In the summer of 2022 I will be nature journaling in the Galapagos Islands with John Muir Laws and a boat-full of nature journalers! The trip is already full but you can enjoy it vicariously through some of the videos, photos, and nature journal pages that I will share with you. (there might be more trips like this in the future too!)
I will also be making an illustrated publication based on my trip similar to my Tanzania Journals. This publication will be available for my Patreon supporters and through my website.
Let me know if there are things about the Galapagos that you want me to share with you.
Do you ever give yourself nature journaling homework? In this live episode of the Nature Journal Show, Marley shows us how to use birding homework to make us better nature journalers. Follow along! You will need: your nature journal, a writing utensil of your choice, a bird guide book, and your computer.
“Whether you’re in the field learning or at home learning – the nature journal is the perfect place to make your learning so much easier, your work so much better, and improve your memory so much more.”
Marley comes prepared with an agenda:
First, he sets up his page so his information stays organized.
Fourth, he listens to the birds’ songs on Dendroica and creates a sonogram of what he hears.
Why do homework this way?
Why not simply read about the birds in the guides or on a website? What purpose does it serve to write all of this down when it’s not even your own field notes? Marley has an answer for this: by writing down the information and interpreting it into your own way of thinking, you remember it better. This is not busywork – you are training your brain to remember these details so they will serve you when you are out in the field.
Marley notes that it’s important to write down your sources for this information: “Think of it as your metadata!” It is OK to copy from the book as long as you are not selling your work – but you should always credit your sources. That way, if you need to revisit or modify the information, or if someone else wants to study it too, you know where it originally came from.
A few extra tips
When you’re doing your birding homework, don’t worry about making your drawings perfect. This is practice, and getting hung up on perfection might make it harder for you to complete the exercises.
Some birds, such as sparrows, have different dialects depending on where they are from. For example, a white-crowned sparrow from your area might sound very different from a white-crowned sparrow who lives somewhere else, so try to find a song sample that’s from your region. If you can’t, try listening to multiple song samples from different areas and seeing where the similarities in them fall.
Use “it reminds me of” when you are listening to bird songs. You can liken a particular note of the song to an instrument, or even to words. Many birders hear phrases inside the songs that help them to remember their rhythm and cadence.
Listen to the song more than once. Really slow down, and use the spectrogram to help you “see” the song.
Now that you’ve done your birding homework, go out into the field and try to use what you’ve learned! You can always go back and add notes when you’ve learned something new, or do more birding homework to further improve your skills. Interspersing homework with field study might just be the way to go. Don’t forget your binoculars!
What do you like to do during the low tide? If you’re like Marley Peifer, you might enjoy going to the rocky shore, doing some nature journaling of the intertidal zone, and maybe even harvesting dinner! Join Marley as he explores the intertidal zone.
Tidepools are a dynamic place to visit, changing rapidly with the ocean and weather. Marley is quick to note the high “information density”:
“The main intellectual challenge in nature journaling at the tidepools is: there is so much information density, so many things to look at, so many potential subjects to choose from, that your main challenge is going to be focusing!”
Safety is #1.
Focusing on any one topic at the intertidal zone is one challenge; the other (arguably more important) one concerns logistics. It is vital to remain aware of your surroundings at all times when you’re this close to the ocean. The rocks are slippery and easy to fall on; the uneven terrain can catch your foot and get you stuck; and the ocean itself can catch you with its powerful waves. “Never turn your back on the ocean,” Marley is explaining – right as the ocean splashes him on the butt. He notes that it is better to come with a friend when exploring the rocky shore or intertidal zone.
So where do you start?
Despite the information density, Marley has a plan! He follows a setup that helps him get information down quickly without getting overwhelmed:
First, he situates himself so that he can observe safely and as comfortably as possible, and he secures his nature journal with binder clips so the pages won’t fly around while he’s journaling.
Second, he takes down the metadata: when and where he is, and what the weather is like.
