Nature Journal Style: The Nature Journal Show with Vitor Velez

Vitor Velez has a nature journal style that is instantly recognizable. When you see his Instagram you might be awed. In fact, you might even be intimidated. “How can I ever develop a style like that?” “He is talented.” “I could never do that.” “His style must have come to him like a lightning bolt of inspiration.” Watch this interview and you will see how he deconstructs his process.

I remember when I first saw Vitor’s artwork on his Instagram. The way he uses lettering and line immediately fascinated me. “This guy is doing unique work and I would love to introduce him to the Nature Journaling Community” I thought to myself. I told him about the nature journal club Facebook page and he shared some of his work there. Later, I decided I should interview him for the Nature Journal Show.

What is the Difference Between Writing and Drawing?

I was really excited to talk about this with Vitor. How can text be used as a visual element just like drawings? What is the actual difference between the two? How can artists and nature journalers combine the two in beautiful and functional ways?

Vitor believes that one of the main differences between words and images is how we interpret them. We interpret drawings and images automatically. In contrast we have to slow down and concentrate to interpret words. In addition, words or notes on the page allow the viewer to see into the mind of the artist. For example, we talked about the difference between Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and his sketchbooks. When I was a kid I couldn’t believe they were made by the same artist!

nature journal style leonardo davinci

nature journal style example the mona lisa

You have to watch the interview if you want to learn more about combining text and images!

Where Does Nature Journal Style Come From?

The most empowering or most depressing thing about this interview is how Vitor deconstructs his style. Depending on your perspective you will either be encouraged or you will realize you no longer have any excuses. The recipe is fairly simple.

Take equal parts enjoyment of the process and fascination with subject, mix in a diversity of visual references and inspirations, then add hundreds of hours of practice.

nature journal style with vitor velez

nature journal style with vitor velez

A unique nature journal style does not come from nowhere. Vitor was not born with his style. You will not be given one from heaven. Look at other artists. Get inspiration from many sources. Mix ideas around in your head. Try different techniques. Practice drawing a lot. Then practice drawing some more. Don’t get precious about your drawings.

Nature Journal Homeschool Family

This nature journal homeschool family will inspire you! Crystal and Amaya share their perspective of nature journaling in a family with four kids. Because of their experience I ask them to give me some ideas for my upcoming nature journal family class.

Crystal told me a story that sums up why nature journaling is important. Their whole family went on a nature journaling field trip to watch bats with John Muir Laws. Amaya was the main one nature journaling during the trip but the enthusiasm was contagious. The rest of the kids wanted to learn everything about bats later when they got home. This motivation allowed the family to go on a sustained learning adventure together. They looked up books. They watched videos. And finally they went to a zoo that had fruit bats. This is where the benefits of nature journaling stood out. While they were watching the bats in amazement another kid walked by. He took one glance at the bats and said “Eww, gross!” Crystal’s son Gabe looked at the boy with disbelief. His facial expression said it all…

“How could someone not appreciate how fascinating these animals are?”

To summarize, the nature journaling mindset had preserved a sense of wonder and curiosity in her kids. The other kid, in contrast, had developed the jaded perspective that plagues most adults. Not only can the jaded perspective make it harder to learn it can also take the joy and gratitude out of life.

nature journal homeschool family
Amaya and John Muir Laws share nature journaling with other kids and families
Nature Journal Homeschool Tips
  1. First, start with small expectations. Be realistic to start with so that you don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
  2. Get personal supplies for each kid. Personal nature journaling supplies make the kids feel proud and responsible. Similarly, letting the kids pick their own supplies contributes to their motivation. See my interview with homeschooler Dallas Nachtigall for more about this.
  3. Make it into a family event. Planning family outings around nature journaling brings the family together in nature without explicit pressure. For example, one kid like Amaya, might be nature journaling the whole time, but the whole family is there to learn and support each other.
  4. Don’t pressure younger kids into nature journaling. If the younger kids see their parent, sibling, or family friend nature journaling this will inspire them. In contrast, their mom forcing them might backfire.
  5. Reassess yearly. How’d it go? What did you learn? What’s next?
Want the perspective of two more homeschool moms?

Check out this live interview with two moms who homeschool and are also educators.

 

Rosalie Haizlett on the Nature Journal Show

Rosalie Haizlett is a conservation-focused illustrator. She has built a career around painting maps, botanical art, and detailed nature scenes in watercolor and ink. In addition to her art sales and commissions she teaches classes. Another key point we talk about in this interview is the therapeutic role nature can play. Rosalie is driven because she believes that nature-based art can have a deeper purpose.

