Nature Journaling Australia: LIVE with Paula Peeters

What makes nature journaling in Australia so different from everywhere else? Find out from Paula Peeters, a nature journaler, teacher, writer, scientist, and conservationist from Australia.  In this episode of the Nature Journal Show, Marley interviews Paula about her books, different ways of describing a place, the ideal nature journal outing, resources for Aussie nature journalers, and what makes nature journaling Australia so special.

How do you describe a place?

If you’re Paula Peeters, you use a diversity of different ways to describe a place.  Sometimes she goes for in-depth drawings that focus on details and take time to complete.  Other times, Paula might opt for a cartoon – it’s easier to capture details quickly when you’re cartooning.  Both approaches are very useful, depending on what Paula is after in her nature journaling session.

Paula birds cartoon
Here, Paula uses a cartoon approach so she can capture the diversity of birds she sees quickly. This helps her draw multiple birds and take down more information than if she had focused on getting one perfect in-depth drawing.

A particularly ingenious way of describing the complexity of a place is with a “folding forest” – Paula creates pages with lifting flaps and expanding backgrounds, so you can see what’s going on in the skies above and the earth below a particular ecosystem.  Using such a variety of ways to show information can help deepen your understanding of that place, as well as the nature journaling experience itself.

To help other people engage in the places she cares about, Paula also writes books.  Some are books to help people get outside more, such as Take This Book for a Walk and Make a Date With Nature. Others are coloring books of different habitats and the species living in them – some of which are threatened.  By allowing the reader/colorer to go on an adventure in her books, Paula gives them an emotional investment into the wellbeing of these places.

Paula folding forest
Paula makes flaps that lift so she can choose information to hide and reveal – a playful way of nature journaling as well as interactive for the reader.

What is different about the nature journaling experience in Australia?

Nature journal clubs have been growing all over Australia.  Marley asks Paula why she thinks Australia is nature journaling so much.  Here are three possible factors, according to Paula:

  1. In Australia, you can go outside most of the year.  The winters are not so severe – there is seldom snow, for example.
  2. There is extraordinary nature in Australia.  The trees are largely evergreen – there are over 800 different species of Eucalyptus alone! – and there is a diversity of certain animals you would not be able to find anywhere else in the world.  Paula is quick to point out that there are not huge predatory animals, unlike in North America – though Australia is home to many poisonous and venomous animals!
  3. Related to the last point: there are large parts of Australia that are still unchanged from when the European settlers first came, about 200 years ago.  This means that there might be intact ecosystems and wild spaces, places to explore in an increasingly urbanized world.
Paula tree drawing
In this drawing, Paula takes time to add lots of details such as texture and shadows to make the tree come alive.

Adding to INIWIRMO

One of the core tools in nature journaling is observation, and there is a commonly used three-pronged prompt that can help facilitate that process: “I Notice”, “I Wonder”, and “It Reminds Me Of”, or INIWIRMO for short.  Paula adds one more prompt when she is sharing this activity with her students: “How does it (make me) feel?”  (So would that be INIWIRMOHDIF?)  Anyone can follow these prompts:

  1. First, write down what you notice in the environment around you.  This can be things to do with the 5 senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste), or the different species you see, or different behaviors you observe, or other things that are around you.  Caution: try to refrain from making assumptions about what you’re seeing.  You might observe
  2. Next, write down questions that came up for you while you were observing the environment.  You can write down question chains, where one inquiry leads to another, which leads to more.  You don’t have to actually answer any of these questions!  For now, let the curiosity flow.
  3. Then, write down any connections you’ve made.  Perhaps you’re watching an eddy in a river, and it reminds you of water going down the drain in your bathtub – write that down!  Regularly making connections between seemingly unrelated things improves our creativity and changes our thinking.  Plus, by making a comparison of something you see in nature to something that is very familiar to you, you will remember it better, and it might just give you more questions AND more answers!
  4. Finally, write down how you’re feeling about what you’ve been experiencing so far.  When we connect to things personally, we remember them better; so remembering how something personally made us feel then attaches an emotion to that experience.  Paula strongly believes (and we agree!) that nature journaling can promote health and wellness.  And by caring for ourselves in nature, we can also learn to care for nature.

