Best Watercolor Palette

A good watercolor palette is one of the best art investments you can make so I am going to show you my favorite palette and four reasons why it is the best!

When you are nature journaling or even urban sketching you can produce more compelling sketches faster if you have watercolor. As it turns out there are tons of watercolor and palette options out there. However, finding a good portable palette and choosing watercolors that work well is a daunting task. You could spend all your time looking for the right supplies and not have any time left over for making art! Therefore, I’m gonna help you avoid that problem by showing you the best watercolor palette I have found. Let’s get into it. Cue the drum roll!

The best watercolor palette for nature sketching and journaling is the customized palette by John Muir Laws!

You can buy one of these palettes on his website here. But be warned, these palettes are hand made and often run out of stuck so be sure to get yours first. Or you can even make your own from John Muir Laws’ instructions because he is such an amazing and generous guys (more details on how to make your own palette below).

Using the JML watercolor palette in the field
Me using the John Muir Laws watercolor palette for nature journaling.

4 Reasons it is the Best Watercolor Palette

  1. You are going to save so much money! Because this one art tool can eliminate the need for hundreds and hundreds of dollars of other art supplies. You can make so many combinations with the 32 watercolors included in this palette. Also, watercolors are so concentrated they will last a long time.
  2. Excellent Color Choices! Because a professional illustrator and naturalist has carefully chosen all 32 colors you can avoid the guesswork. Therefore you can focus on making the art and learning how to use the colors in your paintings. Most of the colors come from Daniel Smith Fine Watercolors, a small company based in the US that still cares about quality art supplies.
  3. So Organized and Compact! From the arrangement of the colors to the clear labeling on the outside this watercolor kit is dialed in! There are also mixing areas in all the right places. You don’t have to experiment over and over again to find a system because John Muir Laws has done it for you. The kit is also compact enough to fit in your purse or back pocket. That’s a lot of art power in your pocket!
  4.  Field-Tested and Child Approved! Finally, this watercolor palette has been tested by many artists in some of the most challenging field painting conditions! John Muir Laws and myself have both used this palette in places such as British Columbia, the Amazon Jungle, the Serengeti, Rwanda, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the Ecuadorean Cloud Forest. This palette is tough and has stood the test of time.

Ok, One More Reason To get this Watercolor Kit

Last but certainly not least. This watercolor palette is the best because John Muir Laws shares the entire process of how to make it for FREE on his website! Just follow this link. That proves that he believes in this palette so much he would rather share how to make it than just try to make money. What a great guy!

Look at all the colors you can make with this kit! Here is a chart that I made showing all the combinations.

What about a watercolor palette for the studio?

If you want to get some more ideas about what would work good for the studio check out this video

Nature Journal Class: Unlock Your Potential!

Do you think you can’t draw? Is your perfectionism a problem? Do you procrastinate when you really want to be nature journaling? If so, this nature journal class can help you. Over several years I have been developing and testing psychological strategies to help you achieve your nature journaling goals, learn faster, and feel better about your awesome self. Are you ready to unlock your potential?

Because I have been teaching nature journaling classes for five years I have seen how people learn and grow. In addition, I have seen the obstacles that people face that prevent them from reaching their goals. I have dealt with these challenges myself. That is why I developed this nature journal workshop. Of all the things that I teach these are the most valuable lessons that I can share with you.

Outline for “Nature Journal Class: Unlock Your Potential!”

  • Your mindset has a disproportionate impact on your achievement, enjoyment, and improvement in the nature sketching, art, and nature journaling.

Nature Journal Class Graph Showing Importance of Mindset

  • Unfortunately, there are many problems that can affect your mindset and we are not well-trained to notice or deal with these problems. Because these problems are internal it can be hard to recognize them in ourselves and we often develop stories that blame our problems on external factors.

