clearly and accurately. In addition this work requires lots of back and forth with the client to make sure the illustration is accurate. Nature journaling on the other hand feels more relaxing and more freeing for Liz.

“I think of (nature journaling) as more like a love letter to the birds that I am drawing rather than having to be super accurate…”

As you can see, Liz enjoys both approaches and each one feeds a different part of her. The nature journaling of birds is more of a joy-based experience about connection. The bird illustration brings out her artistic side and her attention to detail.

Why Liz Clayton Fuller Loves Gouache and You Should Too
  1. First of all, gouache pops. Especially on toned paper.
  2. Secondly, it can be a forgiving medium compared to watercolor.
  3. Gouache is good for painting bird eyeballs which is one of her favorite parts.
  4. With toned paper it helps you get the mid range values accurately.
  5. Last but not least, gouache is somewhat mysterious. Either you know or you don’t know. To see what gouache supplies she recommends see below.
Supplies she uses for Bird Illustration

The Stillman and Birn sketchbook with three different colors of toned paper! She uses the softcover one and the spiral bound one. Click on the image to see on Amazon.
Click on the image below to learn about the Holbein Gouache that Liz recommends.

Don’t make the mistake that I did! Get an airtight palette for your gouache so it doesn’t dry up and crumble and go to waste.

This airtight palette is only for storing the paints so you will want another palette for mixing. Liz uses ceramic palettes like this one.

Liz uses acrylic brushes for her bird illustration work in gouache.

Sharing Work on The Nature Journal Club Facebook Page

Liz and I talked about how social media can give people the wrong idea of what nature journaling looks like. She peruses the nature journal club facebook page but intentionally doesn’t post her polished bird illustrations there. Her concern is that people will think that meticulous, detailed portraits are the goal. When in fact, messy quick sketches are the norm. This is especially problematic for nature journaling beginners who see all these beautiful paintings on facebook and instagram. These nature journal newbies then go on to compare such artwork to their own experiences of drawing birds in the field. This comparison usually doesn’t lead to positivity or motivation. Her advice:

“At the end of the day, its not about the art that you create. It’s about solidifying that experience in your mind.”

Want to see more of Liz?

You can see more of her work including stuff for sale on her website: https://www.lizclaytonfuller.com/

Check out her Instagram for regular updates.

You can also watch her painting birds live on Twitch

Are you completely new to nature journaling?

If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Do you need help choosing nature journaling supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

How to Nature Journal From Your Car

I’m going to show you how to nature journal from your car. A car is an amazing thing. Not only can it move you (and your art supplies) from one place to another but it can also protect you from the elements and keep you safe and maybe inconspicuous. And guess what? There are seats you can sit on built right into your car! Many cars are even equipped with pencil holders, windows that you can see through, sun-protecting roof, and many more comfort features than you can fit in your nature journal bag. It is often possible to park your car in locations with good views of natural areas. This is a good option to practice if you live in an area with harsh weather, if you have mobility limitations, don’t have access, don’t feel safe, or otherwise cannot go out into more “wildernessy” areas.

How to Nature Journal From the Front Seat of Your Car

First, let’s talk about how to nature journal from the driver’s seat. This position has several advantages:

  • Most importantly, you do not have to change positions between driving and drawing. This is very convenient. You can drive right up to a spot and start nature journaling without changing seats or rearranging much in your car.
  • Second, the steering wheel can be useful for balancing your sketchbook or drawing pad.
  • Lastly, the front windshield is probably your best view from your car.
For the full list of tips watch the videos!

How to Nature Journal From Your Car: Hatchback Option

If you have an SUV, Pickup or a Hatchback this could be a good strategy for you. While this strategy requires more setup it also has some cool benefits. First, let’s look at the positive side:

  • First and foremost you can have a larger area for your workspace. This could even include a dedicated setup that you leave installed in the back. For example a portable easel or a desk. This is really good if you are doing larger format paintings in watercolor or even oil paintings.
  • Depending on your model of car you may get a better view from the back than through the front windshield.
  • Third, the hatchback door can serve as a protective overhang and provide shade.
  • Lastly, you might be able to setup a really comfortable chair in the back!

 

Are you completely new to nature journaling?

