Nature journaling is the documentation of our observations, experiences and reflections on the natural world. Through nature journaling, you become part of a long history of naturalists and explorers who, just like you, set out with a journal and a quest to better understand the world around them.
When you write and draw in your nature journal, those detailed observations will spark a desire for continued exploration. Each page becomes a tangible record of the natural world from a specific moment in time, uniquely filtered through your own personal lens.
The beauty and power of nature journaling lies in the connections we make between what we observe and our own lives. Not only do we deepen our understanding of the natural world but we also deepen our understanding of ourselves.
Your nature journal will serve as a visual representation of your interests, experiences, and personal style. Each page will hold memories you can return to time and time again.
The possibilities are endless and there is so much joy to be found in the process of nature journaling. So let’s get started.
Nature Journaling gets you outside and more connected with the natural systems that surround you. Join scientific illustrator Liz Clayton Fuller in this self-paced course designed to help you develop your observation and art skills and channel your creativity.
From Lesson 4: Drawing Skills for Nature Journaling
Gesture Drawing in Real Time trains you to overcome a common challenge in field sketching. When you’re out in the field, animals are almost always on the move. Fortunately, Liz has some strategies to help you capture those fascinating behaviors and postures even as they go by quickly. Practice along with this video to give it a try!
If you can get a quick sketch, a quick impression down in your notebook, that’s gonna be really important, and you’re gonna do it every time you’re out there. I’m gonna demonstrate how to do this, and show you what you can do to adjust when you’re drawing moving subjects.
Now I’m gonna demonstrate drawing a moving subject. I’m want you to watch as I do this and then you’ll have a chance to try it later. So, I’m just going to start sketching, and really pay attention to the movements of the pintail. It’s doing a lot of preening. Its tail is very pointy. And I’m gonna start multiple different drawings as I see it change poses. And it’s okay to start a drawing and not be able to finish it.
And oftentimes birds and other animals you’ll see will go through cyclical behaviors, so you’ll get to start again on a drawing that you started already and add some detail to it. So, its doing a really pretty preening motion here, so I wanna see if I can capture that really loosely with my gesture, and this is just to get that impression down on your page. So just be gentle with yourself and just have fun.
Ah, that’s such a fun pose. So I wanna try to capture that in my sketchbook, that pretty neck. Okay, oh, now it’s twisting its head around, and that’s my minute. So, I got a couple drawings down on the page. You can see some of the gestures that I captured where the pintail is preening or looking in one direction. And some I didn’t even finish, so just go easy on yourself, have fun, and stay super loose with your drawings.
Now it’s your turn to sketch the pintail. Remember, if it moves, start a new gesture drawing. It’s okay to have a bunch of different drawings. Even if some of them are unfinished, it’s the process that’s most important. Keep it super sketchy, keep your pen moving around the page, and just have fun with it. Nicely done, you’ve done your first gesture drawing of a moving subject.
While you were drawing, I drew along with you, and I’ll show yo what I came up with. So, I made a lot of drawings around the page, and you can see that a couple of them I started and didn’t finish. Honestly, this little circle, I think I started a head and just abandoned it and did something else. I kept things really loose and tried to draw a new subject every time it moved. Just a head over here, I think this was from the back.
So, make sure that you’re just keeping things super loose. And sometimes when I’m out in the field I pick my favorite drawing to refine, and I add more detail later. Gesture drawing is really tough, so I’m super proud of you for just going for it and getting these first gesture drawings under your belt.
Remember, always be gentle with yourself. This is gonna get easier and easier as you do it more and more. Use the videos provided to keep practicing your gesture drawings. Remember, keep it loose, start as many drawings as you want, and just be gentle with yourself and have fun while you’re doing it.
Out in the Field: Practicing Proportion and Negative Space walks you through a series of techniques for creating accurate sketches by paying attention to the space surrounding whatever you are drawing and refining based on relative measurements. As you’ll discover, these field-ready methods can transform your ability to recreate what you see on the pages of your journal.
There aren’t any other ones like it around. So I’m gonna focus on this one, draw it and see what I can learn. I’m just gonna start sketching and refine from there. So I wanna pick an anchor point to start from, and I’m gonna pick sort of the bulb of the flower itself. So I’m just gonna use my short sketchy lines like we always do, and really block in just kind of a rough shape.