There are so many lessons we can learn from Paula!  Her greatest passion, as a teacher, writer, and scientist, is to connect people with the natural world in as many ways as possible.  We save what we care about; to get people to invest in conservation long-term, we must help each other to experience nature firsthand.  Let’s follow Paula’s example.

 

To see more of Paula’s work and resources (including her downloadable coloring books!) please visit her website: https://www.paperbarkwriter.com

Want to see an interview with another Australian nature journaler?  Check out Marley’s interview with Dion Dior here.

There are several nature journaling clubs in Australia!  Check them out:

Nature journaling Australia: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NatureJournalingAustralia

Brisbane Nature Journal Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/379012613071527 and https://www.journalingwithnature.com/brisbane-nature-journal-club

Noosa & Sunshine Coast Nature Journal Club: https://www.facebook.com/groups/4007241289308006

Nature Journal Adventures: https://www.facebook.com/groups/582915913094715

Melbourne Nature Journal Club: https://www.amydiana.co/workshops

Newcastle Nature Journaling Club: https://www.henriettamooney.com/newcastle-nature-journaling-club-1

Gold Coast Nature Journal Group: https://www.paperbarkwriter.com/nature-journal-group/?fbclid=IwAR34AEw0R6pEhPgr21UirLCxfdb9jYKABqNjjWIX0Fz3XwsMdaLpzWiorVs

Nature Journal Club of Canberra and Queanbeyan: https://www.facebook.com/groups/natureclubcanberra/

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

 

Best Books for Nature Journaling

What is your favorite nature journaling related book?  Do you use books that don’t have ‘nature journaling’ explicitly in the title?  Join Marley and me for this episode of “The Nature Journal Show” where we share the best books for nature journaling.

The subject of nature journaling is quite the multi-disciplinary one.  Natural history, ecology, art technique, mindset, and many other areas of study combine to make this unique subject.  Which categories are most important, are up to you.  But if you are looking for a place to get started in terms of resources, check out our list below.  We include some of the best books for nature journaling that have many of our fellow journalers going ‘Aaaaah!’*

*A quick note before we begin: Please don’t go out and buy all these books!  Please be selective – not each book will be everyone’s cup of tea.  Check your local library for hardcopies and audiobooks (or befriend a librarian).  Check your child’s school library and have them borrow books for you (hey, worth a shot!).  See if there are nearby nature journalers who might want to share books.  Ask in the online community to see if anyone is getting rid of any nature journal books and is looking for a new home for them.  Who knows, we may even start a traveling book collection or a nature journalers’ library someday!

In addition to listing the books we have also included links to many of them in case you want to buy them. The amazon links are affiliate links so we will get a small percentage if you use the link for a purchase without any extra cost to you. This helps support the Nature Journal Show. Where possible we have included the links to the author’s websites so they get the most benefit from the purchase.

Check out our list by categories:

Best Nature Journaling Specific Books

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws https://johnmuirlaws.com/product/the-laws-guide-to-nature-drawing-and-journaling/

How to Teach Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws and Emilie Lygren https://johnmuirlaws.com/product/how-to-teach-nature-journaling/

Keeping a Naturalist’s Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson

The Curious Nature Guide by Clare Walker Leslie https://amzn.to/2VMyKvP

A Life In Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal by Hannah Hinchman https://amzn.to/3hEjSaq

Best Natural History and Ecology books for Nature Journalers

The Diversity of Life by E.O. Wilson a great book about the evolution of biodiversity from one of the foremost naturalists and biologists of today. https://amzn.to/3zeDGHA

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs by Tristan Gooley

Braiding Sweetgrass and Gathering Moss, both by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Roadside Geology of Northern California

A Tracking Companion by Marley Peifer https://www.blurb.com/b/8746087-a-tracking-companion

