Extreme Nature Journaling with Kim Mcnett

Extreme nature journaling has lessons for all of us even if we are just nature journaling from home. Do you want to find a deeper connection and purpose in your nature journaling? Do you want to nature journal more in the winter?

I was so excited to talk to Kim Mcnett for this interview.  Her pages on the nature journal club facebook page are great. But I knew I just  had to interview her for the Nature Journal Show when I saw the crazy expeditions she was nature journaling on!

Why Extreme Nature Journaling Matters to You

Despite my obvious interest in extreme nature journaling I think there are lessons here for everybody. Even if you are not nature journaling in the arctic, in the amazon, in the grand canyon or with hunter gatherer tribes in East Africa, there is still a lot to learn. First, we can all be inspired by the work that extreme nature journalers are doing. These people can also contribute to the global awareness about the environment and the role that nature journaling can play. Imagine if there were thousands of nature journalers on the frontlines: Documenting endangered species on every continent? Sketching and sharing about critical restoration projects around the world? Asking questions and painting landscapitos of shrinking glaciers in the arctic?

Lastly, and more practically, extreme nature journaling is a crucible for testing techniques and supplies in the most challenging situations. If a watercolor palette works in the high Andes or on a sea-kayaking trip it will probably work at your local park. Extreme nature journalers can then help the rest of our community grow and learn better.

10 Tips for Nature Journaling in the Winter

  1. Take care of your basic physical needs first. If you can’t stay comfortable and warm you will not be able to focus on higher level things such as nature journaling.
  2. Reset your expectations. You might not make your most beautiful art while you are working in challenging conditions. Rethink what your goal is. What else do you value besides a pretty page?
  3. Keep your supplies simple. Your winter kit should be basic. You don’t want to be fumbling with a lot of different materials.
  4. Practice being outside more. It is hard to practice two new things at once. You might need to just practice being comfortable outside more before you try to add nature journaling to your expectations.
  5. Try journaling from your window. You can nature journal the winter while staying in the comfort of your home if you sit at a window and look outside. This is a setup that is worth investing in. Maybe just moving some furniture around can make it work.
  6. Nature Journal from your car. Similarly, you can use your car as a mobile nature journal studio. Park it somewhere cool!
  7. Keep your hands warm with mittens. Kim recommends mittens over gloves.
  8. Keep warm with disposable chemical hand warmers. Have one of these in your pockets in case you start losing dexterity in your hands.
  9. Insulate your bum. Kim has cut a small piece of a sleeping pad to sit on. Or you can draw standing up.
  10. Cold weather watercolor tips: Although multiple people say you can use vodka instead of water to prevent freezing Kim has not had good luck with this. She also warns that gloves and mittens often smudge watercolor so be careful.

Why should I nature Journal in the Winter Anyways?

First of all, nature journaling is good for your mental health. Winter can be a dark time in more ways than one. Connecting with nature, unlocking our creativity, slowing down to pay attention, and getting some light exercise outdoors are all scientifically tested ways of improving your mood. Second, not nature journaling for five months out of the year is gonna put a huge dent in your learning and skill-building. You can also fall out of the habit, lose motivation, and miss out on nature journaling community or friendships. (nature journaling outside with friends is a fine way to connect during covid). Third, nature journaling in the winter will help you understand where you live so much better.

Nature Journaling can help save humanity

I often like to ask guests on the Nature Journal Show what  they think the future of nature journaling is. When I asked Kim she was adamant in her belief that we are in troubled times and that nature journaling could be one of the most important ways to help people shift their perspective. Living in Alaska for 10 years she has witnessed the accelerating climate change that is impacting the far north faster than the lower 48. She has watched permafrost disappear and glaciers recede. She argues that we have all the technology and know-how to fix this problem and prevent the destruction of our life support system. However, it is our willingness to change that is lacking. It is a shift in priorities and values that is needed and nature journaling can help people value nature in a deeper way.

More extreme nature journaling?

If you want to learn more about the nature journaling expeditions that Kim is doing and the other awesome work that she is up to check out her website.

If you want to a deeper look into some of the videos that Kim mentioned and the work her partner Bjorn Olson is up to check out his website.

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