How Nature Journaling Can Improve Quality of Life

Rosalie is a  firm believer that drawing in nature can improve the quality of people’s lives. However, for many of us today this is not the default state.

“A lot of people are walking right past so many incredible wonders in nature and not taking time to notice them.”

She then goes on to point out that this is a learnable practice.

“Over time I began to notice more in the outdoors (…) My life was enriched by spending more quiet time in nature and using art to document what I was seeing.”

That’s wonderful if nature journaling and art can enrich our experience. But that is not all. She goes on to explain the healing effect these practices can have.

Rosalie shared her personal experience struggling with chronic migraines. Spending quiet time observing nature turned out to be a very effective therapy. This lead to her current practice around spending more time in nature.

How Her Art Can Help the Environment

I was interested in asking Rosalie about the role that she sees her art playing.  A quote on her website said that she is creating “(…) visuals to help people see and appreciate the natural world in a deeper way.” I wanted to know more about how she is trying to implement this vision.

  • First, she creates art for conservation-minded companies and organizations. Some examples include: Patagonia, The Smithsonian, The National Parks, and the Audobon Society.
  • Second, she teaches regular people how to connect to nature through art and observation.
  • Lastly, she is sharing her experiences in nature helps invite others to explore more deeply.
Find Out More About Rosalie Haizlett

See more of the amazing work that she is doing at her website: www.rosaliehaizlett.com

You can get more frequent doses at her instagram: www.instagram.com/rosaliehaizlett/

Check out her classes at www.skillshare.com/user/rosaliehaizlett

How to Nature Journal Where You Grew Up

What was your connection to nature where you grew up? In this video, I show you how to nature journal where you grew up as I explore the natural area I first explored and fell in love with as a kid. Come on this adventure with me. See where I went as a kid. We’ll nature journal Southern California plants and nature mysteries. In addition we will  learn some techniques for reconnecting to a place.

Nature journaling is a powerful tool for science and for art. However, many people forget that journaling is probably the most powerful tool for connecting with feelings. Despite the direction science has gone in we cannot truly separate emotions from our connection with and understanding of nature. In fact, we can improve our nature journal pages by including more of these feelings. Not only that but when you get the feelings out of your head you can observe more of the world around you and perform better as an artist.

How to Nature Journal Where You Grew Up

  • First, be prepared. You can expect some strong feelings to come up when you visit your childhood nature. Many people will experience grief because their favorite tree from childhood is cut down. You might have lots of anger come up because the whole natural area has been developed. Be prepared for some emotions to come up. Try to be well resourced before you go. Did you get enough sleep? Do you have other major emotional drains in your life right now? If you are stressed in other ways it may make you more sensitive and reactive to what comes up for you.
  • Second, journal what is. For most people things have changed since they were a kid. This might make you avoid going back there. “I can’t nature journal there because it has all been developed.” “I can’t nature journal there because it is private property now.” The solution is to nature journal what is. Don’t ignore the human impacts. That is part of the place now, that is essential to the story. At the very least you could write a title, draw a simple map, and write down a few of your feelings. You will feel better by doing this and you will show respect for a place that helped shape you.
  • Third, use nature journaling to experience the place more like a kid. Your nature journal can help you see the place as you did when you were growing up. The nature journal process can help you slow down and remove the jaded perspective of an adult. This will help you connect to the place more instead of just walking around with your normal adult mind-wandering and ruminating. The default mode network is the part of your brain that will prevent you from connecting to this place.

 

How to Nature Journal Bugs!

We learn how to nature journal bugs and why they matter in this exciting conversation with the Beetle Lady! Why are kids fascinated with bugs? What about bugs grosses some people out? If we only like plants and birds then why should we nature journal bugs? Be prepared for the answers to these questions as well as more fun questions in this episode of the Nature Journal Show.

Stephanie Dole is a PhD entomologist, educator, artist, and mother in the Silicon Valley area. She teaches super fun hands-on bug classes for kids of all ages through her company and alias “Beetle Lady.” I’ve had the fortune of seeing some of her collection, including many pet insects and other invertebrates such as tarantulas. I have also been able to nature journal insects at her house and take her How to Draw Insects class. Check out her awesome reviews and offerings at her website.

Why Nature Journal Bugs?

