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
- First of all, gouache pops. Especially on toned paper.
- Secondly, it can be a forgiving medium compared to watercolor.
- Gouache is good for painting bird eyeballs which is one of her favorite parts.
- With toned paper it helps you get the mid range values accurately.
- 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.
- Size 8 Flat Brush (for laying down large areas of color)
- 4 Round Brush
- 1 Round Brush (for detail and texture)
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