Nature Journaling Reptiles

Nature journaling reptiles is one of my favorite things! Let’s sketch and learn about these animals together with Rachael from Doodlebugs animal adventures. Rachael will share Russian tortoises, weird frogs, as well as a legless lizard! In addition, I will share some other reptile nature journal pages below.

Rachael Wallman is a biologist, mom, and animal lover. She runs Doodlebugs Animal Adventures an animal education business. There are a lot of cool animals living in her house. However, for today’s show we are just going to focus on the reptiles and amphibians.

Nature Journaling Reptiles when they keep moving?!

By this point you might be asking: “How can I draw moving animals?” While Rachael holds up her animals and shares info about them I do my best to capture quick sketches and notes. Here are several tricks I use in this situation:

  1. First, start as soon as possible. The longer you wait to start sketching and nature journaling the harder it will be to start.
  2. Next, think of your drawings as diagrams instead of as definitive works of art. Diagrams can be drawn quickly and capture lots of info.
  3. Draw fast. Draw a lot. Similarly to the last point this takes pressure off your drawing. In reality, if you just keep your pencil moving and you keep looking at your subject then you are succeeding. You are learning. That is what nature journaling is all about.
  4. Fourth, don’t get obsessed with details. Many amphibians and especially reptiles are covered in complex patterns and textures. Trying to capture these details from a moving animal will drive you crazy. Instead, try to capture gesture drawings of the basic shapes and essence of the animal.

    nature journaling reptiles at the san francisco zoo where they have a komodo dragon, the largest living lizard in the world. I use many quick sketches to try to capture the essence of this reptile as I try to draw it live. It was moving a lot. I added the color afterwards to the drawing.
    I kept my pen moving as I tried to capture the shapes of this komodo dragon as it kept moving. I added the color afterwards.
  5. Break your subject up and focus on small parts at a time. For example try just drawing the eye over and over again.
nature journaling reptiles is easier when you try to focus on small parts at a time. You can draw just they lizard eye over and over again for example.
Nature Journal Page of Polychrus marmoratus aka monkey lizard
The Reptiles we nature journaled in this episode
  • The Russian Tortoise was the first reptile we nature journaled in this episode.
  • Rachael took out her big adult gopher snake next! This one was moving slightly less than the tortoise but presented other challenges.
  • We looked at her Crested Gecko next! This animal was super fun and kept licking its eyeball and jumping onto the camera!
  • Then it was finally time for an amphibian with a “Dumpy Frog.”
  • Last but not least we nature journaled a legless lizard!

Learn more about Rachael’s animals and learn from her entertaining posts on her instagram

Do you live in the Orange County area of California? I suggest you check out Rachaels in-person classes or bring her to your school, library, etc! Kids love them! Learn more here.

nature journaling reptiles and how to draw reptiles with doodlebugs animal adventures

If you are just getting started with nature journaling check out this post : 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

Here are some more example pages of nature journaling reptiles in other situations
example page of nature journaling reptiles looking at a live lizard and doing many sketches trying to capture the head shape of this Uranoscodon superciliosus aka mophead iguana.
Nature journal page drawings of a Uranoscodon superciliosus aka mophead iguana. This species was not moving much but I still used some of the same tactics outlined above.
nature journaling reptiles example page showing snake drawings I did from life of captive amazonian puffing snake
Part of a nature journal page showing sketches of puffing snake heads. You can see how I added details to some of the gesture sketches. Despite the fact that this snake was not moving much I still used the same tactics mentioned for how to draw moving reptiles.
nature journaling rattlesnake juvenile in the field.
Here is a page where the reptile was not moving much but I still had a short amount of time to nature journal because it was a field-herping trip. You can see that I separate my drawings, focusing on different elements of the rattlesnake in different micro-drawings. I do several small drawings of the head. I do a side view of the pattern and I even do a drawing showing the snake on a rock and my friend’s hand offering it water.

The Polychrus, Uranascodon, and Amazonian Puffing snake were all nature journaled in the reptile room of my friend Roy. You can check out his herpetoculture practice and species in his care on instagram here. If you are interested in nature journaling reptiles it is a good option to find people who raise reptiles and ask to visit their reptile room. Another option is to go to reptile shows or herpetology clubs.