And I wanna make sure that I’m leaving enough space on my paper to fit the whole flower. So I’m gonna go a little smaller than life size here. So I’m using my short sketchy lines. And even right off the bat, I’m paying attention to the negative space. So I’ve sort of filled in the shape of the flower itself here and where the stem comes over the top of it, there’s a lot of negative space. So I wanna pay attention to that. You can see that as I’m sketching, I’m refining, so the negative space is pretty tight here. So I moved the flower to come out and meet it a little bit and the stem in.
And remember to never be afraid of erasing, that is always a fine thing to do. So I’m coming down with my stem. I’m not really sure how exactly long it is in proportion to the rest. So I’m gonna take a pause and use my proportional measuring tool. So I’m gonna stick my arm out straight like you remember, close one eye, and I’m just measuring from the bottom of the flower to the top of the plant. And I’m gonna see how many times that measurement fits into the stem before it disappears under the leaves. So I got like two and just a little bit.
So I’m gonna measure here, that’s one, two, and maybe just a little more. So I’ve got that measurement. And now I’m gonna start filling in the leaves. So again, negative space is gonna play a big role here. And while I’m looking at this plant really closely, I’m seeing a lot of really cool details. And I wanna start taking some notes just while I’m drawing. So I’m gonna come up here, just make a couple of notations about what I see. And I wanna take these notes because as I’m drawing, I’m noticing a lot of details, and I wanna be able to go back home and identify this flower, find out what I’ve seen.
So I’m kinda blocking this in, and I think I’ve basically got the whole flower in view here. So I’m gonna take another pause and proportionally measure again. I measured the length of the stem, now I wanna see how I did with the height of the leaves down here. So I’m gonna take that measurement again. One, two, three. About four high. So I’ve got one, two, three, four. Not too bad. I think it could have gone a little further down, but that’s totally okay. I’m just gonna draw to the very edge of my page here. I could have scooted this up and given myself a little bit more room, but that’s all right. So I’m gonna keep working. And the negative space is not only where the plant is not, it can also be the areas between the leaves.
So the front of this leaf is here and the back of it is here. So this can even be my negative space. So I’m just paying attention to that as well. And then I’ve got another leaf kind of shooting up back here. And I think this is a whole separate flower. There’s one in the front, one in the back, and one on the side. So I’m gonna take a note of that as well. Three flowers in a clump, but only one is blooming right now. Another important note that I wanna take is, I’m gonna measure this flower, I wanna know what the height of it is. So when I go back and I’m looking through my field guide, wondering what this flower is, I’ll have all the information I need.
So I’ve got my ruler here with me. I’m just gonna, let’s see, that’s five, six, seven, eight. So it’s about eight inches high from the very top to the bottom. So I’m just gonna make a note of that. ‘Cause while you’re drawing, you’re gonna notice a lot of things and details that will really help you later when you wanna identify this. So I’m just gonna block in this third flower here that’s coming up, hasn’t quite bloomed yet. So there’s a great negative space down here that I wanna pay attention to. So I’m still always using my short, sketchy lines.
These leaves have a lot of, sort of strong lines running through them, a really nice linear texture, and I’ll write that down as well. So I’m noticing the pattern of the leaves as I’m looking more closely at them. The more developed leaves have more lines and the smaller ones have fewer lines, but still some. So I’ve got one more leaf to block in here. And now I’m just gonna come back to the flower, make sure I’ve got that shape right. It’s got a couple of little leaves falling around it that I wanna make sure I make a note of. So now I’m gonna take some time and I’m gonna do another drawing and really focus on the flower.
It’s a really odd, interesting shape. So I wanna look at it close and get a sketch down. So I’m gonna start, and I’m gonna sketch it larger over here, ’cause I don’t have to include the whole flower this time. And I’m just using my short, sketchy lines, gonna really focus on this interesting shape.
