The Nature Journal Club: Pencil Miles and Chill with Yvea

The Pencil Miles and Chill gatherings have become a mainstay of the nature journal club during 2020. Yvea Moore will tell the origin story of the gathering in this conversation. We will also learn the main benefits of nature journaling community, tips for nature journaling beginners, and more!

What are “Pencil Miles”?

In the first place let’s define Pencil Miles. In essence, it is a phrase that emphasizes quantity over quality. Does that sound backwards? As a matter of fact, focusing on quantity over quality is one of the most powerful things you can do for any practice. In nature journaling and art for example, too much focus on the quality of your picture or page can lead to many bad habits. In contrast, If you focus on drawing a lot instead of making perfect drawings you will end up making better drawings. The expression “Pencil Miles” has become a neat way to summarize this concept for members of the nature journaling community. For other examples of the nature journal club’s specific lingo check out this post. Here is an example of a page from Yvea’s journal showing her putting in some serious miles. an example of copious pencil miles in the nature journal of Yvea who is an important member of the nature journal club

Origins of the Pencil Miles and Chill Meetup

The first seed of this community gathering was planted by Akshay and Gargi during the beginning of the pandemic. Gargi created a google doc where the nature journaling community could self-organize virtual meetings. Individuals could offer to host their own online gatherings using different platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, etc. Community members offered classes about different nature journaling subjects. Interestingly, some of the most popular were just free-from meetings where everyone could work on their own nature journal ideas and homework.

Activity on the spreadsheet began to lose steam around the summer of 2020. Meanwhile, Yvea had an idea during one of Brian Higginbotham’s Great Valley Nature Journal Club sessions. Brian asked people to write down their intentions for July. Yvea’s intention was finishing some of her nature journal pages. She decided to offer a space where others could do the same and could support and encourage each other. This evolved into her offering a weekly meetup for people to hang out and work on their nature journal pages. Pencil Miles and Chill was born.

What is Pencil Miles and Chill all About?

The Pencil Miles and Chill meetup only has one rule: be kind to each other. For the most part it is just a consistent time and (virtual)place for people to be together and work on nature journaling. There does not have to be a focus or a topic, instead everyone can work on their own project. Conversation is natural and sharing is encouraged but people can also just focus on their own work. For the most part it is like a virtual study hall for nature journalers. One last point about this group is the amazing inclusiveness and feeling of support that it offers. This is something that people in the nature journal club love about what Yvea is offering.

Top Benefits of Pencil Miles and Chill
  1. Providing community: One of the main benefits that people get from Pencil Miles and Chill and the Nature Journal Club Facebook in general is a sense of community. This was especially helpful during the isolating times of quarantine.
  2. Conversation: One specific aspect of community that people benefit from is conversation. Talking is fun and also allows for the sharing of ideas. This can keep us motivated as we nature journal.
  3. Providing consistency: Having 2 times a week that you know you will be nature journaling helps make it a habit.
  4. Technical support: When you are struggling with a specific issue you can bring it up and get ideas from other nature journalers.
  5. A place to relax: There are so many structured online classes for nature journaling that people sometimes get overwhelmed. Pencil Miles in contrast felt like a place you could relax into your own rhythm.
  6. The coveted book list: If I told you then it wouldn’t be coveted anymore. You will have to join Pencil Miles to find out ūüôā You can find out about the next Friday or Saturday session here.
Some of Yvea’s Tips for Nature Journaling Beginners
  1. Go easy on yourself.
  2. Take a break if you need to.
  3. How to not get intimidated by your journal or full page. Don’t worry about not filling a full page every time.
  4. Try a smaller sketchbook if you need to.
  5. Draw on lined paper. It makes you not worry about having precious paper.
  6. Find the things that motivate you. Find your “juice.” For more about “juice” and other mindset tips Yvea recommends looking at this mindset video I made.

Check out this pile of Yvea’s nature journals!A pile of nature journals belonging to Yvea Moore who started the pencil miles and chill nature journal club

Do you need help choosing art and nature supplies? In that case check out Nature Journaling Supplies: What You Need and What You Do Not

Are you new to nature journaling? If so, then this post has the basics : How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

 

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.