If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Do you need help choosing nature journaling supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Wild Wonder and the Nature Journaling Magazine (Amaya’s Experience)

The following is a guest post from our amazing nature journaling teen amabassador Amaya Shreeve!  Amaya has been on the Nature Journal Show several times. In this article she describes her experience at the 2021 Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference.

What do you get when you put a bunch of nature journalers, scientists, writers, and artists all in one room? A very happy Amaya! I’m Amaya and as you can tell I must of really enjoyed Wild Wonder!

For those of you who don’t know what Wild Wonder is I’ll tell you.  It’s a nature journaling conference where people come together to learn more, share, and inspire each other. Wild Wonder this year (2021) was my favorite! I’ve been to all 3 so I know a thing or two about this conference. This year’s conference was amazing! I mean words cannot describe the excitement one has when you get to have a “goat break” with Mark Simmons!(is this too much of an inside joke? can you please explain more? I took the class and still didn’t understand the goat joke.)

What made this year truly amazing was not the classes (don’t get me wrong they were great)  but it was the people who came. The people who came are willing to talk for hours on end about nature. The people who came will encourage on any big task you want to accomplish. They will make you feel loved and more at home than ever. The cool thing is these people aren’t just at Wild Wonder. They are all over the nature journaling community and they are willing to help support you and encourage you to keep up those pencil miles.

At this year’s conference I got a direct experience of how kind this community is.  At John Muir Law’s keynote on day 2 he ended his talk on how amazing and supportive this community is, all the while giving the love back to everyone. He gave thanks to everyone who was helping create the conference. He also shared a big project of mine. I didn’t ask him to do this so. You can imagine how surprised I was when he shared my project. I was shocked. I ran into the other room, computer in hand, telling my mom to look. I was barely able to get the words out. I sat there watching my screen as tears of joy filled my eyes.

I can’t believe I am able to be apart so something so amazingly wonderful. So when you go to Wild Wonder don’t just look to the teachers, look to the fellow students. Seek their mentorship. After all, the best mentors tend to be your friends. Well at least mine are.  If you are curious about my project. Well I guess I can tell you. I mean why not! I have created a nature journaling magazine for kids. I hope his magazine will inspire a love for nature journaling in my generation and the next. (insert a link to her magazine here?)

Thank you for reading this blog post . I don’t usually write blog posts  so this was fun! Here are some links to help support me and some for you to find out more about me. A special thanks to Marley for letting me write this blog post. Lots of the love –Amaya  

You can see Amaya’s fun nature journaling YouTube videos here.

Check out her Instagram.

Want to motivate more nature journaling teens? You can find out more about the nature journaling magazine on Amaya’s patreon page! 

Some pages from the nature journaling magazine that Amaya is making
Each issue has pages submitted by different kids and Amaya provides thoughtful feedback.
nature journaling magazine page
Here is an example of the amazing instructional pages that you can find in Amaya’s Nature Journaling Magazine for kids

Art Toolkit Unboxing and Review on The Nature Journal Show

In this week’s video, Marley tests out a new field kit from Art Toolkit, a supplies company created by Maria Coryell-Martin.  Marley previously interviewed Maria on the Nature Journal Show about her expeditionary art.

Checking Out the New Tools

After looking through his knife collection and selecting a huge cleaver, Marley opens the package.  Inside is the art toolkit containing: a sturdy zippable nylon kit pouch, pocket mister, Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, fine-tip Sharpie marker, medium waterbrush, binder clips, ruler, and waterbrush refill syringe.  Some of the tools are a bit different from what Marley normally uses, but he is open to experimentation.  Being flexible that way is a great practice for any nature journaler to have.

Marley examines the Art Toolkit he received in the mail.

Testing a New Palette

Next, Marley decides to test out a free palette Art Toolkit sent him.  The palette contains some watercolors Marley has not used before, as well as some old standbys.  Maria uses a revolutionary system of magnetic pans, meaning you can easily switch out one paint pan with another, whether for custom field trips or different pan sizes, and ultimately control the layout of your palette. When you are testing out a new palette, remember the following tips:

  • Always start a new palette by making a full color chart.  By doing this, you will know your supplies and be more comfortable with what they can do – before you go into the field.
  • Be honest about the colors you don’t love.  They are taking up valuable palette space and can be vacated for other preferred colors.
  • Test the full range of each color.  When you are painting a swatch, start on one end with the color at full strength.  Then, clean off your brush a bit and continue painting the same swatch, so you can see what the color looks like when it is diluted.
  • List or label your colors.  Better yet: keep them on the same page as your chart.  Know what you have!
  • Keep notes on what you observe.  Does this paint lift out?  Does it granulate? How does it compare to other paints in your palette, in hue, constitution etc.?
  • Experiment!!
Marley does a color chart of his palette; it is important for nature journalers to know their palettes before they go in the field.