It’s almost like a pouch. It looks really, really soft and has some really faint veining. And I can see that there’s some negative space, way at the top here. So it almost looks like they’re two parts to this flower. This top part here, there’s a tiny bit of negative space right there, and I’m paying attention to that shape to help keep my drawing accurate. But it’s also making me wonder, just more about this flower, why is it the shape that it is? So I’m gonna keep sketching. Get my detail in. I think it’s really interesting that the sort of top of the stem is hanging over the plant itself. It’s not facing up to the sky, sort of drooping down.
Keep paying attention to my negative shapes to make my drawing as accurate as I can. So I got that down. And I just wanna take a little time, look closely and include a couple of these unique little marks that I can see on the flower itself. Okay. So I’ve gotten a good bit of detail, and I’ve got some bugs coming to visit. Got a good bit of detail in here. And so now that I’ve been observing this flower for a while, I’m just gonna take some notes and ask some of the questions that I thought of while I’ve been looking at this flower.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s a really unique, distinct shape. And I am wondering what flower this is, and why is that this shape? I’ve also been wondering about the fact that it’s growing in a group of three, but only one of them is blooming now, why is that? Are the other ones younger? Are they possibly just sprouting up? Have they already bloomed? I’m not really sure. So I’m gonna write down these questions and see what I can find out later. Alright, so I’ve used my tools of proportion and negative space to make as accurate of a drawing of this flower as possible. I’ve taken a lot of notes and some measurements to gather as much information as I can.
I’m gonna take all that I’ve got on my page and go back home and try to ID this flower. Remember, when you’re in the field, you can use proportion and negative space to help make your drawings accurate too.
From Lesson 5: Adding Color to Your Journal
Mixing Color Palettes is one of seven videos in the watercolor series designed to demystify watercolor techniques so that you can start using them confidently in the field. Learn skills for combining color strategically and enjoy the meditative quality of mixing the colors to match the extravagant plumage of this Wood Duck.
We’re gonna do an exercise where you create a palette from a photograph. You’re gonna pick a few prominent colors, mix them on your palette and then get them on your paper. I’m gonna demo this first and then you’ll have a chance to try. Okay, let’s get started on our color palette exercise.
So, I’ve got a beautiful picture of a Wood Duck here. It has all kinds of fantastic colors in it. I’m gonna pick out five colors. I’ve made five circles and mix them. I think I’m gonna start with the one that’s jumping out the most to me which is this eye color. It’s kind of like a like a really funky peachy, red, pink, orange. So, I’m just gonna start mixing here. My brush is a little dirty from earlier, clean that off. Good thing I noticed.
And I’m gonna start with just looking at that color and looking at my palette and see what jumps out at me. I think we’re definitely gonna need some of this orange. So, I’m gonna grab some here, bring it over. Now, we’re gonna need some pretty deep red. Start working on that. And so this is kind of a pink red and over here is maybe a bit of a truer red. So, I’m gonna grab that one too.
See how it’s looking. And it’s starting to look pretty similar. I’m gonna use my test sheet over here and just do it a couple times and see. I think actually around the eye might be a bit of a tint. So, I’m gonna wipe off my brush here, grab a little bit of white. And when you’re activating your watercolors, you don’t have to get water all over the pan. If you want just a tiny bit of white, you can just activate the corner, grab the color that you need and bring it over.
So, I feel pretty happy with that. I think this is gonna be my Wood Duck eye red. So, I’m gonna bring it over here, fill in my circle. In color mixing you know, there’s really no consequences. You should just experiment and have fun and mix because when you’re mixing on your palette if you don’t get it right the first time, that’s okay. You can just wipe it off and start over again. So, there’s my first color and I’m really happy with that. I’m looking at them together and I think I think I did pretty decent job.
So, moving on. I think I’m gonna do one of these greens. There’s like a really nice kind of yellowy funky green highlight right in here that I’m gonna try. So, I’m gonna make a little spot here just with the little wetness. Make sure my brush is pretty clean. And then looking at my palette. I’m gonna start with this green. So, this is gonna be a fun color. It’s kind of a funky greenish gold. This is a good start, a good base color. I clean off my brush here, grab some of this color. It was a little bit messy but you can see now that I’m uncovering it. It’s kind of a really nice golden color. It’s looking pretty good. I think because of all the green around it, we might need to pull in a little bit of a truer green.