Third, he makes a landscape rendering of the place, which really helps to set the scene.
Fourth, he zooms in on a subject. In this case, it’s one that isn’t moving, which allows for a longer time to observe the subject directly.
Fifth, he keeps his awareness of his surroundings and of any exciting fast-moving natural developments he might want to observe.
Later, he uses his close focus binoculars to try to observe a turnstone – mostly because the bird is far away and he wants to observe it before it flies off, but also because it is safer to observe from a distance, out of the ocean’s reach. Unfortunately the bird flies away very quickly, but Marley uses the information he has to make a memory drawing. By recording as many details as he can recall, Marley is cementing those details in his mind. He is also making it easier for himself to try to research the bird when he gets home.
How to nature journal a landscapito of the intertidal zone:
Marley has some tips for capturing a landscapito of this special location. For more landscapito tips, check out Marley’s earlier post here.
Punch in your dark values first, being mindful to reserve your whites. To capture the dark shapes in his landscapito, Marley uses a Pilot Futayaku Brush pen.
Put more details in the foreground; this is where the eye is drawn.
Put in only the suggestion of water at first.
When you begin using the watercolors, put in your lightest values first. In this case, that would be both the sky and the ocean, which Marley puts in at the same time. He uses John Muir Laws’s watercolor palette, which you can find here, and a Pentel large waterbrush.
Add the darker values in the foreground.
Now give this first layer of watercolor time to dry; the humidity near the ocean will make your page dry slower than you might be used to.
Adjust any values and saturations after the first layer has dried.
If needed, add back in your whites.
When it comes to adding white back into the landscapito, don’t be hard on yourself. Reserving whites is challenging and takes practice! You can add the whites back in using an opaque media, like the Presto Jumbo Correction Pen Marley uses. Always test the opaque media off to the side first before using it on your main piece, and be sure to stop before you actually feel ready. Otherwise playing with the correction pen might get too fun, and you might overdo it.
Marley’s practice and pencil miles pay off: he is able to get pages of rich information about his intertidal adventure AND harvest dinner! ¡Buen provecho!
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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 is more than a hobby. It is more than an art form. In fact it is a way of seeing the world. Whether you are nature journaling at home or going on an extreme adventure it can add meaning to your life. Join me tonight as I forsake the comfort of my home to bring a nature journal adventure to you!
I saw that the tides were going to be very low right after sunset. I wrote it down in my calendar with indelible ink. This would be my only chance all month. If I really wanted to nature journal nocturnal inter-tidal zone again I had to do it. However, as the day got closer the weather forecast did not look good. They were predicting strong winds, cold temperatures, and a big swell on the ocean. Would I give up now? Instead of giving up I used a classic accountability strategy. I invited a friend. Not only was I accountable to another person but it would also be safer and more fun.
In addition to bringing a friend, having the right gear will make or break your nature journal adventure. Below, I share the gear that has helped me the most. If you click on the links to shop for these items I will get a small percentage to support my work.
Best Gear for Nature Journaling at Night
Binder Clips: These are one of my most essential art and nature journaling tools! Without them I would not have been able to nature journal in the windy conditions, my paper would warp with watercolor, etc. I usually try to have four of them in my field kit and four at my desk in my studio. You can buy an 8 pack here.
Book Light: It is helpful to have two sources of light when nature journaling at night. One is directed always at your paper and one you can direct at your subject or make sure you are not about to step into a deep hole full of sea urchins. A book light that clips onto your journal is useful for many other things as well. I use them as a reading light at home and whenever I go on a nature journal expedition or camping. I can’t find the one I have online but this is a similar one.
I’m also interested in experimenting with a book light that hangs around your neck such as this one. If you try it out let me know how it works.
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 Begins with a Leaf
First of all, leaves are accessible and can be found almost anywhere there are people.
Secondly, leaves provide many avenues of investigation when we look at them carefully.
Thirdly,they provide many fun artistic challenges.
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.
