How to Draw Old Trees

Right now, I’m going to show you how to draw old trees. Do you remember seeing this tree in my last nature journal in the rain video? Drawing old trees is fun. Especially if you use the crazy ink technique I am about to show you…

How to Draw Old Trees

  • First, find a charismatic old tree that you like.
  • Second, make sure there is a spot the is comfortable to sit. Ideally, find a spot in the shade so your eyes don’t get blasted.
  • Third, choose a drawing approach. I used the stick drawing dip pen technique.
  • Next, give yourself a reasonable goal and stick to it.
  • Take a snack break and walk around to stretch your legs.
  • Push through any self doubt that comes up and stick to your plan.
  • Review your work objectively at the end and remember that quantity is more important than quality.

The stick technique for drawing old trees

Want to try a fun new way of drawing? I did this because I wanted to draw the tree using a stick from the very same tree! This is also probably one of the cheapest art supplies you will ever get. All you need is a container of black ink. I used this sumi ink.

  • First find and carve a stick. I like them if they are not fully dead and about as thick as a pencil. Then I carve a point that is somewhere between a spatula tip and a pencil tip.
  • Second, make sure you have a rag to wipe off the excess ink. This can be a messy process.
  • Lastly, start dipping your pen in the ink and drawing!
  • Try experimenting with different amounts of ink on the stick and using different edges of the piece to make different marks.
Feeling too nervous about this method of drawing trees?

If you are feeling too nervous about this imprecise method in your nature journal then that is probably a good sign that this technique is good for you. Many of us have perfectionist tendencies and hesitancy around mark making that inhibit our art. This manifests itself in drawing less, it also manifests itself in tentative brushstrokes and lines. By practicing with a tool that gives you less control you can train yourself against these negative tendencies. For more work on your mindset check out this post.

Want more nature journaling ideas for old trees?

Above you can see the other video I did on how to nature journal old trees. It was a different tree, a much colder day and I showed you several approaches. In this video I use more of a traditional nature journaling approach including watercolor, zoom in zoom out and more.

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

How to Nature Journal a Collection

Right now, I’m going to show you how to nature journal using the “collection” technique. This is one of the basic nature journaling approaches. You can use it even if you are just getting started with nature journals. Experienced nature journalers will also benefit from this technique.

The basic idea is simple. You are out walking in a nearby park. You brought your nature journal but don’t know where to start. There are birds everywhere, there are wildflowers, and you also notice tons of lichen on the trees. “This is kind of overwhelming!” You think to yourself.  “I only have 20 minutes for nature journaling.” What should you do?

How to Nature Journal a Collection

  • First, you need to choose the category for your collection. The category can be taxonomical, such as plants in the sunflower family (asteraceae), or a collection of warblers. The category could also be “things growing on other things.” In this case you would “collect” lichens, mosses, epiphytes, or fungus.
  • Second, think about your page organization. Do you want to divide your paper up into squares right away? How do you want to organize the individual subjects of your collection?
  • Third, think about how much time you have and how in depth you want to get with each subject of your collection. If you start off putting in a ton of information and details with the first few subjects and then simplify dramatically with the last few it will look bad.
  • Fourth, start drawing and nature journaling the individual subjects. Use words, images, and numbers for each one. Try to keep a consistent style to facilitate comparison and make the collection look better.
Examples of Nature Journal “Collections”
An example of a nature journal collection with birds for how to nature journal a collection
A nature journal collection by Paula Peeters quickly captures bird species that she heard during her nature journaling session in Australia.
A nature journal collection showing different species of mushrooms
A nature journal collection with 10 different mushrooms collected over the course of an hour. Marley Peifer’s 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 Biocultural Diversity: Mariia Ermilova Terada

Mariia Ermilova Terada shows us how to nature journal biocultural diversity. Not only does she nature journal in three languages but she also incorporates the human-nature connection into her pages. In contrast, most nature journalers today omit this relationship. For example, I often choose nature subjects where I cannot see the human interaction. I frequently exclude hikers, benches, telephone poles from my landscape paintings. Another example is that I rarely nature journal my garden, my salad, or the other aspects of nature my life is directly dependent on.