So, I’m just talking you through my process, what I’m seeing on my picture, what I’m seeing on my palette and what I think this needs. Maybe even a little bit of a darker green. You can see like I said earlier, I’m just activating it tiny bit of that and I think I even got more than I needed to so I’m gonna wipe it off here and then bring it into my color. Grab it, bring it in a little bit and I’m feeling pretty happy with that actually. So, this will be my kind of above the eye greenish kind of a gold green. And I just made circles so that you can have like a really really nice example of the color that you made. All right, looking pretty good. So, now on to the next.
I think I’m gonna try this really nice purple in here on the cheek. It’s a cool color, it’s right next to that white so it really pops out. So, you’ve got a purple in your palette but usually you know if you see a purple, you’ve got purple in your palette, this purple that you have is not going to be the same as the purple that you’re seeing. So, you always want to try to mix your colors and not use anything straight out of the palette unless it’s like an exact match. So, this is a really bright purple. So, we’re gonna use what we learned earlier, be clever and use purple’s complement, yellow. So, I’m gonna start with just a little bit, just a bit here and bring it into the purple. And it’s already starting to move that purple down a little bit but I think now our purple needs some blue. So, I’m gonna grab this really deep blue and remember colors can be strong.
You’ll get to know your palette as you paint but you always wanna add just a little bit at a time. Think I might have gone a little overzealous with this but it’s actually working out in my favor pretty well. I’m gonna do a little test on my sheet over here. That’s looking pretty good. I might add just a little more of our original purple to bring it brighter. Maybe a little more blue, grab some from here. Cool, okay I’m feeling pretty happy with that. So, I’m gonna put it in my circle.
So, you can see that our palette on the right here is really starting to echo the picture on the left and it’s a really fun cool exercise you can do. You can use a photograph or a landscape that you’re seeing in a field, maybe a flower, whatever you want.
Okay, I’m gonna clean my brush again and this time I think I’m gonna go for that really punchy yellow right here. So, you’ve got a couple of yellows on your palette again. You just wanna kind of look at that, look at your palette, see which one you feel like speaks to you for this. I think I’m going to need to use both of these yellows. This one’s really lemony and this one’s a little more golden. Now that I’m looking at it, looks like there might even be a little bit of orange or maybe a little red in that yellow. So, I’m gonna scoot over here and grab some. This is looking a little dark. So, I think I might go back to my first yellow here, grab a little more. Now it’s looking too lemony.
So, it’s okay to just sort of like adjust as you go. You know, you’re not gonna knock it out of the park on your first try and the process is what makes it fun. Maybe even a little more orange. And I think this color might benefit from a little white as well just to pale it out. Alright, I think that’s looking good.
I’m gonna go ahead and put my next color down. I think I could have gone a little more orange but that’s totally okay. It’s just experimentation and having fun. Alright, so for my last color, I think I’m gonna go for this really nice kind of like turquoise color we’ve got going on on the border of this more brown color and our purple from earlier. So, I’ve got a really nice kind of blue-green already in my palette and that’s looking pretty good. This is you know closer to the color we’re going for than most of our colors have been.
Yeah, that’s a nice color. I think it might need a little lime green to brighten it up but we might not have to do too much work for this one. Some of your colors are gonna come really easily and some you’re gonna have to work a little harder for but I think that’s part of the fun. All right, that’s looking good. I feel like I might need just a little, little blue in there. Maybe not that blue. So, I kind of took a little bit, tested on my palette and I don’t think that’s gonna, I don’t think that’s gonna help, I think that’s going to darken it too much. So, I’m not gonna use that one.
I’m gonna go to the next one and see how this one might work. I think that one might help a little bit. Just gonna use a tiny bit. Yeah, a little more of our original and I’m pretty happy with that. So, I’m gonna bring this over. Now you’ve got a nice Wood Duck palette that you’ve worked on, experimented and there we go. So, I’m really happy with the palette I created and now it’s your turn to create your own palette from the photos provided. Get super creative with this. Take your time, mix colors and have fun.
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Thanks for previewing sample videos from Nature Journaling and Field Sketching with Liz Clayton Fuller. There are 30 videos like these to learn from in this self-paced course—plus dozens of practice exercises and a discussion forum to help you create the journal you dream about.