  • Incomparable beauty. First of all, they are mindbogglingly beautiful. Where else in nature can you see the bright colors, intricate patterns, and fascinating forms of insects?
  • Diversity and Adaptations. Bugs display more diversity than almost any other type of life in addition to their beauty. Not only that, bu they also have some of the most fascinating and extreme behaviors and adaptations! Bugs do weirder stuff than any aliens in science fiction.
  • They are accessible and ubiquitous. Insects and other invertebrates can be found almost anywhere!  Mammals, reptiles, and even birds are not that easy to find or look at. This reason by itself would be enough to make them an important subject for nature journaling.
  • They are essential to ecosystems. Bugs provide so many services that humans could not survive without them. They are also a food source for many animals that people think are more cute. For example: no bugs=no birds.

3 Pro Tips: How to Nature Journal Bugs

  1. Learn to find them. First of all, you should improve your ability to find cool bugs in the wild. Practice looking under things, noticing damaged leaves, noticing other signs of invertebrates.
  2. Connect the dots. Pay attention to the relationships that your favorite plants and animals have to bugs. What more can you learn about the birds and plants this way? Even if you “dislike bugs” this could be eye opening.
  3. Get a pet. Bugs actually make great pets. They are good for kids and adults. They can provide a source of endless nature journaling inspiration. To see more about nature journaling pet insect check out this fun episode  with tips on how to nature journal your pet!

The Nature Journal Show in 2020…

It was a weird year but the Nature Journal Show persevered! In 2020 I made over 60 episodes packed full of humor, tips, interviews, and motivation. Making these episodes for the nature journaling community was a life saver for me this year.

If you want the summary before you watch the video than here you go…

15 Reasons the Nature Journal Show is Great!

  1. Humor. Funny is fun and it helps you learn better.
  2. Practical tips. Very practical in-depth tips on more aspects of nature journaling than you even knew existed.
  3. Science-based facts. Did you know that nature journaling burns calories?  Now you do.
  4. Ideas for everyone. Whether you are a home school family in Montana or you live in an apartment, the nature journal show has ideas for you!
  5. Self-awareness. An essential life skill discussed in almost every episode.
  6. Cool wildlife sightings. Falcons, frogs, felines, snakes, salamanders, spiders. Yup, come along for the adventure.
  7. Risking my life to make good videos. Whether I’m crawling through cactus and rattlesnake habitat or painting at the edge of a cliff I go the extra mile.
  8. Nature journaling where no one has before. I take you along for the adventure and test supplies in the weirdest conditions: up in trees, in ponds, on kayaks, whitewater rafts, and waterfalls.
  9. Overcoming discomfort to push the envelope. I don’t let swarming flies, mosquito attacks, wildfire smoke, or extreme weather stop me from making episodes every week.
  10. Innovative teaching techniques. I’m 100% committed to your learning even if it means I lose all the hairs on my arm or make a fool of myself.
  11. Hands-on teaching style. No chance of getting bored.
  12. Honesty. I share my personal struggles and keep it real.
  13. Dedication. I’m dedicated to crafting the best videos even if I have to burn a sketchbook.
  14. Good ideas. What other art teacher recommended you get a massage?
  15. Good stories. The nature journal takes you along for captivating stories.

 

Fish Illustration With Paul Vecsei on the Nature Journal Show

Paul Vecsei’s fish illustration is world class. His underwater fish photography is spellbinding, and his fisheries work is critical. So let’s dive into the world of fish, why they matter, and how to apply this to your nature journaling!

I first found out about Paul’s work on instagram @Fish_As_Art. The more I started looking into his work the more I knew I had to interview him. Eventually this conversation turned out to be one of the most fun I have had in a long time!

Fish Illustration Essentials

I asked Paul why does science illustration still matter in a world of photography. Since Paul does both I though he would have an objective answer. His response was short and to the point.

“Photos are plagued by their honesty.”

With drawing it is possible for the artist to focus on the characteristics that are most important. In contrast, a photograph blindly captures the way light is bouncing off a subject. For example, when Paul does a fish illustration he can be sure to depict the morphology that is essential for identifying that species. It is also possible to make sure all the fins are fully open which is important for identifying fish. It is also possible to do very clear comparisons between sexes for example.Fish Illustration, how to draw fish, why science illustration can be better than photography.

Why Fish Matter

Fish photography and fish illustrations by Paul Vecsei
Photo copyright by Paul Vecsei

Fish are one of the most widespread animals on earth. They exist throughout the oceans and there are fish on or around every continent. As such they make up an important part of the food chain and are very important source of protein for humans. Paul also points out that they are intrinsically worthy of study and respect due to their fascinating behaviors, adaptations, and beauty.