When You Are Lost by Joy Colangelo

The California Field Atlas by Obi Kaufmann

Botany in a Day by Thomas J. Elpel

How to Identify Plants by H.D. Harrington

Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

The Total Skywatcher’s Manual

Secrets of the Oak Woodlands by Kate Marianchild

Best Field Guides for Nature Journalers

What it’s Like to be a Bird by David Allen Sibley. An amazing new look into bird’s lives  https://amzn.to/3ziQfBw

Sibley Birds East by David Allen Sibley https://amzn.to/3hEZPZI

Sibley Birds West by David Allen Sibley https://amzn.to/3zgGd3W

Reptiles of the Galapagos

https://www.tropicalherping.com/science/books/reptiles/reptiles_of_galapagos.html

Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals  https://amzn.to/3EkmyUz

The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada by John Muir Laws

Mammals of the San Francisco Bay Region by William D. and Elizabeth Berry

The Cloudspotter’s Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney

Other Nature Art Forms

California’s Wild Edge by Tom Killion and Gary Snyder. A beautiful collection of landscape prints, poems, and history of California’s coast.  https://amzn.to/3kdp9Yw

Also by Gary Snyder and Tom Killion:  The High Sierra of California https://amzn.to/3hCVK8q

Planet Ocean, Dancing to the Fossil Record by Ray Troll. Beautiful illustrations and stories about paleontology and fossils. A fun read and amazing pastel art work. https://amzn.to/3Ceciv9

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Frontiers of Enchantment: An Artist’s Adventures in Africa

Best Art Technique and Sketching Books for Nature Journalers

Rosalie Haizlett’s new book: Watercolor in Nature (coming November 2) https://amzn.to/39d0oFv

Cyclopedia Anatomicae: More Than 1,500 Illustrations of the Human and Animal Figure for the Artist https://amzn.to/3k8Jzlf

Animal Anatomy for Artists by Eliot Goldfinger https://amzn.to/3hyxZOw

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain https://amzn.to/3tHHwI2

Dibujar la Naturaleza by Juan M. Varela Simó. One of the best books about nature sketching in Spanish. Many examples of nature journal type approaches. https://amzn.to/3zlhLi8

Alaskan Field Sketches by William D Berry https://amzn.to/2XmjtlK

Art Forms in Nature by Ernst Haeckel https://amzn.to/3C82vH4

Making Comics by Scott McCloud https://amzn.to/2Xy3ykN

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud https://amzn.to/3zf6DTC

Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner https://amzn.to/2XmyhRk

The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde https://amzn.to/3t2pONu

The Restless Kingdom: An Exploration of Animal Movement https://amzn.to/3hCrESd

Drawing Ideas by Mark Baskinger and William Bardel https://amzn.to/3EviZLx

Artist’s Sketchbook by Cathy Johnson https://amzn.to/3nDneOP

The Sierra Club Guide to Painting in Nature by Cathy Johnson https://amzn.to/3hFnXeI

Painting Nature’s Details in Watercolor by Cathy Johnson https://amzn.to/3zgZ9Qi

Botanical Drawing in Color by Wendy Hollender https://amzn.to/3zil9Kn

The Complete Book of Textures for Artists by Steven Pearce, Denise J. Howard, and Mia Tavonatti https://amzn.to/3hCtEKw

Urban Watercolor Sketching by Felix Scheinberger https://amzn.to/3zhs32C

Drawing Birds by John Busby

The Field Guide to Drawing & Sketching Animals by Tim Pond

The Weatherly Guide to Drawing Animals

How to Draw Animals, Jack Hamm

The Art of Animal Drawing by Ken Hultgren

Bird Anatomy for Artists by Natalia Balo

Capturing the Essence Techniques for Bird Artists by William T. Cooper

Art of Field Sketching by Clare Walker Leslie

Sketching in Nature by Cathy Johnson

Drawing and Painting from Nature by Cathy Johnson

Educational Coloring Books (which you can also use for line work inspiration)

The Botany Coloring Book https://amzn.to/3zeMFsc

The Marine Biology Coloring Book by Thomas M. Niesen

A Field Guide to Butterflies Coloring Book by Roger Tory Peterson et al

National Parks Coloring Book by Peter F. Copeland

State Birds and Flowers Coloring Book by Annika Bernhard

Mindset and Motivation

Mindset by Carol Dweck https://amzn.to/3AbmMLc

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

The Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv  https://amzn.to/2VKPyTX

Nature Poetry

The Home Place by Dr J Drew Lanham https://amzn.to/39biuYA

Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry

Devotions by Mary Oliver

Please add your own best books for nature journaling to the comments below!  Happy Reading!