‚ÄúYou can label them and color them back home if you can‚Äôt color them in the field, or you can just color them from your memory.‚ÄĚ

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.

 

 

Botanical Art and Nature Journaling

Botanical art and nature journaling are essential to how Dion Dior makes meaning of the world. She shares some of her pages, favorite supplies, and technical tips in this talk. In addition she describes the huge privilege and responsibility that nature journalers have. Don’t miss the lightning round!

Dion lives in Noosa, Queensland Australia. She nature journals for herself as well as teaching and leading a local nature journal club. The Noosa Nature Journal Club holds free monthly classes in the Sunshine Coast area.

The Noosa Nature Journal Club is based in the Noosaville Area and is open to anyone with a passion for exploring nature with a field journal. We are a community of nature lovers and artists of all levels who meet to connect, record and appreciate the beautiful natural environments of the Sunshine Coast and beyond

Start With a Leaf

As a result of her teaching experience Dion has noticed that people are often overwhelmed in nature. “Where should I start?” Starting with a leaf is an antidote to this. Therefore Dion just tells people to pick up a leaf.botanical art and nature journaling page by Dion Dior

Botanical Art and Nature Journaling Begins with a Leaf
  1. First of all, leaves are accessible and can be found almost anywhere there are people.
  2. Secondly, leaves provide many avenues of investigation when we look at them carefully.
  3. Thirdly,they provide many fun artistic challenges.
  4. Last but significantly leaves are limited in their scope. A leaf once separated from the plant is a circumscribed subject. It is manageable.
Dion Uses Multiple Journals

Another thing that was interesting to learn was how Dion uses multiple sketchbooks and journals for different purposes.You probably know my thoughts about keeping multiple journals. If not, check out this post called “One Journal to Rule Them All.”

She has at least four different nature journals. One is made with nicer watercolor paper. This journal is mostly for botanical art. Dion mostly uses it at home when she is building her skills as an illustrator. She also has one that is dedicated to practice. She does not worry about what the pages looks like. This book is for fun and learning.

To see more of Dion’s pages check out her Instagram.

More Botanical Art and Other Nature Journal Pages by Dion
Botanical Art combined with other nature journaling subjects in australia
botanical art and other nature journaling
Botanical Art page in nature journal
Just getting started with nature journaling?

Need more tips? 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

How to Nature Journal in 10 Steps

Do you want to learn how to nature journal?  Do you want to avoid the most common  beginner mistakes? Right now, I show you 10 steps to getting started with nature journaling.

How to Nature Journal

  1. First, choose your location wisely. Choose a location that is close, convenient, and comfortable. This is a common mistake that beginners and experienced nature journalers both make. You don’t need the most exciting wilderness location to nature journal.
  2. Next, get your supplies ready. One mistake that many of us make is to get more art supplies than we really need. All you really need is a good bag, a sketchbook, a pencil, and whatever you need to be comfortable in nature. For a review of what I use see Journaling Kit Review
  3. Capture the context quickly. Whip your nature journal out and start using it as soon as possible. A common mistake is to wander around for too long waiting for inspiration. There is no perfect subject and the muse will not come to you if you don’t¬† get some pencil miles first. Start by putting metadata, sketching a map, or getting other contextual information on the page.
  4. Warm up your brain with “I notice, I wonder, it reminds me of.” Before you get caught up in trying to paint a portrait of a bird or flower start with this simple observation exercise. In this way you will warm up your observation skills and you will breach the barrier of the blank page.
  5. Now, draw a landscapito or paint a scene. Drawing a small landscape or scene will convey the feeling and ecology of a place. These will help you remember your trip and they look great on the page combined with your other notes and drawings. However, there are also side benefits of sitting still this long. Birds and animals often come close! For more on drawing landscapitos see these videos

‚ÄúThe real voyage of discovery consists not of seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes‚ÄĚ
‚ÄďMarcel Proust