Fish Illustration Tips for Nature Journaling

  1. Pay attention to the context. Even if you can’t see the fish clearly or at all you can draw and record information about the aquatic ecosystem. Also look out for the presence or absence of fish hunting animals, fish remains on shore, and other signs of fish. Whether you see fish or not this information will add a lot to your pages and your learning.
  2. Bring the fish to you. Instead of hoping that you will see a fish from the shore or trying to nature journal the fish that someone catches you can take matters into your own hands. Try bringing a simple dip net and a cheap plastic portable terrarium. Now you can catch small fish  and keep them in water for a while to draw them. If you really want to be advanced you can get a photarium.Fish illustration toolsFish illustration tools
  3. Become aquatic yourself. If you want to take it even further you should get a snorkel. This is gonna be the next step for me. Paul spends a lot of time in the water with fish and he says it is very easy. Most of the action is in very shallow water. You can take photos easily with a GoPro, make your observations and then journal when you get dry. If you want some tips for nature journaling around water then check out this post.

If you want to see the amazing lightning round with Paul then you’ll have to watch the interview on my Youtube channel.

You can see more of Paul’s fish illustrations and fish photography at his Flickr site. And you can follow him on his Instagram where he also posts his fish drawings, fisheries research, and photos of tasty pastries!

fish illustration and fish science illustration by Paul Vecsei
Fish Illustration Copyright By Paul Vecsei

Pink Salmon Illustration by Paul Vecsei

How to Nature Journal on a Kayak

Learning how to nature journal on a kayak can take your enjoyment of nature to the next level. You are guaranteed to see new things because a kayak is an easy way to access hidden areas. Even a small lake in a crowded park will have niches that you can reach while everyone else is walking on the trails. You can have a more immersive nature experience all to yourself.

However, there are also some challenges about nature journaling from a kayak. These challenges prevent many people from even trying. I made this video to help you overcome those challenges.

Ten Tips for How to Nature Journal on a Kayak

  1. First of all choose a good location. You want a location that is close, convenient, calm, and comfortable. This will make it easier to nature journal.
  2. Practice kayaking and nature journaling separately first. It is exponentially harder to learn two new skills at the same time than to learn one. The more you can practice these skills separately the better you will do when you combine them.
  3. Keep your supplies simple. Don’t bring expensive stuff that you will get precious about. You don’t want to be fumbling with lots of stuff.
  4. Be safe. Follow all safety recommendations for the body of water where you kayak.
  5. Go with a friend. This is safer but also much more motivating.
  6. Plan for the sun. Be sure to wear a hat and sun protection.
  7. Deal with drift. It is hard to stay still while you are nature journaling from a kayak. Some options: use an anchor, do quick sketches only, wedge yourself in plants or mud, use a tandem kayak, or plan for the drift and set yourself up accordingly.
  8. Take care of your basic needs. Warmth, food, hydration, comfort are essential. If you don’t take care of these don’t expect great nature journaling.
  9. Use the kayak for access. In addition to nature journaling in the kayak you can use the kayak to access islands and other areas you normally couldn’t. Then just hop out and do some land-lubber nature journaling.
  10. Lastly, find the right balance between accessibility and protection of your supplies. Inside a ziplock at the bottom of a cinched-down dry bag strapped into the back of your kayak you might be a safe place for your journal but you will never take it out. It will stay dry and safe but it will also be unused. If you leave your journal in your lap while you paddle it might get wet.
Want to learn about watercolor and watch another nature journal adventure? Check out this post.
If you want to learn more about kayaking check out this article at REI.

How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

Did you know that you can improve a drawing 75% before you even start drawing? Knowing how to use a viewfinder for drawing landscapes is the first step. Whether you are a nature journaler or a plein air painter this video and blog post will help you.

Why Your Eyes Betray You

Your visual system is not setup for making great art. Your visual system is setup for keeping your butt alive. What does that even mean? Our eyes and the visual centers of our brain are good at paying attention to our surroundings. We are good at scanning large areas and paying attention to the big picture. However, there is a lot more information coming through your eyes than what you can fit on your paper or your canvas. This is especially dangerous for drawing landscapes. A lot of times we are attracted to the expansiveness in a landscape. If we aren’t careful we bite off too much. We try too big of a drawing. We get frustrated, we get lost in the details, and we lose touch with the basic artistic priorities.

Your most important job as an artist is to make intentional decisions about what visual information to include and what to ignore.