In addition, we talk about Mariia’s studies, her love of frogs, fabric arts, and the role nature journaling can play in making the world a better place. Don’t miss the lightning round!

How to Nature Journal Your Breakfast

Did you nature journal the plants and animals that you ate for breakfast today? What about the plants or animals that made your clothes? Have you ever included the indigenous names for plants or animals on your page? If nature journaling is supposed to connect us more to nature why do we often avoid the subjects we are most closely connected to?

How to nature journal biocultural diversity

In the above example we can see how Mariia applies nature journaling to an everyday scene. Her neighbor caught a fish and is cooking it. This nature journal page captures that subsistence relationship. In addition she gives the name of the fish in three languages and points out how it is an invasive species. The combination of comic, recipe, and species profile give this page a biocultural significance. how to nature journal biocultural diversityIn contrast, Mariia could have just nature journaled a random butterfly. “What’s wrong with nature journaling a random butterfly?” In fact, there is nothing wrong with choosing a subject just because of an aesthetic interest. But let’s be self aware. Why don’t we nature journal what we eat?

how to nature journal biocultural diversity
How to Nature Journal Biocultural Diversity
  1. First, be curious about local traditional knowledge about nature in the area where you are. What culture has been living there? What was their relationship to the plants and animals and landscapes you are drawing? Is there a way you can recognize and incorporate some of that into your journal? However, be aware of the issue of cultural appropriation.
  2. Second, be curious about cultural context. Even the magnolia in your garden, the chicken in your soup, or your house cat have a cultural how to nature journal biocultural diversitycontext. Even a quick search on google could find some cool background. What if you included a map, names in other languages, or historic references next to that sketch of your feline or flower?
  3. Finally, what are some biocultural connections from your own life? You can also try to nature journal some of the aspects of your own life that are connected to nature. What plants, animals, fungi, minerals etc do you relate to on a daily basis?

See more of Mariia’s work: https://taplink.cc/mariia_ermilova_terada

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

How to Nature Journal Old Trees

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 leaves, 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
  1. Firstly, start with metadata. Always start with metadata: location, date, time, weather, etc
  2. 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.
  3. Third, prioritize value relationships over color. Value is the difference between light and dark. This is one of the main visual priorities. For more about value see this post by John Muir Laws called “Color gets all the credit: Value does all the work.”
  4. Next, zoom in on details. What are some details you can add? Try drawing the leaves, the flowers, the seeds.
  5. 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.
Some of the Supplies I Used on This Trip
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

Flower Drawing in Your Nature Journal

Do you like flowers? Do you like drawing? If so then this video about flower drawing in your nature journal is for you!

First, it is important to understand some basic botany to help you draw flowers accurately. In addition to making your drawing better this will also help you understand plant families. However, we will keep the technical terms to a minimum.

Drawing Flowers: These three Botany terms help.

  1. Inflorescence. This is a grouping or cluster of flowers. Many “flowers” that we think of such as a sunflower are actually an inflorescence.
  2. Corolla. This is not the car by Toyota. The corolla refers to all the petals combined, whether they are fused together or not.
  3. Calyx. Similarly to the corolla this term refers to the next parts down. Underneath the petals on many flowers there are sepals. We can use the term calyx to refer to all the sepals whether they are fused or not.

flower drawing diagram showing inflorescence, calyx, and corolla

Now that we know some basic terms let’s start drawing flowers! We are going to do three plant families today and draw flowers representing each one.

Drawing Flower Families

First, let’s look at the amazingly diverse Malvaceae. This is the cotton family and currently contains around 4,225 known species! When drawing these flowers pay attention to the 5 petals, and the 5 to numerous male parts often forming a tube. For more check out the wikipedia page about this plant family.

Next, is the Solanaceae. This notorious family contains many edible plants such as tomatoes and poisonous ones. When drawing this flower family look for 5 part symmetry such as five petals, five sepals, and five male parts. The female part is usually solitary. Sometimes, the petals (corolla) form into a tube. For more check out the wikipedia page about this plant family.

Lastly, is the Boraginaceae. This family contains around 2,000 known species including borage, Pride of Madera, and Forget-Me-Nots. When drawing these flowers look for a scorpioid inflorescence. Also look for 5 lobed calyx and corolla. For more about the Boraginaceae check out the wikipedia page on this plant family.