Color chart done, Marley heads to dinner.  When he comes back, he might be able to see other changes in his swatches that will give him even more information.  As naturalists, it’s important to continually evaluate our field kits.

Want to try this kit out yourself?

You can try this art toolkit without even buying one for yourself. (Which is good because sometimes we buy something to test it out and then realize it is not the best for us anyways.) Guess what? Members of the Nature Journal Show Patreon get access to this community kit as it gets mailed from one member to the next! You can find out more about the other benefits of supporting Marley’s work on the Nature Journal Show Patreon page.

Are you completely new to nature journaling?

If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Do you need help choosing nature journaling supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

You Make This Possible

Do you enjoy the Nature Journal Show? Do you believe that nature journaling can make the world a better place? Me too, and that’s why I need your help. Because people like you consistently contributing a small amount of money through the nature journal show Patreon makes this all possible.

Patrons get lots of cool benefits, exclusive videos, patron-only parties and the pride of knowing they are supporting the Nature Journal Show. You can contribute too with anywhere from $1 a month to $75 a month. I’m offering special perks and a discount on annual membership for anyone that signs up in August. You can learn more and see some examples of Patron only content here: Become a Patron!

My main goal is to continue to make educational content to help people see more in nature. I believe that nature journaling can make the world a better place. But I need your help.

Some background

The last year has been challenging financially for me and the Nature Journal Show. In fact, the Nature Journal Show has been in the red. Many of you probably know that I went full time with my nature journaling education business in October 2020. So far, I have been subsidizing all the free content that I make with my paid nature education work such as a few paid workshops, one-on-one teaching, speaking about nature journaling at other events etc. This income was drastically reduced because of Covid-19.

What about monetizing all the great content that you are making online?

Great question. I have been experimenting with monetizing my YouTube channel by allowing for some ads on the videos and I have also been using some affiliate links. However, the combined income for both of these is less than $20 a month so far. I would also prefer to use less commercial ways of making this work financially sustainable.

So how is this even possible for you financially?

To tell you the truth, support from my Patreon sponsors has made it possible for me to keep going. (In addition to putting as much of my other income and savings back into the show.) Mainly because of the community, mainly because of the moral support of all 57 people who contribute. Even if it is just $1 a month for some of those people. The community has grown a lot in the last year, so I know that this is possible. Imagine all the cool things we could do if we got to 100 or 500 patrons in the community?!

Let’s keep this show going!

Despite how amazingly supportive my Patreon community has been and how committed they are to the Nature Journal Show the approximately $360 a month in contributions is not enough for me to pay myself for all the hours that I put into making the show. My main goal is to continue to make the highest quality educational content to help people see more in nature. However, for me to continue this work in a sustainable way I need to be able to make a living. Despite all the different things I am trying there have been some months where I made less than $1000.

That’s why this month I am doing a push to get more people to sign up on Patreon. I am also starting to do some part time construction work for a friend. The first time that I have had to take on work other than nature education since I went full time in October 2021. It’s a scary move for me because I don’t want it to take away from the true work that I am meant to be doing on this planet. But I also know that work like that is consistent and can pay bills.

Gratitude

Right now, I want to acknowledge my current Patreon supporters and their belief in me. Thank you all so much! You are all awesome. Some of you have been with me for a long time!

Stephanie, Dianne, Miriam, Marilynn, Amy, Kristin, Eddie, Bethan, Dawn, Akshay, Zeffie, Terry, Jessie, Angela, Stacy, Leslie, Margarita, Hannah, Sandra, Dianne, Tina, Sandra, Julie, Aneta, Barbara, Deborah, Roberta, Sabrina, Stephanie, Loretta, Saphira, Amy, Sandy, Terri, Emma, Troy, Corina, Yvea, Jeanne, Suzanne, Alice, Helen, Mason, Tiffany, Petrina, Eli, Olga, Kate, Rebecca, Barbara, Kit, Laurie, Constance, Rose, Karen, Cate, Amy, Deb, and Jan.