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 From Your Car

I’m going to show you how to nature journal from your car. A car is an amazing thing. Not only can it move you (and your art supplies) from one place to another but it can also protect you from the elements and keep you safe and maybe inconspicuous. And guess what? There are seats you can sit on built right into your car! Many cars are even equipped with pencil holders, windows that you can see through, sun-protecting roof, and many more comfort features than you can fit in your nature journal bag. It is often possible to park your car in locations with good views of natural areas. This is a good option to practice if you live in an area with harsh weather, if you have mobility limitations, don’t have access, don’t feel safe, or otherwise cannot go out into more “wildernessy” areas.

How to Nature Journal From the Front Seat of Your Car

First, let’s talk about how to nature journal from the driver’s seat. This position has several advantages:

  • Most importantly, you do not have to change positions between driving and drawing. This is very convenient. You can drive right up to a spot and start nature journaling without changing seats or rearranging much in your car.
  • Second, the steering wheel can be useful for balancing your sketchbook or drawing pad.
  • Lastly, the front windshield is probably your best view from your car.
For the full list of tips watch the videos!

How to Nature Journal From Your Car: Hatchback Option

If you have an SUV, Pickup or a Hatchback this could be a good strategy for you. While this strategy requires more setup it also has some cool benefits. First, let’s look at the positive side:

  • First and foremost you can have a larger area for your workspace. This could even include a dedicated setup that you leave installed in the back. For example a portable easel or a desk. This is really good if you are doing larger format paintings in watercolor or even oil paintings.
  • Depending on your model of car you may get a better view from the back than through the front windshield.
  • Third, the hatchback door can serve as a protective overhang and provide shade.
  • Lastly, you might be able to setup a really comfortable chair in the back!

 

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

You Make This Possible

Do you enjoy the Nature Journal Show? Do you believe that nature journaling can make the world a better place? Me too, and that’s why I need your help. Because people like you consistently contributing a small amount of money through the nature journal show Patreon makes this all possible.

Patrons get lots of cool benefits, exclusive videos, patron-only parties and the pride of knowing they are supporting the Nature Journal Show. You can contribute too with anywhere from $1 a month to $75 a month. I’m offering special perks and a discount on annual membership for anyone that signs up in August. You can learn more and see some examples of Patron only content here: Become a Patron!

My main goal is to continue to make educational content to help people see more in nature. I believe that nature journaling can make the world a better place. But I need your help.

Some background

The last year has been challenging financially for me and the Nature Journal Show. In fact, the Nature Journal Show has been in the red. Many of you probably know that I went full time with my nature journaling education business in October 2020. So far, I have been subsidizing all the free content that I make with my paid nature education work such as a few paid workshops, one-on-one teaching, speaking about nature journaling at other events etc. This income was drastically reduced because of Covid-19.

What about monetizing all the great content that you are making online?

Great question. I have been experimenting with monetizing my YouTube channel by allowing for some ads on the videos and I have also been using some affiliate links. However, the combined income for both of these is less than $20 a month so far. I would also prefer to use less commercial ways of making this work financially sustainable.

So how is this even possible for you financially?

To tell you the truth, support from my Patreon sponsors has made it possible for me to keep going. (In addition to putting as much of my other income and savings back into the show.) Mainly because of the community, mainly because of the moral support of all 57 people who contribute. Even if it is just $1 a month for some of those people. The community has grown a lot in the last year, so I know that this is possible. Imagine all the cool things we could do if we got to 100 or 500 patrons in the community?!

Let’s keep this show going!

Despite how amazingly supportive my Patreon community has been and how committed they are to the Nature Journal Show the approximately $360 a month in contributions is not enough for me to pay myself for all the hours that I put into making the show. My main goal is to continue to make the highest quality educational content to help people see more in nature. However, for me to continue this work in a sustainable way I need to be able to make a living. Despite all the different things I am trying there have been some months where I made less than $1000.

