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Friday, August 9, 2013

Nature Journaling: A Way to See Even More Beautiful

Happy Seeing Beautiful Friday! Here's a question:
Which tree is blooming?

The wax myrtle..

or the crape myrtle?
If you said the crape myrtle, two days ago I would have agreed. But the correct answer is: Both trees are blooming!

I know this because yesterday's nature journaling assignment was to compare two similar species. In nature journaling, your sketching supplements the observations you are making of the natural world. It is different from painting and sketching as art in two important ways: the "beauty" of the picture is irrelevant, and the picture is supplemented with written observations and thoughts. That's right - making it pretty is not nearly as important as observing minute details and proportions while wondering about what you see.

Here is my drawing of the wax myrtle flower.

I stumbled on a curriculum for a nature journaling class from the California Native Plant Society earlier this summer. It can be downloaded for free as a pdf. file (click here). From there I discovered the website of one of the authors, John Muir Laws. After watching a few tutorials on his YouTube channel and buying a sketchbook he recommended, I started working on the assignments in the curriculum that could be completed alone (since there's not a class). 

Nature journaling promotes what John Muir Laws calls "deep observation". To help that process, three prompts are included for each drawing. The prompts are "I wonder _____" "I notice ______" and "It reminds me of _______". It's amazing but true - spending time this way reveals beauty in nature that would otherwise go unnoticed. You also can't help but observe the activities of birds, butterflies, and insects that are not the subject of your drawing because you are spending time being still.

Nature journaling is a way to develop an even greater wonder and sense of awe at the beauty of nature. It's not threatening because if you make a mistake or can't draw a museum piece, so what? The experts say that if you are trying for accuracy and detail, over time "pretty" will take care of itself and your drawing will get better. I was a skeptic, but the experts are right. In only a few months my  journal entries are improving aesthetically. Here is yesterday's entry:

This drawing is pleasing to me because of the many details of leaf arrangement and shape, flower structure, bark color and texture, and so on that I was able to capture. 

Would you like to try nature journaling too? You only need a pencil and computer paper. If you are curious, visit John Muir Laws' website and blog, or download the California Native Plant Society curriculum. You could spend 30 minutes this weekend falling in love with nature and discovering whether nature journaling is for you.


Madi and Mom said...


GizmoGeodog said...

years back my dog Bruno and I would regularly hike with a forest ranger who was also a naturalist...I learned so much and she insisted I always carry a notebook and pencil to jot down what I saw, the names of things, and how I felt...haven't done that in years but now you've got me thinking about starting again...I'll be visiting the sites you mentioned...Thank you! said...

Interesting... I've never heard of nature journaling before. I can't draw worth a flip, but it would be interesting to see how the drawings would turn out if I just focused on the details of the plant. Very creative post to link up to the See Beautiful hop! Love it.
Both trees are beautiful! Most of the crape myrtles around here look like bushes, not trees. I guess you have to thin out the bottoms to get them to just grow up, not up and out(?) There's one in my neighbor's backyard that's getting really big, but they don't touch it - so it's tall and wide.

Blueberry said...

Our crepe myrtles are GORGEOUS right now! I've never tried nature journaling, but yours are beautiful!

Golden Woofs! SUGAR said...

Mom did that when she was in college. She joined a club, now you made her think what happened to her notebook. Will check out the site. Golden Thanks for sharing. Golden LOVE your drawings. Happy Seeing Beauty. Lots of Golden Woofs, Sugar

Sandra said...

totally cool idea and one i might try... your last page is really pretty, you made it and think of all you have learned.

John Muir Laws said...

Delightful post. Keeping a nature journal is such a powerful way to help yourself pay attention. Thank you for the inspiration.

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