Nature Journaling Questions: A Taxonomy

Nature journaling questions are essential to what we do as nature journalers. However, we are not taught how to ask questions. In fact the dominant society and most schools teach us not to ask too many questions. I’m going to show you how to get better at questions in this video. I will show you a taxonomy of questions I am working on. When you have some categories such as these for questions you will be able to use them better.

I made this video as a followup to my class at International Nature Journaling Week 2021. Want to see that class? You can watch and participate in that class here: https://www.naturejournalingweek.com/marley-peifer-i-wonder  There are a lot of other cool resources and classes from nature journaling week that you can still access there. In addition to my class there are other classes about curiosity and how to use questions in our nature journals.

3 Benefits of Nature Journaling Questions
  1. Questions are gaining in value while knowing things is losing value. This is a major shift of the time period we are living in and the education systems and people’s thinking around this are stuck in the past.
  2.  Only tool for approaching the unknown. In Nature there is a lot of unknown and questions are the only way to dance with that. If we stick to known facts we can’t engage with the unknown. Most nature journalers are not natural history or science experts. Therefore we have many things we don’t understand in nature when we nature journal. Instead of ignoring these we can use questions to grapple with them.
  3. Flexibility of mind. Practicing asking lots of questions keeps your mind flexible. Regardless of whether they are answerable or not. This is helpful for adults and “experts” who tend to get ossified in their thinking.

To see the full taxonomy of questions be sure to watch the video.

Are you new to nature journaling? If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Do you need help choosing nature journaling supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

The Nature Journal Club: Pencil Miles and Chill with Yvea

The Pencil Miles and Chill gatherings have become a mainstay of the nature journal club during 2020. Yvea Moore will tell the origin story of the gathering in this conversation. We will also learn the main benefits of nature journaling community, tips for nature journaling beginners, and more!

What are “Pencil Miles”?

In the first place let’s define Pencil Miles. In essence, it is a phrase that emphasizes quantity over quality. Does that sound backwards? As a matter of fact, focusing on quantity over quality is one of the most powerful things you can do for any practice. In nature journaling and art for example, too much focus on the quality of your picture or page can lead to many bad habits. In contrast, If you focus on drawing a lot instead of making perfect drawings you will end up making better drawings. The expression “Pencil Miles” has become a neat way to summarize this concept for members of the nature journaling community. For other examples of the nature journal club’s specific lingo check out this post. Here is an example of a page from Yvea’s journal showing her putting in some serious miles. an example of copious pencil miles in the nature journal of Yvea who is an important member of the nature journal club

Origins of the Pencil Miles and Chill Meetup

The first seed of this community gathering was planted by Akshay and Gargi during the beginning of the pandemic. Gargi created a google doc where the nature journaling community could self-organize virtual meetings. Individuals could offer to host their own online gatherings using different platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, etc. Community members offered classes about different nature journaling subjects. Interestingly, some of the most popular were just free-from meetings where everyone could work on their own nature journal ideas and homework.

Activity on the spreadsheet began to lose steam around the summer of 2020. Meanwhile, Yvea had an idea during one of Brian Higginbotham’s Great Valley Nature Journal Club sessions. Brian asked people to write down their intentions for July. Yvea’s intention was finishing some of her nature journal pages. She decided to offer a space where others could do the same and could support and encourage each other. This evolved into her offering a weekly meetup for people to hang out and work on their nature journal pages. Pencil Miles and Chill was born.

What is Pencil Miles and Chill all About?

The Pencil Miles and Chill meetup only has one rule: be kind to each other. For the most part it is just a consistent time and (virtual)place for people to be together and work on nature journaling. There does not have to be a focus or a topic, instead everyone can work on their own project. Conversation is natural and sharing is encouraged but people can also just focus on their own work. For the most part it is like a virtual study hall for nature journalers. One last point about this group is the amazing inclusiveness and feeling of support that it offers. This is something that people in the nature journal club love about what Yvea is offering.