That’s why this month I am doing a push to get more people to sign up on Patreon. I am also starting to do some part time construction work for a friend. The first time that I have had to take on work other than nature education since I went full time in October 2021. It’s a scary move for me because I don’t want it to take away from the true work that I am meant to be doing on this planet. But I also know that work like that is consistent and can pay bills.

Gratitude

Right now, I want to acknowledge my current Patreon supporters and their belief in me. Thank you all so much! You are all awesome. Some of you have been with me for a long time!

Stephanie, Dianne, Miriam, Marilynn, Amy, Kristin, Eddie, Bethan, Dawn, Akshay, Zeffie, Terry, Jessie, Angela, Stacy, Leslie, Margarita, Hannah, Sandra, Dianne, Tina, Sandra, Julie, Aneta, Barbara, Deborah, Roberta, Sabrina, Stephanie, Loretta, Saphira, Amy, Sandy, Terri, Emma, Troy, Corina, Yvea, Jeanne, Suzanne, Alice, Helen, Mason, Tiffany, Petrina, Eli, Olga, Kate, Rebecca, Barbara, Kit, Laurie, Constance, Rose, Karen, Cate, Amy, Deb, and Jan.

Nature Journaling After a Fire

Let’s practice nature journaling after a fire in Northern California. We will explore the regrowth in Annadel State Park after the 2020 Glass Fire.

So you might be asking: “How can nature journaling be applied to wildfire?” Actually, the powerful thing about nature jouranling is that it is a perspective or a tool more than a subject matter. This perspective can be applied to lots of things. In effect it improves our ability to observe. As it turns out a nature journal can be a great tool to help us:

  • learn about fire ecology
  • prepare for wildfires
  • help change the narrative around fire
  • and even to heal from traumatic experiences with fire

In addition to the above benefits nature journaling can help fire professionals as well as contributing to citizen science about fire. Equally important, nature journaling can help Californians and others create resilient fire adapted communities. To learn more about this increasingly important topic check out this article by Miriam Morrill at the Fire Adapted Network.

I have been able to nature journal live fire in several prescribed burn situations. This has been possible thanks primarily to Miriam Morrill and her program Pyrosketchology. These experiences have led me to use my nature journal to investigate more through a fire ecology lens. I have also been invited to teach nature journaling at Cal TREX prescribed burn training exchange programs for the Plumas County Fire Safe Council in 2021.

nature journaling after a fire in Annadel State Park
Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat
The 2020 Glass Fire

The Glass Fire was one of the fires that hit Northern California in the 2020 fire season. First starting in Napa County near Glass Mountain Road it quickly spread into Sonoma County. The fire grew to 11,000 acres in one night. Significantly for me, several areas that I nature journal burned in the fire. Partly for this reason I decided to nature journal there in the following spring. Learn more details about the Glass Fire here.

Nature Journaling After a Fire: Safety Concerns

When nature journaling in an area that has recently seen fire there are a few things to keep in mind. Local agencies will generally close areas until they are deemed safe after a fire. However, you should always be responsible of your own safety regardless of what the signs say. Here are a few tips. Luckily, nature journaling makes you more aware of your surroundings 😉

  1. First of all, you should beware of holes in the ground. Tree roots are sometimes consumed by fire leaving openings underground.
  2. The most hazardous thing after a fire is dead trees and their branches. Weak branches can fall at a later time. Pay attention to what is above you especially if it is windy.
  3. You should prepare yourself for changed trail conditions.
  4. Lastly, you should pay attention to the weather. Flash floods and debris flows are possible in areas that have lost vegetation then experience intense rain.

