Nature Journaling Australia: LIVE with Paula Peeters

What makes nature journaling in Australia so different from everywhere else? Find out from Paula Peeters, a nature journaler, teacher, writer, scientist, and conservationist from Australia.  In this episode of the Nature Journal Show, Marley interviews Paula about her books, different ways of describing a place, the ideal nature journal outing, resources for Aussie nature journalers, and what makes nature journaling Australia so special.

How do you describe a place?

If you’re Paula Peeters, you use a diversity of different ways to describe a place.  Sometimes she goes for in-depth drawings that focus on details and take time to complete.  Other times, Paula might opt for a cartoon – it’s easier to capture details quickly when you’re cartooning.  Both approaches are very useful, depending on what Paula is after in her nature journaling session.

Paula birds cartoon
Here, Paula uses a cartoon approach so she can capture the diversity of birds she sees quickly. This helps her draw multiple birds and take down more information than if she had focused on getting one perfect in-depth drawing.

A particularly ingenious way of describing the complexity of a place is with a “folding forest” – Paula creates pages with lifting flaps and expanding backgrounds, so you can see what’s going on in the skies above and the earth below a particular ecosystem.  Using such a variety of ways to show information can help deepen your understanding of that place, as well as the nature journaling experience itself.

To help other people engage in the places she cares about, Paula also writes books.  Some are books to help people get outside more, such as Take This Book for a Walk and Make a Date With Nature. Others are coloring books of different habitats and the species living in them – some of which are threatened.  By allowing the reader/colorer to go on an adventure in her books, Paula gives them an emotional investment into the wellbeing of these places.

Paula folding forest
Paula makes flaps that lift so she can choose information to hide and reveal – a playful way of nature journaling as well as interactive for the reader.

What is different about the nature journaling experience in Australia?

Nature journal clubs have been growing all over Australia.  Marley asks Paula why she thinks Australia is nature journaling so much.  Here are three possible factors, according to Paula:

  1. In Australia, you can go outside most of the year.  The winters are not so severe – there is seldom snow, for example.
  2. There is extraordinary nature in Australia.  The trees are largely evergreen – there are over 800 different species of Eucalyptus alone! – and there is a diversity of certain animals you would not be able to find anywhere else in the world.  Paula is quick to point out that there are not huge predatory animals, unlike in North America – though Australia is home to many poisonous and venomous animals!
  3. Related to the last point: there are large parts of Australia that are still unchanged from when the European settlers first came, about 200 years ago.  This means that there might be intact ecosystems and wild spaces, places to explore in an increasingly urbanized world.
Paula tree drawing
In this drawing, Paula takes time to add lots of details such as texture and shadows to make the tree come alive.

Adding to INIWIRMO

One of the core tools in nature journaling is observation, and there is a commonly used three-pronged prompt that can help facilitate that process: “I Notice”, “I Wonder”, and “It Reminds Me Of”, or INIWIRMO for short.  Paula adds one more prompt when she is sharing this activity with her students: “How does it (make me) feel?”  (So would that be INIWIRMOHDIF?)  Anyone can follow these prompts:

  1. First, write down what you notice in the environment around you.  This can be things to do with the 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste), or the different species you see, or different behaviors you observe, or other things that are around you.  Caution: try to refrain from making assumptions about what you’re seeing.  You might observe
  2. Next, write down questions that came up for you while you were observing the environment.  You can write down question chains, where one inquiry leads to another, which leads to more.  You don’t have to actually answer any of these questions!  For now, let the curiosity flow.
  3. Then, write down any connections you’ve made.  Perhaps you’re watching an eddy in a river, and it reminds you of water going down the drain in your bathtub – write that down!  Regularly making connections between seemingly unrelated things improves our creativity and changes our thinking.  Plus, by making a comparison of something you see in nature to something that is very familiar to you, you will remember it better, and it might just give you more questions AND more answers!
  4. Finally, write down how you’re feeling about what you’ve been experiencing so far.  When we connect to things personally, we remember them better; so remembering how something personally made us feel then attaches an emotion to that experience.  Paula strongly believes (and we agree!) that nature journaling can promote health and wellness.  And by caring for ourselves in nature, we can also learn to care for nature.

There are so many lessons we can learn from Paula!  Her greatest passion, as a teacher, writer, and scientist, is to connect people with the natural world in as many ways as possible.  We save what we care about; to get people to invest in conservation long-term, we must help each other to experience nature firsthand.  Let’s follow Paula’s example.

 

To see more of Paula’s work and resources (including her downloadable coloring books!) please visit her website: https://www.paperbarkwriter.com

Want to see an interview with another Australian nature journaler?  Check out Marley’s interview with Dion Dior here.

There are several nature journaling clubs in Australia!  Check them out:

Nature journaling Australia: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NatureJournalingAustralia

Brisbane Nature Journal Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/379012613071527 and https://www.journalingwithnature.com/brisbane-nature-journal-club

Noosa & Sunshine Coast Nature Journal Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/4007241289308006

Nature Journal Adventures: https://www.facebook.com/groups/582915913094715

Melbourne Nature Journal Club: https://www.amydiana.co/workshops

Newcastle Nature Journaling Club: https://www.henriettamooney.com/newcastle-nature-journaling-club-1

Gold Coast Nature Journal Group: https://www.paperbarkwriter.com/nature-journal-group/?fbclid=IwAR34AEw0R6pEhPgr21UirLCxfdb9jYKABqNjjWIX0Fz3XwsMdaLpzWiorVs

Nature Journal Club of Canberra and Queanbeyan: https://www.facebook.com/groups/natureclubcanberra/

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