Nature Journaling Kid

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to nature journal all day, everyday? Does such a dream seem unattainable and far-fetched? Let our resident nature journaling kid, Raybonto, show you how he does it.

This week, Marley set out to answer the question: Who is Raybonto?

When Marley sat down to interview him, Raybonto was quick to show him his recent pages.  First was a field sketch of a tree: he wrote down and labeled the colors he saw, drew himself into the picture, and then estimated in feet the height of the tree. He also did a blind contour, something he says he almost never does in his nature journal, and then he followed up with a values sketch. On that particular day, he did not have any colors with him.

Raybonto's tree study
Raybonto does a field sketch of a tree.

“You can label them and color them back home if you can’t color them in the field, or you can just color them from your memory.”

Later, he was inspired by Marley’s video about how to nature journal while standing up.  

Nature Journaling Kid, Raybonto, sketching while standing
Raybonto uses his bicycle to hold his nature journal steady while he sketches.
Raybonto learns from different teachers

One of the youngest active nature journalers in the community, Raybonto is also one of the most fearless.  Regularly attending classes taught by John Muir Laws, Brian Higginbotham, Melinda Nakagawa, Yvea Moore, and others, Raybonto soaks in their ideas and practices like a sponge before making them his own.  Often, he brings up other naturalists and artists whose work he has studied.

Want to meet a nature journaling teen?  Check out Marley’s interview with Amaya here.

Raybonto fills the whole page

One thing that stands out about Raybonto is the way he uses the space of each page.  Recently John Muir Laws had taught a class on botany, so Raybonto showed Marley his notes.  There were at least 20 individual sketches over the two-page spread, as well as color swatches in every available space.  When Raybonto draws, he doesn’t get tied down to any one drawing; instead he fills his pages completely, drawing a subject multiple times, from different angles, sometimes using different media with each sketch.  He keeps two main sketchbooks: a practice sketchbook, and a field journal.

Nature journaling kid Raybonto's page of snakes

He has also been experimenting with toned paper, using both colored pencils and watercolor.  That brings his total of active sketchbooks to three.

Raybonto is not afraid to experiment

Before his current notebooks, Raybonto had previously been using a watercolor pad as well, though he found he was not able to be as diverse with his media on it.  He felt he had to always include watercolor on the paper, so changing to a different journal allowed him to use whatever media best suited him at any particular time.  

He experiments with any and all media he can get his hands, whether it’s regular paper, toned paper, colored pencils, watercolors, or a 12B graphite pencil – his current favorite.  By experimenting with so many different media, Raybonto all but guarantees he would be able to pick up almost any tool and be able to nature journal with it.  This only adds to his resiliency as a nature journal.

nature journal kid Raybonto draws horses

Raybonto nature journals every single day

For many of us, nature journaling every day might be a goal set too high.  We have other obligations in our lives, and it might feel impossible to squeeze time in for time in nature.  There is no need to beat ourselves up for this.  At the same time, it is more than OK to let Raybonto inspire us. He more than makes the time for nature journaling; rather, it appears he makes nature journaling the center of his day and schedules everything else around it.  Raybonto truly exemplifies devotion and treating nature journaling not as a hobby, but rather as a way of life.

nature journaling kid Raybonto's pencil miles
Our nature journaling kid, Raybonto

If you are totally new to nature journaling you can get started here with how to nature journal in 10 steps.

 

 

How To Nature Journal From Your Window!

Do you know how to nature journal from your window? This nature journaling technique is useful on cold, snowy, or rainy days. It is also useful during global pandemics or if you can not get outside for other reasons.

Do you ever not feel motivated to nature journal? Do you ever feel down in the winter? I feel those things too despite what you might think from my video persona.  Luckily, nature journaling makes me feel better regardless of how low energy or depressed I’m feeling. I didn’t want to make this live episode. I had a lot of self doubt about whether I had the right “energy” to nature journal. That’s why I started and ended with a gratitude exercise. Because your mindset is the foundation of your nature journaling and your life.