Next 5  Steps

  1. Draw a Diagram. The next step is to draw a diagram of something that you are curious about. By making it a diagram you take the pressure off of it being a pretty picture. Use arrows, words, and numbers to add information that you can not convey with the image itself.
  2. Ask more questions. This is one of the most powerful tools of nature journaling. By practicing asking questions we sharpen our ability to learn new things.
  3. Stop before you are done. While you might be tempted to push yourself at first it is actually best to stop while you are still having fun. Start by giving yourself short outings that leave you wanting more. Like the small servings at a fancy restaurant.
  4. Get yourself an Ice Cream. Now that you have completed a session of nature journaling get yourself a reward. You deserve it and by rewarding yourself you will help ingrain this new habit.
  5. Review your work and share it: When you get home you can accelerate your learning by reviewing it, researching further, and getting feedback from others. What do you notice about your pages? What could be better? Can you think of more questions? Are there parts you would like to add color to now that you are home? Are there things you want to research further? Now is also a time that you could draw more detailed drawings based on photos you took on the outing, especially of fast moving birds or insects that you could not capture in the field. Sharing online and getting feedback from other nature journalers will also help you a lot.

how to nature journal

Nature Journaler Interview

As a nature journaler I am always curious how others got started nature journaling. And what about you? Do you ever wonder about the story behind the nature journalers whose sketches and paintings you see online? In this episode of The Nature Journal Show we learn about Melinda Nakagawa, her experience with nature sketching, nature education, and how she started a new nature journal club in Monterey California!

The first thing that I was impressed by in our conversation was that Melinda started nature journaling in 1998 since the term nature journaling has not been around for that long. Her first nature journal pages were from a whale watching trip. Before this however she was already an avid note taker and had used journaling in a diary sort of way.

After nature journaling on her own for some time her husband bought her a book by Clare Walker Leslie. Soon after that she also got the nature journaling book by Hannah Hinchman. Now she could see that other people were nature journaling too. A little bit later she got the book by John Muir Laws. While all of these books inspired her it was the Wild Wonder nature journaling conference in 2019 that really lit her up. Because of the incredible feeling of the nature journaing community at that event she decided to start her own nature journal club where she lived in Monterey California.

Four Nature Journaler Tips

1. First of all combine nature journaling with your existing interests. Melinda grew her nature journal practice from her birding and marine biology practices.

2. Next, build your skills of existing skills. Are you a note taker or a poet? Do you draw diagrams for work? Are you a data scientist? How can you use your existing skills in your nature journal?

3. Third, connect with community. By connecting with community you will get more motivation and you will learn faster. In addition, it is much more fun! Melinda got a huge burst of inspiration after she went to the Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference. Community can be online too.

4. Last but not least, start teaching nature journaling. Even if you are a beginner nature journaler there are people who are more new to it than you. By sharing what you have learned so far you will accelerate your own learning and reinforce your skills. Start before you are ready.

For more about Melinda and her work check out her page here.
Nature journaler page from Melinda Nakagawa
Poppy Timeline from Nature Journaler Melinda Nakagawa

For more tips for nature journal newbies check out this video here.

 

 

Journal in the Majestic Old Growth Redwoods!

Do you want to explore the majesty of giant redwoods and discover the botanical and biological treasures that grow nestled beneath them? Now is your chance to experience this calming environment while capturing it in your nature journal because on March 8th I will be leading a field trip to Landpath’s Grove of Old Trees in Occidental!¬† This preserve is a a secret gem in West Sonoma County and has a calming effect on all who visit.

RSVP  is required for this special class limited to 15 people. Please contact me directly at marley339 at gmail.com

In this class I will teach art topics including: how to accurately draw trees that have depth, how to incorporate bold stylistic motifs into your pages, and how to drop into a meditative flow in your journaling. I will also talk about Natural history topics: the ecology and reproduction of redwood trees and their evolutionary history.

The weather is likely to be buffered by the trees but will mostly be shady, humid and cool. Wear layers.  We will not be walking much but the the trails are wide, easy, and many of them are wheelchair or scooter accessible. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a folding stool if you have one that you like, a potluck item to share, utensils for yourself and water to drink. There is no bathroom on site.