For more flower drawing ideas check out this post: Botany Basics For Nature Journaling

Botany Basics For Nature Journaling

In this video we learn botany basics to help you understand flowers. In so doing we can draw them better in our nature journals.

Sometimes it is easier to draw something that you know nothing about. And sometimes it is easier to ask novel questions and make new observations if we know nothing about a subject. However, there are other time when a little bit of background knowledge can provide an important foundation for future learning.

Basic Botany for Nature Journalers

  1. First and foremost, you must learn some taxonomy. Why? Because if you understand a plant’s evolutionary lineage you can unlock a lot more learning. But don’t worry, it’s not that hard.
  2. In order to facilitate taxonomy you have to learn families. If you can learn plant families then you can go anywhere in the world and understand the botany better.
  3. Finally, to understand families you need to understand flower morphology. And don’t worry, morphology is just a fancy way to say shapes. Many people look at plant leaves and hope to learn something from the leaves. However, the leaves are not a useful characteristic. Similarity in leaf shape does not mean that plants are closely related. On the other hand, flower features are the basis for determining how related plants are to each other.
Botany basics on a nature journal page fro drawing flowers
Some Flower Drawings in my Nature Journal Reflecting Botany Basics

Flower Morphology for Nature Journalers

Next time you look at  a plant, look at the flowers first. As you approach the flower we will focus on a few key things. (we’ll keep the botanical terminology to a minimum for now).

  • First, how many petals and sepals are there?
  • Then we will look to see how many male parts and female parts are there.
  • Third, we will check to see if the flower has bilateral or radial symmetry.
  • Lastly, we want to figure out if the ovary is above the petals or under them

By figuring out the above information we can often identify a plant to it’s family if not to genus and species. Once we know the family we can make a lot of assumptions about the plant. We can make guesses about its ecology, it’s phytochemistry, and  its potential ehtnobotanical status.

For a great tutorial on drawing wildflowers check out this video by John Muir Laws.

For some great educational and thoroughly irreverent botanical lessons check out this channel on youtube: Crime Pays But Botany Doesn’t  This channel does use a lot of profanity so if you are sensitive about language you might want to skip it.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Pitcher Plant Bonanza!

In June, the North Coast Nature Journal Club is privileged to enjoy the peak of the pitcher plants at California Carnivores in Sonoma County! This nursery contains the largest collection of carnivorous plants in the world and June will be a perfect time to see the amazing species of pitcher plants at their best! If you think you have already nature journaled once at this location and don’t need to go twice – think again.  We will focus on drawing and learning about carnivorous plants in general and Sarracenia pitcher plants in particular. We will also practice composition strategies and tips for nature journaling in information dense environments.

The weather will be relatively mild and probably comfortable 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, scooters or wheelchairs can be accommodated. Wear comfortable shoes, bring a folding stool if you have one, a potluck item to share, utensils for yourself and water to drink. There is a bathroom on site.

We will meet at 10 am in the parking lot. Look for people standing around with sketchbooks.  Bring a potluck item to share for lunch around 12:30. You can leave food in your car.

$20 suggested donation.

This class is limited to 12 people. Please email me to reserve your spot.

As usual be prepared to get super-curious in nature and connect with like minded people!

Here is a picture of Akshay nature journaling surrounded by pitchers last year!

Marvel at Incredible Carnivorous Plants!

In the month of January, the North Coast Nature Journal club will stay out of the rain and warm 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, etc.

Topics covered will include: how to quickly capture the essence of complex shapes in our drawings, how to draw things we are afraid of, and how to nature journal in visually overwhelming or information-dense settings.

The weather will be relatively mild, humid, and probably warmish 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, a potluck item to share, utensils for yourself and water to drink. There is a 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 mind-boggling plant forms and colors as well as a good dose of novelty-induced dopamine!

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

Learn Faster:

Here is a practical technique that you can apply to learning almost any new skill but is especially useful for nature artists and nature journalers!

I have been unintentionally doing this for a while and have only recently recognized the value and started to conceptualize it.

Do you have information dense places that you seek out to accelerate your learning?

Do you have trouble drawing, painting, or journaling in public places? If so, my next post is for you!