How to Nature Journal From Your Window in 3 Steps
  1. Set the Stage: You want to do this more than once. Therefore you need to find a good location.
    1. First, it should be convenient. A gorgeous view is nice but if you are teetering at the top of a stairwell it is not worth it. Also consider your family movements. Where will you be disturbed the least? The less energy to initiate a session the better. If you have to move a ton of furniture each time forget it.
    2. Second, it should be consistent. This way you get into a habit more easily.
    3. Last, consider the view. Is there a variety of stuff to see?
  2. Set Your Expectations: Ok, maybe this should have been first. Create realistic expectations and clarify your goals around nature journaling from the window. I strongly recommend input based goals not output based goals. For example, “I will nature journal from my window for 15 minutes every day.” In contrast “I will paint a pretty sunset in watercolor every day.”Which of these goals is more achievable?
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

Nature Journal Homeschool Ideas and Growth Mindset: Podcast Interview

Want some nature journal homeschool ideas? Want to learn about how a growth mindset can help your kids? Check out this interview with homeschool mom, podcaster, and art educator Dallas Nachtigall!

Bestowing the Brush is a podcast about passing on drawing skills to the next generation. Principles and practices of Charlotte Mason. Always exploring The Art of Seeing.

In this conversation I talk about how instilling a growth mindset can help kids and adults learn better, work harder, and build sustainable self confidence. In addition to growth mindset we share other key nature journal homeschool ideas that can help your family.

Obviously this all sounds great! If you are ready to dive in then you might be interested in the Nature Journal Family for February.

Earlier in the year I got to interview Dallas on the Nature Journal Show. It’s called Homeschool Nature Study with Dallas Nachtigall. She shares some of the benefits that nature study has brought to her family and shares some practical tips!

How I got Started with Nature Journaling

Have you ever wondered about my nature journaling origin story? Did I always love nature? Did I start nature journaling as a kid? Those of you who don’t know my back story will appreciate the questions that Dallas asked me at the beginning of the show. To summarize briefly:

  • First of all, I have only been nature journaling for 6 or 7 years! Are you surprised?
  • You won’t be surprised that I loved nature since I was a kid.
  • I was introduced to nature journaling for the first time in college. However, it did not really “click”! Can you believe it?
Full Time Nature Journal Educator

After sharing my nature journaling origin story Dallas asked me about my work. Since October of 2020 I have been a full time nature journal educator. I quit my other part time job and now am focused on what I know is my “life’s work.” Currently, work is focused on the following activities.

  • Creating educational videos on my YouTube channel. I make how to videos, nature journal adventure videos, and interviews of other artists and naturalists. These resources are all free but I am supported by fans through my Patreon.
  • Leading field trips and teaching groups of adults (on hold due to Covid).
  • Teaching nature journaling to kids and families (This is currently limited to my online class for families. I’m also doing a few Covid-safe outdoors sessions with individual kids.)
What Does a Nature Journal Session With Me Look Like?

Dallas was curious about my one-on-one sessions with kids. She asked me “When you go on these excursions (…) what does that look like and what do you typically do and how do you structure that time together?”

I answered with the following important reminder.

The thing that is super empowering for teachers and parents and mentors of any kind is to remember that nature is the best teacher and kids are the best learners. You basically just need to put those things together and know how to not get in the way.

After saying that, I explain how under every rock and around every turn in the trail there are lessons. There are physics lessons, biology lessons, or anything else you want to learn about.

The next key point is to balance structure with flexibility. When I teach in the field I usually keep the lesson plan as open as possible. I’m prepared to adapt to the needs of the kid and the materials that nature offers that day. Sometimes I do more focused skill-building activities or experiments. For example bringing an interesting fruit and dissecting it while drawing cross sections. Another example is a recent cratering experiment I did with kids and we nature journaled the whole thing. Check out the experiment directions from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.

If you want more nature journal homeschool ideas you should listen to the podcast!

You can add this podcast episode to your favorite app here. If you are a homeschool mom you should probably subscribe to Bestowing the Brush.

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

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.

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