Friday, July 17, 2020

Nature Journaling

This past year has been rich with growth and inspiration, as I've delved deeper into my interests in both printmaking and environmental science. From immersive natural history lessons in the Sierra Nevada mountains through the UC CALNAT program, to linocut printmaking in the letterpress studio at Penland School of Craft, I've had the privilege of learning from some truly incredible artists, scientists, and teachers.

One of my first and most influential experiences in 2019 was learning the art of nature journaling from the master of the medium himself, John Muir Laws. In March of 2019, I attended a two-day workshop led by renowned Bay Area-based naturalist, artist, author, and teacher, John Muir Laws. Designed for educators, the experiential workshop engaged participants in various journaling practices that inspired deeper scientific observation and inquiry. As students, we were invited to notice, wonder, and reflect - not just on our natural surroundings, but upon our inner experience as well.

Looking at nature for the first time through an interdisciplinary lens of science, art, and soul ignited a powerful spark for me. And I haven't looked at the world in the same way since. 

Nature Journaling in the field with John Muir Laws

Smitten with this newfound medium of nature journaling, I began looking into other classes to further develop my skills in scientific drawing and observation. A few weeks later, I was enrolled in an online course in Natural History Illustration offered through the University of New Castle, Australia.

Specimen studies in my sketchbook 

Pages are often filled slowly over time

The course helped me to sharpen my eye and gain a beginner's understanding of things like botanical structure and animal anatomy. It also provided me with a crash course in drawing fundamentals, and taught me the basics of value and composition (concepts that I'd never formally studied as a self-taught, "figure it out as I go" artist).

Though much of my art has long been inspired by nature - and plants and animals have always factored heavily into my work - up until my introduction to nature journaling, I had simply been content to interpret my subjects stylistically. But after leafing through the exquisite pages of Laws' nature journals, and later marveling at the beautifully detailed and scientifically accurate drawings of Portland-based artist Zoe Keller, I was inspired to take my skills and understanding in this department to the next level.

A squirrel skull - A lucky find

Back home at my desk

Now I feel as though my fascinations with art and nature have fused into a single, powerful force of curiosity and creativity. And I'm excited to see where this journey leads. 

A female Western Tiger Swallowtail
that my husband pulled from a spider's web in our backyard

Lots of detail

After a light wash of watercolor

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