Join me on a nature journal adventure with my friend and fellow nature journaler JP! It was Superbowl Sunday but we decided to nature journal instead. We saw a dead whale, we saw mergansers, and we even saw a crawdad and cliff-growing succulents.
Just Start Somewhere
Nature journaling in a new element is not easy. I made a whole video about how to nature journal from a kayak and I am still not totally comfortable. You will see how I struggle even getting started when you watch the video. I paddle around looking for a better angle. What should I draw? Where should I park my kayak? Should I nature journal from the shore?
“Start before you’re ready.”
The most important thing is to just get your journal out and start getting something down on the page. Getting started can be especially hard under the following nature journal adventure circumstances:
You are not physically comfortable
The environment is distracting
There are too many options to nature journal
You are worried about your materials getting lost or damaged
The art supplies you usually use are not conducive to the adventure
The best solution to all these problems is to clarify your intentions before you go, simplify your materials, and start making marks on your page as soon as possible.
Drawing old trees is one of my favorites! I’m gonna show you how to nature journal old trees; in this case a charismatic old oak tree. I’ll use ink, watercolor, and graphite pencil to draw a portrait of the tree, sketch the basic scene, illustrate lea, and depict some of the moss. I will also talk about other nature journaling techniques and watercolor tips.
It was a cold January day in the mountains of Northern California. The weather forecast predicted snow later that day. Despite the cold and my low energy I knew this was my only chance. Because if it snowed I would be stuck up here and unable to get home to edit this video for you.
It’s at times like these where you need a system.
How to Nature Journal Old Trees in 5 Steps
Firstly, start with metadata. Always start with metadata: location, date, time, weather, etc
Next, simplify the complex. Old trees fascinate us partly because of their complexity. You need to simplify or you will be overwhelmed. Starting with thumbnails and using a viewfinder will help enormously.
Next, zoom in on details. What are some details you can add? Try drawing the leaves, the flowers, the seeds.
Lastly, don’t settle with just a portrait. It is very fun to paint the portrait of a tree. However, by itself this is not nature journaling. Try to incorporate some notes, some measurements, some contextual information or diagrams. Did any birds visit? What does the bark look like closeup? Adding these perspectives will enrich your page and your experience.
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
Set the Stage: You want to do this more than once. Therefore you need to find a good location.
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.
Second, it should be consistent. This way you get into a habit more easily.
Last, consider the view. Is there a variety of stuff to see?
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?
Rosalie Haizlett is a conservation-focused illustrator. She has built a career around painting maps, botanical art, and detailed nature scenes in watercolor and ink. In addition to her art sales and commissions she teaches classes. Another key point we talk about in this interview is the therapeutic role nature can play. Rosalie is driven because she believes that nature-based art can have a deeper purpose.
How Nature Journaling Can Improve Quality of Life
Rosalie is a firm believer that drawing in nature can improve the quality of people’s lives. However, for many of us today this is not the default state.
“A lot of people are walking right past so many incredible wonders in nature and not taking time to notice them.”
She then goes on to point out that this is a learnable practice.
“Over time I began to notice more in the outdoors (…) My life was enriched by spending more quiet time in nature and using art to document what I was seeing.”
That’s wonderful if nature journaling and art can enrich our experience. But that is not all. She goes on to explain the healing effect these practices can have.
Rosalie shared her personal experience struggling with chronic migraines. Spending quiet time observing nature turned out to be a very effective therapy. This lead to her current practice around spending more time in nature.
How Her Art Can Help the Environment
I was interested in asking Rosalie about the role that she sees her art playing. A quote on her website said that she is creating “(…) visuals to help people see and appreciate the natural world in a deeper way.” I wanted to know more about how she is trying to implement this vision.
First, she creates art for conservation-minded companies and organizations. Some examples include: Patagonia, The Smithsonian, The National Parks, and the Audobon Society.
Second, she teaches regular people how to connect to nature through art and observation.
Lastly, she is sharing her experiences in nature helps invite others to explore more deeply.