Common Mindset Problems for Artists and Nature Journalers:

  1. Perfectionism
  2. Procrastination
  3. Negative Self-Talk
  4. Dependence on Praise
  5. Sensitivity to Feedback
  6. Lack of Focus
  7. Fear of Failure
  8. Artistic Ruts or “Writer’s Block”
  9. In addition to “Writer’s Block” is Fear of the Blank Canvas
  10. Lack of Time
  11. Other Responsibilities and Excuses
  12. Limiting Beliefs
  13. Comparison to “better artists”
  14. Lack of Self-Discipline
  15. And finally, Diva Syndrome
  16. Actually, there are a lot more…

Graphic of mindset problems for nature journal class

Because there are so many problems and because they are hard to see it is easier for us to externalize our challenges. By thinking things such as ” I will be able to nature journal better once I buy that new pencil” or “I need a more interesting subject to inspire me” we create limiting beliefs. As a result we have a limiting belief and our original problem which is now even harder to daylight.

So what can we do about this situation?!

In preparation for this nature journal class about mindset I spent months collecting a list of common mindset problems from artists and nature journalers. Then I tried to figure out solutions for all these problems. I have developed specific solutions for some of them such as my procrastination cocktail, but I think it is better to treat the root problems. Luckily, there are only a few root problems.

Root Problems for Artists and Nature Journalers

  1. Outcome Dependence:
  2. Lack Of Intentionality:
  3. Lack of Self Awareness:

Don’t worry. You can overcome all of these root problems and by working on them you can unlock your true potential. However, it’s not gonna be easy. But, the benefits will spill over into other aspects of your life. After much thought, I have summarized the ways to strengthen your nature journaling mindset through 5 major keys that I teach in this nature journal class.

The Five Mindset Keys covered in this Nature Journal Class

  1. Self Awareness
  2. Intentionality
  3. Feedback Loops
  4. Fuel
  5. Focus on Practice

If you want to learn some specific strategies to develop a stronger mindset be sure to watch the whole nature journal course on video. In the video I provide exercises to help you build self awareness and intentionality. In addition I give you a powerful tool to help fight negative self talk. Check out the full nature journal class here.

 

 

10 Nature Journal Ideas You Should Know!

Every hobby has special concepts and lingo and nature journaling is no exception. Have you ever encountered  nature journal ideas or language that you were unfamiliar with? If so, this video can help. I explain 10 nature journaling ideas and special words that every nature journaler should know.

And why should you know these words?

You should know these words because we need them to explain the specific ideas that are unique to our practice. In addition, they can be a shortcut to communicate a whole concept. For example, I can just say “pencil miles” to someone and convey a large amount of info succinctly. Otherwise, I would have to use several sentences to communicate the same idea.

Let’s get on with the words! Have you used any of the words below?

Ten Nature Journal Ideas You Need to Know:

  1. Pencil Miles: This is a cool phrase that summarizes the importance of repetition and practice for the improvement of drawing.
  2. Meta-Data: This heading at the beginning of our page gives info about the location, the time, and the date. In addition, you can add whatever data is relevant to you such as: the tide, who you are with, the humidity as well as symbols for the type of clouds or other weather features.
  3. Landscapitos:  These are small landscape drawings. For more about them check out this post on Landscapitos.
  4. Non-Photo Blue Pencil: Many nature journalers use these pencils for a faint under-drawing. They do not show up in photocopies or scans. Check out what John Muir Laws loves about them!nature journal ideas like this non photo blue pencil are important to understand
  5. The Pretty Picture Trap: This nature journal idea is one you want to avoid! Even though we all like beautiful drawings the fact of focusing on making pretty pictures can be a problem.
  6. Precious: Sometimes, when I have a drawing that is looking good, I start taking fewer risks because I start getting precious about it . This can hamper our learning. Similarly, this problem can emerge if you have really fancy materials or watercolor paper and you are hesitant to mess it up.
  7. Stealing Ideas: We use the word “stealing” in a positive way because we want people to be able to share ideas and learn from each other. Therefore, next time you are in a journal share “steal” some good ideas from someone instead of just admiring their pretty page.
  8. Post Hoc: Any nature journaling work that you do after the field trip is called post hoc which means “after” in Latin.
  9. Sacrificial Pancakes: One of my favorite nature journal ideas is the sacrificial pancake! These are the first drawings we make in a session while we are warming up because you have to make these before you can make good ones!
For number 10 go watch the video! You will also find a bonus one there.