Top Benefits of Pencil Miles and Chill
  1. Providing community: One of the main benefits that people get from Pencil Miles and Chill and the Nature Journal Club Facebook in general is a sense of community. This was especially helpful during the isolating times of quarantine.
  2. Conversation: One specific aspect of community that people benefit from is conversation. Talking is fun and also allows for the sharing of ideas. This can keep us motivated as we nature journal.
  3. Providing consistency: Having 2 times a week that you know you will be nature journaling helps make it a habit.
  4. Technical support: When you are struggling with a specific issue you can bring it up and get ideas from other nature journalers.
  5. A place to relax: There are so many structured online classes for nature journaling that people sometimes get overwhelmed. Pencil Miles in contrast felt like a place you could relax into your own rhythm.
  6. The coveted book list: If I told you then it wouldn’t be coveted anymore. You will have to join Pencil Miles to find out 🙂 You can find out about the next Friday or Saturday session here.
Some of Yvea’s Tips for Nature Journaling Beginners
  1. Go easy on yourself.
  2. Take a break if you need to.
  3. How to not get intimidated by your journal or full page. Don’t worry about not filling a full page every time.
  4. Try a smaller sketchbook if you need to.
  5. Draw on lined paper. It makes you not worry about having precious paper.
  6. Find the things that motivate you. Find your “juice.” For more about “juice” and other mindset tips Yvea recommends looking at this mindset video I made.

Check out this pile of Yvea’s nature journals!A pile of nature journals belonging to Yvea Moore who started the pencil miles and chill nature journal club

Do you need help choosing art and nature supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Are you new to nature journaling? If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

 

Using My Words at International Nature Journaling Week

7 days.  7 themes.  When Bethan Burton announced the dates for the International Nature Journaling Week she created, I could hardly wait!  This was my first year attending it, and it left my naturalist soul humming.

First of all, Bethan made it so that the week was information-dense without being overwhelming; 2 workshops a day was the perfect amount to leave us satiated and yet still hungry for the next day.  Second, having themes on each day allowed us to sink more deeply into those themes – words, pictures, numbers, “I notice”, “I wonder”, “it reminds me of”, and mindset – and process them more thoroughly.  Moving at this pace allows us to integrate each piece more fully into our nature journaling practices.

Within all the richness of topics and techniques, two workshops stood out the most to me: Emilie Lygren’s “Words that Connect, Words that Shine” and Marley Peifer’s “Unlock the Power of Curiosity in Your Nature Journal”.

Yvea's questions
All the questions!

Words, Words, Words

Why those two?  Words have long been my “bread-and-butter”.  Nature journaling itself is only a few years new for me, but I have been playing with and exploring words since I was 3 years old.  For many years, words were my only friends.  And yet in spite of my deep connection to words, there is still room for me to grow.

Emilie’s workshop helped me rediscover my poetry roots – this time with a nature journal bent.  It turns out that the core nature journaling prompt, INIWIRMO, is actually perfect for starting a poem!  “I notice” can help us to look closer and truly experience the details of our subject. “I wonder” helps us want to know more, and that same sense of wonder is why we fall in love with our subject and with nature.  “It reminds me of” brings in the power of memory and, with it, connection.  Of course these would be the perfect recipe for poetry!

Once you’ve made those observations and insights about your subject, you can combine them or reorder them to create a poem:

Yvea's sundew poem
My poem about a Drosera plant

If words are my “bread-and-butter,” questions are my “juice”.  Like Fiona Gillogly, I can fill whole pages with questions, and doing so only increases my energy level.  So when Marley offered new ways to examine and expand our questions, well, it felt a little like being offered nature candy.  Playing with questions makes our thinking more flexible and stretches our brains beyond their previous boundaries.  By doing that at every level and at every part of the nature journaling experience, to quote Amaya Shreeve, there can be “no end to the wonder.”

Marley's question techniques
Marley’s 10 techniques for expanding your questions

What Now?

Now that International Nature Journaling Week is done, it feels strange to go back to “Reality”, where we  as a community don’t see each other twice per day or talk deeply about these topics.  It would be easy for me to lose my motivation in light of the “post-adrenaline let down” feeling… But instead, I am reviewing my notes, adding things I thought of afterward, and looking forward to Marley’s next video – which is all about diving deeper into questions.  I am keeping my brain and all the teachings from the past week active.  Keeping that growth mindset.

For more information on “bread-and-butter”, “juice”, growth edge, and growth mindset, check out Marley’s class “Unlock Your Potential”, found here.