“The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and the heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature
***Note to those just starting out with nature journals***
Everyone feels that little twang the minute a blank page is opened in the journal itself. I want my journal to be perfect and wonderful and worthy of awe but I don’t always seem to get what is in my head down onto the actual page so be comforted when you feel as if you are the only one that views your first efforts as inadequate.
I will try to explain what I have learned about nature journals and include some of my actual nature journal pages from the last eight years to help illustrate what I have discovered. Please know that it takes a lot of courage on my part to share my feeble beginnings and to show just how much I still have room to grow. Sharing these pages, others can see that this is a work in progress even for those of us who have been at the process of nature journaling for a number of years. (You can click on any of the images and they will enlarge.)
Here are some pages that show how I just do the best I can to get down on paper what I am seeing at the time. I don’t draw faces very well so I just left it blank. I also will sometimes just trace something like a leaf or a flower into my journal and then add a bit of color. It works.
The process of finding something you want to include in your journal is more important than the actual journal entry. When you are trying to keep a nature journal, you actually need to have some sort of contact with nature and that is the first step….usually the hardest step is just getting out the door of your house. The actual getting outside into your little square of nature is more valuable than the journal entry itself if you really think about it. You are outside under the big, beautiful sky. You are spending time with your children and showing them by your example that you value being out-of-doors. Anything that happens while in the process of finding something to record in your journal is the real experience of the nature journal.
It is my journal and it can be any way that I wish it to be.
Here I am trying to show the progress of our garden.
I opened my journal this morning and this pressed flower fell out. I had pressed it between the folds of a napkin and put it in my nature journal. You can also find leaves pressed between the pages of my nature journal.
Keeping a nature journal is a long-term life project. I have one nature journal that I have been working in for over eight years. It is a work in progress. My favorite entries are those that are not necessarily the most artistic but they hold the memories of my time spent in God’s creation. My nature journal goes with me on every trip we take….I have packed it three times to Hawaii, to Yellowstone, on countless trips to Yosemite, and on most every little day trip I make. Do I always remember to pull it out and record things? No. Do I wish I would have made more entries? Yes. There is the lesson.
If you want your drawing skills to improve, you must practice. Gulp. That is a tough one for most of us. I did not come from an artistic background so giving myself permission to try to learn to draw or paint or do anything artistic took a big shove from my husband. He encouraged me take a drawing class at the college. This was so far out of my comfort zone but I really wanted to learn how to draw past stick figures. It took time and effort. My suggestion for people who are striving to do a better job in sketching is to go to your library and go to the children’s section first and check out “how to draw” books and use them along side your children. I checked one out on how to draw insects and one on how to draw birds and then found some nature sketching books to try. These experiences with the book open in front of you and your sketching from the step by step instructions will eventually spill over into your nature journal.
There is no magic formula but your success is equal to the effort you are willing to put into it.
I started to work with watercolor and I was brave enough this summer to actually do a watercolor straight into my nature journal. You can decide what you need to teach yourself in order to make your nature journal your own expression of your experiences in nature.
This is a more recent journal entry that I made *after* working through the book Sketching in Nature. I can already see the difference. I am starting to be able to take some of the ideas of others and make them my own in my personal nature journal. I am working on drawing the water so that it looks like it is moving…it is coming along.
I have recently become fascinated with the journals of Lewis and Clark and those of John Muir, the conservationist. The connections between their journals and their legacy is indisputable. Our journals and those we encourage our children to keep will be a link to their deepened understanding of how wonderful and exciting a world was created for us to live in.