We will meet at 10 am in the parking lot. Look for people standing around with sketchbooks.  Potluck lunch around 12:30.

Be prepared for the calming effect of the old growth forest shared with like-minded people in a beautiful setting. If rain is in the forecast I will contact you about backup plans.

RSVP  is required for this special class limited to 15 people. Please contact me directly at marley339 at gmail.com. If you have not communicated with me directly you are not registered for this class.

$20 suggested donation. No one turned away for lack of funds.

The last few country roads are very small and narrow, you may feel lost but just drive slow and trust the directions. Maybe give yourself more time for the drive than your navigation app suggests. We will be waiting for you in the parking lot.

North Bay Nature Journaling Paradise!

People who live in the North Bay are in luck! Because the San Francisco Bay Area is the epicenter of the Nature Journaling movement! If you live in Sonoma, Napa, Solano, or Marin you also know we have tons of beautiful parks and natural areas to explore. As a result, I consider the North Bay a Nature Journaling paradise!

Nature Journaling classes and clubs in our area:

  • As you probably know, I lead the Monthly Nature Journaling fieldtrips with the North Bay Nature Journal Club, usually in Sonoma and Marin. See the calendar here.
  • There is also the newly formed Napa Valley Nature Journal Club. Check out their Facebook page here. If you live and nature journal in the Napa Valley you can help this club grow.
  • Short Monthly Classes with John Muir Laws where he goes over specific techniques. See his calendar here. And he also leads a field trip near the end of every month sometimes in the north bay but also in the East and South Bay.

Here are my top three North Bay nature journaling spots for 2020!

  1. Abbot’s Lagoon in the Point Reyes National Seashore. This incredible location has it all: sand dunes, biodiversity, seabirds, otters, and beautiful vistas. It is a little bit of a drive if you are coming from Santa Rosa or Vallejo or Napa but it is definitely worth it for a half day or more nature journaling adventure.
  2. Sonoma Baylands Trail on San Pablo Bay. This central location is gonna be a relatively short drive from most towns. It is a wonderful place to marvel at the marshlands that used to surround the entire Bay Area. There are many seabirds and weird plants here too. Even though it is a short drive from the city you will feel peaceful here.
  3. Helen Putnam Regional Park. I have led the North Bay Nature Journal Club to this location several times. It is easy to get to but has beautiful oak savanna landscapes and wonderful old trees. It can get very hot so plan accordingly.
painting at helen putnam park one of my favorite north bay nature journaling locations
nature journaling at helen putnam photo by @amycycles

Nature Journal Weird Carnivorous Plants!

Do you want to escape the cold and the rain to go on a nature journaling vacation to a tropical rain forest in February? You are in luck because on February 9th I will be leading a nature journaling field trip inside the bio-diverse greenhouses at California Carnivores in Sebastopol! This local business contains arguably the biggest collection of carnivorous plants in the world. Not only are these plants fascinating to study and beautiful to draw but many of them are also endangered. They also have many orchids, bromeliads, liverworts, and mosses.

RSVP  is required for this special class limited to 15 people. Please contact me directly at marley339 at gmail.com

In this class I will teach topics including: how to quickly capture the essence of complex shapes in our drawings, how to draw things we are intimidated by, and how to nature journal in visually overwhelming or information-dense settings.

The weather will be relatively mild, humid, and warm inside the greenhouses. Hats will be useful if it is sunny. We will not be walking much but the floor is uneven and made of gravel. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a folding stool if you have one that you like, a potluck item to share, utensils for yourself and water to drink. There is a bathroom on site. Unfortunately, this site is not wheelchair or scooter friendly.

We will meet at 10 am in the parking lot. Look for people standing around with sketchbooks.  Potluck lunch around 12:30.

Be prepared for mind-boggling plant forms and colors as well as a good dose of novelty-induced dopamine!

RSVP  is required for this special class limited to 15 people. Please contact me directly at marley339 at gmail.com

$20 suggested donation. No one turned away for lack of funds.