If you don’t know how to make good decisions or even worse if you don’t realize you have to make decisions then your drawing will suffer. Using a viewfinder helps you be more intentional and disciplined. Your field of view with both eyes is between 200 and 220 degrees! That is far more than you can fit on paper.

How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

How to make a viewfinder
  1. Save the plastic container that salad mix comes in or get a sheet of cardstock or other heavy paper.
  2. Decide what shape you are going to make your viewfinder. Put some thought into how this shape will fit on your pages. For more about composition and layout of journal pages see this video.
  3. Trace your shape and carefully cut it with an X-acto knife or scissors.
  4. You can add grid lines to help you with proportions.
  5. Go out and use it right away!

Pro tip: Make multiple viewfinders of different shapes and sizes for your kit.

I really started using a viewfinder before my second trip to Tanzania and it really made my nature journal pages much better.How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

Once you know how to use a viewfinder for drawing landscapes you will thank me!

How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

If you want a step-by-step guide to landscape drawing in your nature journal check out this post.

How to Nature Journal Without Fear!

In this video I show you how to nature journal without fear, because I think it’s the most important thing for your nature journaling.

Why Nature Journaling Without Fear matters more than anything else

There are certain skills that automatically improve the more you nature journal. That is the good news. These aspects of nature journaling  are easy to teach, easy to learn, and easy to pick up from repetition. However, there are other things that you will not automatically get better at. In fact, these things could actually get worse as you become a more experienced nature journaler or advanced artist. I know many veteran nature journalers who struggle with these challenges.  What am I talking about? I’m talking about fear.

If you don’t have the best drawing skills it will affect your nature journaling somewhat. But if you are afraid of trying new things on your pages or are too intimidated to share your work it could hamper your nature journaling for life. Your drawing skills will probably get better just with more practice but your fears might not. It is easy to identify your drawing shortcomings, take a class, practice and get better. It is not easy to take a class to help you deal with your artistic fears and obstacles. You might not even be able to correctly diagnose the source of your mental obstacles or the fears that are holding you back.

Because of all these reasons I have decided that helping people be more fearless in their nature journaling approach is the most important thing I can share. If you want to learn how to nature journal without fear you might be interested in my one-on-one coaching.

Types of Fear in Nature Journaling

So, how does fear manifest itself in our practice of nature journaling? Following are some examples of fears related to perfectionism:

  • Fear of messing up, making mistakes, making bad drawings
  • Fear of nature journaling certain subjects: animals, movement, action, pets.

There are also major social fears. Such as:

  • Fear of feedback, judgement, or criticism.
  • Fear of nature journaling in public, sharing our work, or nature journaling with other people. Sometimes, this manifests itself as a fear to share our pages with certain people such as our family or spouse.

There are also the fears  from being too precious:

  • The fear of wasting materials, art supplies, or expensive paper.
  • Fear of ruining a pretty journal page or a fancy journal.
  • Fear of trying new techniques or new materials.

There are also fears of commitment:

  • Indecision around which subject to commit to, which vista to draw, which park to go to. We are afraid that we might miss something better. There might be a more beautiful subject, a more interesting plant just around the corner. This can be a paralyzing fear that might lead you to only take photos with your phone and never pull out your sketchbook.
  • Fear of permanence, fear of ink, over attachment to erasers and graphite or overuse of non-photo blue pencil.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that has primed us for these problems. For example, I know many adults who are simply afraid to draw. Maybe this fear is the result of an unfortunate childhood experience. Most of us have also been ingrained with the fixed mindset. This mindset assumes that we are born with certain immutable talents and limitations and can not learn new skills.

We often build up layers of rationalizations and habits of avoidance around these fears making them even harder to identify. Do we really prefer such a tidy style or are we just afraid to make mistakes on the page? Are botanical subjects really all we want to do or are we just afraid of drawing moving animals?

What Fearless Nature Journaling Looks like

So what does nature journaling without fear actually look like?

I have gotten glimpses of fearless nature journaling in Nature Journal Show interviews with Amaya Shreeve and Heather Crellin. What do these two have in common? Both are relatively new to nature journaling. Both seem to take real joy in the process. In addition, they both focus on quantity and frequency of nature journaling even if it is just a short session.

How Can You Nature Journal Without Fear?

If you want help nature journaling without fear I can help. Sign up for persoanlized coaching with me. We will look at your pages, I will listen to your joys and challenges and we will come up with a plan.

I’m currently offering one hour sessions on Tuesday and Thursdays afternoons and Sunday Mornings. Click on one of the available dates (in white) then choose a time slot.