North Bay Nature Journaling Paradise!

People who live in the North Bay are in luck! Because the San Francisco Bay Area is the epicenter of the Nature Journaling movement! If you live in Sonoma, Napa, Solano, or Marin you also know we have tons of beautiful parks and natural areas to explore. As a result, I consider the North Bay a Nature Journaling paradise!

Nature Journaling classes and clubs in our area:

  • As you probably know, I lead the Monthly Nature Journaling fieldtrips with the North Bay Nature Journal Club, usually in Sonoma and Marin. See the calendar here.
  • There is also the newly formed Napa Valley Nature Journal Club. Check out their Facebook page here. If you live and nature journal in the Napa Valley you can help this club grow.
  • Short Monthly Classes with John Muir Laws where he goes over specific techniques. See his calendar here. And he also leads a field trip near the end of every month sometimes in the north bay but also in the East and South Bay.

Here are my top three North Bay nature journaling spots for 2020!

  1. Abbot’s Lagoon in the Point Reyes National Seashore. This incredible location has it all: sand dunes, biodiversity, seabirds, otters, and beautiful vistas. It is a little bit of a drive if you are coming from Santa Rosa or Vallejo or Napa but it is definitely worth it for a half day or more nature journaling adventure.
  2. Sonoma Baylands Trail on San Pablo Bay. This central location is gonna be a relatively short drive from most towns. It is a wonderful place to marvel at the marshlands that used to surround the entire Bay Area. There are many seabirds and weird plants here too. Even though it is a short drive from the city you will feel peaceful here.
  3. Helen Putnam Regional Park. I have led the North Bay Nature Journal Club to this location several times. It is easy to get to but has beautiful oak savanna landscapes and wonderful old trees. It can get very hot so plan accordingly.
painting at helen putnam park one of my favorite north bay nature journaling locations
nature journaling at helen putnam photo by @amycycles

Nature De-Stress…

Have you ever had the feeling that time slowed down, your breathing became relaxed, and you felt a renewed connection to the world around you? I had this experience recently when I went nature journaling and painting at Helen Putnam Park with Amy Winzer recently. Even though I have been stressing about taxes and a million other things getting out into nature with a friend and paying deep attention to a tree while playing with watercolor had an instant effect. If you want a taste of relaxation during tax season come on my next nature journaling trip to the Grove of Old Trees on March 8th be sure to rsvp if you want to come, space is limited.

marley peiffer, marley pfiefer, marley pfeiffer,
photo by @amycycles

Check out more from this collaboration and more of the cool work that Amy is up to at her website.

How to Nature Journal When You Don’t Have Time!

Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough time ? Do you ever wish that you could carve out more time or be more disciplined about drawing or journaling more? But you don’t want to wake up at 3:30 in the morning? In this video I share some ideas that can help you.

 

 

I’m Trying Bullet Journaling!

Are you curious about fun analog ways to plan and organize your life? Join me in this experiment as I try out Bullet Journaling and see how I can incorporate it into my life and my other journaling systems.

Too Loud, Too Crowded, Too Busy? Ten Cures for That…

Is there a potential nature journaling location that seems to too loud, too busy, or too crowded for you to get your sketching groove on? In this video I give you ten tips for nature journaling in such a location. I believe that practicing in these situations can make us much stronger as nature journalers even if our goal is to practice our craft in more relaxed settings most of the time.

How to Deal With the Blank Page!

Have you ever stared at the blank page of a new sketchbook for a little bit too long? Have you ever been on a roll with your nature journaling and then become suddenly timid when you have to start a new book? Here are 10 tips to help you next time that happens.

 

Good Tips For Any Nature Journaler

You all asked for more interviews and shares with different nature journalers in our community so here you go! In 2020 I’m planning on doing lots more interviews like this.