Nature Journaling for the Plein Air Artist

As a plein air artist, I have struggled between creating paintings that record my experience and creating artwork from place. I finally have a name for the way I have been sketching, thinking about my experience of nature and inquiry – Nature Journaling!

I am far from the first to approach nature journaling, there is a long history of Nature Journaling by folks like Claire Walker Leslie and now John Muir Laws who has created the Wild Wonder Foundation. Nature Journaling is cropping up in schools and various groups are gathering around the country.

What is Nature Journaling?

A nature journal is a place to record your observations, questions, connections, and understanding in a notebook. Unlike a written journal, nature journaling uses pictures, symbols and numbers, in addition to words. It’s not a place for pretty pictures (although they can be). It’s place to record a way of thinking.

I remember studying clouds, thinking I need to know more about these clouds to paint them accurately. What are the names, why do they form, what is the pattern, what’s causing a microclimate, why do they change with the season, how do they change? I remember being in conversation with an art teacher that said, “You don’t need to understand it, to paint it. Paint what you see!” Perhaps he was right, but my curiosity was never quenched.

As I have been diving into the pages of my journals, I feel a newfound sense of freedom using symbols, words, descriptions, color, questions, and really taking time to look. To see. invite you to join me in this exploration of nature journaling and see how it transforms your experience of nature.

What do you think?

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