These safety concerns should not prevent you from nature journaling after a fire. Nevertheless it is good to be informed. Not everything you should look out for is a hazard. Next, I will show you some things you

nature Journaling after a fire: what to look for

  1. Fire-Following Flowers. First, lets look at flowers. Some flowers will only come up after a fire. I enjoy looking for these species and recording them in my nature journal. This is a classic thing to do in a post-fire area. Do you want to see a whole video about this?
  2. Succession Ecology. Second, let’s look at succession. Disturbance and regeneration are important parts of nature. Succession is the study of these regenerative patterns.
  3. Fire-Tracking. Third let’s hire a detective. Sherlock Holmes would be a great companion on your post-fire nature journaling trip. You can also look for clues, use deductive reasoning, and make hypotheses about how a fire moved through the area. I share some of these techniques in the video.
  4. Mapping Burn Intensity. You can learn about fire in a more nuanced way by looking at the variation in burn intensity. Fire never burns an area homogeneously despite how it is conceived in popular imagination.
  5. Fire Phenology. Phenology is the study of seasonal patterns in nature. You can add a phenology wheel to your nature journal.

nature journaling after a fire landscape showing a hill that burned in the 2020 glass fire

Nature Journaling Post-Fire Ecosystem Change

I have talked about nature journaling ecosystem change in other videos. For example, I interviewed Robin Carlson several months ago about her nature journaling practice. Robin has nature journaled in the same area for several years. The Stebbins Cold Creek Preserve burned in the 2015 Wragg fire. Robin has documented ecosystem change in the area since the fire. As a result she has learned a lot in addition to contributing to citizen science. You can learn more about her Wildfire to Wildflower project here.

 

Are you 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

 

 

Birding Homework (live episode)

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:
  1. First, he sets up his page so his information stays organized.

    Marley sets up his Sparrow Study
    Marley sets up his page for the sparrow study, using a grid to separate and organize the information for each species.
  2. Second, he uses the bird guide to draw quick sketches of the birds he wants to study.  Marley’s tools of choice:  Pilot Futayaku gray and black brush pen (his favorite!). Tombow brush pen in pale gray.  Pentel waterbrush size large. John Muir Laws’s custom watercolor palette.
  3. Third, he reads the descriptions in the bird guide and adds notes to his journal.  Here, Marley references the Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Western North America.
  4. Fourth, he listens to the birds’ songs on Dendroica and creates a sonogram of what he hears.
Marley uses Petersons for his Sparrow Study
Marley uses a bird guide book to find and write characteristics and details about the sparrows in his birding homework.

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.

Using Dendroica's spectrogram
Marley uses Dendroica’s spectrogram feature to help him “see” the birdsong

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.
  • Drink coffee.
birding homework sparrow study
The birding homework is done! For today…

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!

 

To meet another nature journaler who is also a birder, check out Marley’s interview with Christina Baal.

Are you 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

Nature Journaling Reptiles

Nature journaling reptiles is one of my favorite things! Let’s sketch and learn about these animals together with Rachael from Doodlebugs animal adventures. Rachael will share Russian tortoises, weird frogs, as well as a legless lizard! In addition, I will share some other reptile nature journal pages below.

Rachael Wallman is a biologist, mom, and animal lover. She runs Doodlebugs Animal Adventures an animal education business. There are a lot of cool animals living in her house. However, for today’s show we are just going to focus on the reptiles and amphibians.

Nature Journaling Reptiles when they keep moving?!

By this point you might be asking: “How can I draw moving animals?” While Rachael holds up her animals and shares info about them I do my best to capture quick sketches and notes. Here are several tricks I use in this situation:

  1. First, start as soon as possible. The longer you wait to start sketching and nature journaling the harder it will be to start.
  2. Next, think of your drawings as diagrams instead of as definitive works of art. Diagrams can be drawn quickly and capture lots of info.
  3. Draw fast. Draw a lot. Similarly to the last point this takes pressure off your drawing. In reality, if you just keep your pencil moving and you keep looking at your subject then you are succeeding. You are learning. That is what nature journaling is all about.
  4. Fourth, don’t get obsessed with details. Many amphibians and especially reptiles are covered in complex patterns and textures. Trying to capture these details from a moving animal will drive you crazy. Instead, try to capture gesture drawings of the basic shapes and essence of the animal.

