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.
Click here for more how-to nature journal videos.

 

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

 

Landscape Drawing In Your Nature Journal-With Charcoal!

Do you want to practice landscape drawing while improving your nature sketches? If so, practicing drawing landscapes with charcoal can help you.

First, and most importantly, drawing with charcoal will help you see values better. But what are values, you might ask.  Value is the art term for how dark something is. We think about color a lot but actually value is more important. Below is an example of a value strip showing  levels of value.

landscape drawing requires an understanding of value. This value strip shows light to dark in nine stages.

While charcoal is not the most convenient material for the field it offers many benefits. Foremost being its ease at achieving precise values (especially compared to watercolor). It can also be challenging for perfectionist people like myself.

Landscape Drawing: How to Use Charcoal in 10 Steps

  1. First, choose a landscape photo that has extreme values. For more about how to choose a good photo for a landscape see this video
  2. Next, start by drawing in some of the darkest areas that you see.
  3. Don’t think about edges. Instead focus on the mass of objects and use your charcoal to draw from the inside then towards the outside of shapes. This goes against how we usually draw.
  4. Next, use a rag or paper towel to smudge the charcoal around the paper. By so doing you are knocking the values back down towards the middle.
  5. After knocking the values back to the middle ground take some time. Look closely at your subject and adjust the values in your drawing accordingly. What in your landscape drawing needs to be darker.
  6. Now you can knock the values back down with the rag.
  7. Next, use an eraser to lighten some of the values in your drawing that are too dark.
  8. Repeat steps four through seven a couple times.
  9. Stop before you start fussing over details too much.
  10. Start another drawing. You will get better by doing many landscape drawings. Don’t rest on your laurels if your first try looks good. And don’t give up if your first try looks bad.

For more inspiration around drawing landscapes in your nature journal check out this video by John Muir Laws.

 

Nature Comics to Show Action in Your Nature Journal

Have you ever witnessed an exciting event in nature? An action even that you could not represent in your nature journal? If so, then nature comics might be the perfect strategy for you to practice.

This video did not turn out the way I was planning…However, nature is like that. And if we practice some of the techniques of comics and graphic novels we will be ready for the unexpected.

First, and most importantly, don’t give up if what you are observing in nature doesn’t turn out according to your plan. I thought that I was going to make a nature comic about my snake eating. However, my snake was shedding and was not interested in eating. Unfortunately, I had already laid out my page assuming it would be about the snake eating! At this point I almost gave up but instead I stuck with it. A comic can tell any story so don’t worry if it is not the story you were planning on.

Nature Comics Tips

  1. First, Be aware of anthropomorphizing. It is easy to project human feelings and thoughts and communication onto non human beings. This can be useful in some ways and can make your subject relatable. However, it is important to be aware of this. It is therefore important to be aware of the fact that we can not truly know what other animals are feeling or thinking.
  2. Next, be intentional about choosing your frames. Unlike a video, in nature comics you have an extreme limit on the perspectives you can show. As such, it is important to choose your frames with care. What is the most useful for telling the story you want to tell? For more about this check out the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
  3. Last but not least, look for subject matters around you in your house. Maybe there is a pet or something that you have never paid attention to. Perhaps the way that your cat eats its food or plays with a toy could be the source of a nature comic that will help you hone your skills.

Flower Drawing in Your Nature Journal

Do you like flowers? Do you like drawing? If so then this video about flower drawing in your nature journal is for you!

First, it is important to understand some basic botany to help you draw flowers accurately. In addition to making your drawing better this will also help you understand plant families. However, we will keep the technical terms to a minimum.

Drawing Flowers: These three Botany terms help.

  1. Inflorescence. This is a grouping or cluster of flowers. Many “flowers” that we think of such as a sunflower are actually an inflorescence.
  2. Corolla. This is not the car by Toyota. The corolla refers to all the petals combined, whether they are fused together or not.
  3. Calyx. Similarly to the corolla this term refers to the next parts down. Underneath the petals on many flowers there are sepals. We can use the term calyx to refer to all the sepals whether they are fused or not.

flower drawing diagram showing inflorescence, calyx, and corolla

Now that we know some basic terms let’s start drawing flowers! We are going to do three plant families today and draw flowers representing each one.

Drawing Flower Families

First, let’s look at the amazingly diverse Malvaceae. This is the cotton family and currently contains around 4,225 known species! When drawing these flowers pay attention to the 5 petals, and the 5 to numerous male parts often forming a tube. For more check out the wikipedia page about this plant family.

Next, is the Solanaceae. This notorious family contains many edible plants such as tomatoes and poisonous ones. When drawing this flower family look for 5 part symmetry such as five petals, five sepals, and five male parts. The female part is usually solitary. Sometimes, the petals (corolla) form into a tube. For more check out the wikipedia page about this plant family.

Lastly, is the Boraginaceae. This family contains around 2,000 known species including borage, Pride of Madera, and Forget-Me-Nots. When drawing these flowers look for a scorpioid inflorescence. Also look for 5 lobed calyx and corolla. For more about the Boraginaceae check out the wikipedia page on this plant family.

For more flower drawing ideas check out this post: Botany Basics For Nature Journaling