Follow me in this video as I explain some of the ideas that have emerged while I’m dealing with recent surgery to my wrist. As an artist, writer, and nature journaler, any setback to my dominant hand is a big deal.
On my website I share what I’m going through right now, my learning process, and my own personal challenges. As usual, email me if you have any interesting experiences or ideas around this subject matter. If you find this video helpful or valuable please share it with a friend.
In December we will meet at the Laguna de Santa Rosa trail during the most exciting and most beautiful time of day! The crepuscular hours are when many raptors can be seen hunting and many mammals are out in the open. Every time I walk this trail near sunset I’m surprised by how many birds I see and by the incredibly lit landscapes. Last time, I saw a family of owls!
We will focus on techniques for drawing and painting quick landscapes and how to crop and choose a good composition. We will also work a lot on colors and light as the sun drops. While we are working on these, there will probably be cool bird sightings mixed in.
This trail is a very easy hike on flat and mostly paved paths. It is wheelchair accessible. We won’t cover much distance and we will probably have long stationary moments. The weather is unpredictable and can get cool as the sun drops. Bring a packable snack item to share because we will eat on the trail. A foldable lightweight stool and binoculars will be very handy on this trip.
For this trip we will meet later than usual at 1:30pm until 5:00pm to allow us to be out in nature at a special time of day. Our potluck will therefore be more of a “Linner” than a lunch. Meet at the Laguna de Santa Rosa trail parking lot off of Hwy 12 just before the entrance to Sebastopol. There is no address or street name but it is the next turnout after this Saddle Shop: 6144 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol, CA 95472 and before the Chevron.
If it is raining hard the morning of the event we will meet at our backup location, California Carnivores, and draw the incredible plants inside their wonderful greenhouses!The address is:
California Carnivores 2833 Old Gravenstein Hwy Sebastopol, CA 95472
In November we will hike back out to Tomales Point for a second chance or a double dose of the Tule Elk! We went once in September and it was awesome! There should still be some of the mating season behavior at this time of year and we will get an opportunity to document it in our journals. We will focus on learning how to draw ungulates, how to draw antlers, and how to creatively depict action sequences in your journal. There will also be plenty of opportunity for painting landscapitos.
The weather is variable at this coastal location so be prepared for everything. The hiking will be moderately strenuous due to the distances we will try to cover but the terrain will not be too technical. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, bring a folding stool, binoculars, and a potluck item to share on the trail.
We will meet at 10 am at the Tomales Point trailhead parking lot at the very end of Pierce Point road near the old white barns. Look for people standing around with sketchbooks. This excursion will go longer than our usual meetup to take advantage of this special opportunity. 10am-4pm, potluck lunch at 12:30.
RAINY DAY BACKUP PLAN: If lots of rain is in the forecast, check this site the morning of the event. We will go to the Bear Valley Visitor center in Point Reyes where we can sketch birds and landscapitos from the covered porch or sketch any of the fine collection of taxidermied animals inside. Last time I was there during a rain I saw and journaled a sharp shinned hawk hunting a song bird in the bushes just yards away! The address is 1 Bear Valley Visitor Center Access Road, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956
Be prepared for Nature Journaling goosebumps and a good dose of charismatic mammalian megafauna!
On October 22nd I will be geeking out with my nature journal at the reptile expo in Santa Rosa at the fairgrounds!! It will be a great opportunity to see a diversity of willing models from around the world. As you might know I am passionate about sketching snakes and really look forward to drawing some of the endlessly fascinating color patterns on their skins.
Look for parking at the Veterans hall across the street. 1351 Maple Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95404. There will be paid parking available also closer to the entrance to the fairgrounds. To get into the expo costs 10$. Journalers and sketchers will meet inside the Hall of Flowers. Just come inside and look for people with sketchbooks. Bring your small nature journaling shoulder bags if you have them. I will bring my kit that I use when I sketch at zoos and museums. Also bring snacks for yourself and a potluck item to share. We will probably have a chance to return to our cars for the potluck at 12:30.
During my trip to Tanzania, I used my nature journal and my pocket notebook for drawing and writing and I used my phone for photos, short videos, and audio recordings. With this diverse toolbox I tried to document my observations, feeling, and impressions.
The following is a recording where I review my second day:
It was the first day of the Nature Journal Safari and contains many of my first landscape scale impressions from the hours of cross-country driving.
One correction from the audio regarding the hanging beehives. I think they are not actually managed hives but traps for enticing homeless swarms.
I was not expecting so many agaves.
While we were waiting for our permits to enter Tarangire national park I sketched the elephant skull then posed in front of it. Thanks to Dana Vallarino for the photo.
A page of sketches from that morning.
I took this photo when Impalas were so fresh and novel. By the time we left the Serengeti, Impalas and Gazelle by the hundreds were commonplace.
I started the North Coast Nature Journal Club as a way to share my personal passion for observation and learning and as a way to connect with other people in nature. Sonoma and Marin counties in Northern California are full of diverse and rich ecosystems and there are many people interested in connecting with nature. On the third Sunday of every month we explore a different location, from sand dunes to mixed oak savanna. We use our sketchbooks as a substrate for our interaction with the natural world. I’m passionate about facilitating learning in a group and we constantly bounce ideas off each other and otherwise benefit from nature journaling as a group.
There was once a ceramics teacher who did an experiment with his students. He told half the class to make as many pots as they could over the course of the semester, focusing on quantity not quality. He told the other half of the class to put all their energy and inspiration into making the single best pot they could. He told the first group they would be graded solely on quantity and the second group on quality.
At the end of the semester the teacher compared the pots of the two groups. Guess which group had produced the best pots?
Those students who had focused on producing as many pots as possible were free to practice without fixation on a finished product. They were able to learn and improve their skill. Ironically, the group that was told not to think about quality ended up producing finer pots. It appears that we learn better and faster when we are focused more on the practicing then on the outcome, a concept beautifully described in the book “The Practicing Mind.”
Simply put, sketchers learn faster.
Let yourself scribble, jot, sketch. Just fill up the page. Just keep your pencil moving and your eyes observing your subject. Just let your brain ask questions about what you see. If you do this regularly, you will learn much faster, you will improve. Ironically, you will begin to produce the superior images whose elusive promise inhibited your learning in the beginning.
This learning principle applies to most physical and intellectual pursuits that I can think of.