    nature journaling reptiles at the san francisco zoo where they have a komodo dragon, the largest living lizard in the world. I use many quick sketches to try to capture the essence of this reptile as I try to draw it live. It was moving a lot. I added the color afterwards to the drawing.
    I kept my pen moving as I tried to capture the shapes of this komodo dragon as it kept moving. I added the color afterwards.
  5. Break your subject up and focus on small parts at a time. For example try just drawing the eye over and over again.
nature journaling reptiles is easier when you try to focus on small parts at a time. You can draw just they lizard eye over and over again for example.
Nature Journal Page of Polychrus marmoratus aka monkey lizard
The Reptiles we nature journaled in this episode
  • The Russian Tortoise was the first reptile we nature journaled in this episode.
  • Rachael took out her big adult gopher snake next! This one was moving slightly less than the tortoise but presented other challenges.
  • We looked at her Crested Gecko next! This animal was super fun and kept licking its eyeball and jumping onto the camera!
  • Then it was finally time for an amphibian with a “Dumpy Frog.”
  • Last but not least we nature journaled a legless lizard!

Learn more about Rachael’s animals and learn from her entertaining posts on her instagram

Do you live in the Orange County area of California? I suggest you check out Rachaels in-person classes or bring her to your school, library, etc! Kids love them! Learn more here.

nature journaling reptiles and how to draw reptiles with doodlebugs animal adventures

If you are just getting started with nature journaling check out this post : 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

Here are some more example pages of nature journaling reptiles in other situations
example page of nature journaling reptiles looking at a live lizard and doing many sketches trying to capture the head shape of this Uranoscodon superciliosus aka mophead iguana.
Nature journal page drawings of a Uranoscodon superciliosus aka mophead iguana. This species was not moving much but I still used some of the same tactics outlined above.
nature journaling reptiles example page showing snake drawings I did from life of captive amazonian puffing snake
Part of a nature journal page showing sketches of puffing snake heads. You can see how I added details to some of the gesture sketches. Despite the fact that this snake was not moving much I still used the same tactics mentioned for how to draw moving reptiles.
nature journaling rattlesnake juvenile in the field.
Here is a page where the reptile was not moving much but I still had a short amount of time to nature journal because it was a field-herping trip. You can see that I separate my drawings, focusing on different elements of the rattlesnake in different micro-drawings. I do several small drawings of the head. I do a side view of the pattern and I even do a drawing showing the snake on a rock and my friend’s hand offering it water.

The Polychrus, Uranascodon, and Amazonian Puffing snake were all nature journaled in the reptile room of my friend Roy. You can check out his herpetoculture practice and species in his care on instagram here. If you are interested in nature journaling reptiles it is a good option to find people who raise reptiles and ask to visit their reptile room. Another option is to go to reptile shows or herpetology clubs.

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.

“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.  

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.

 

 

Birding and Drawing ALL the Birds!

Have you ever had a big birding day or a big year? Christina Baal’s plan is to see and draw all 10,000 birds on the planet! In this talk she describes how she got into birding, her mission, and how combining art and birding improves both!

Are you a birder? If so, then you are familiar with the desire to add more birds to your life list. Obviously, there is something very fun about “collecting” new birds. There is a powerful pleasure response when we see a new species for the first time. Many of us birders have goals, we have aspirations, we plan birding trips onto our family vacations. However, few of us set our sights as high as Christina Baal.

Birding and Drawing All the Birds
Christina’s Painting of the Fairy Pitta
Birding Abroad or Birding at Home?

Christina has been bird-watching in some exotic places. And to complete her list there are still many more places to go. Despite this fact one of her favorite places to bird-watch is around her home. Indeed, the Northeastern United States can be a birding wonderland during the spring migration. Christina eloquently describes it:

One of the most magical things for me is to step out the door in the first week of May when all the wood warblers are just coming in. Everything is singing, all the flowers are out, and it smells amazing. And you just walk out and the world is pulsing around you. And there are just wonderful blobs of color everywhere.

To see more of what Christina is up to check out https://www.drawingtenthousandbirds.com/ You can also see some of her great photos on https://www.instagram.com/drawing1000… And at https://www.facebook.com/drawing10000…

For more tips on how to combine birding and nature journaling see this post.

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