Thursday, December 10, 2015

Nature Sketching On A Golden Afternoon

I spent a warm, golden afternoon sketching tree fungus and watching a whole family of American anoles frolicking along the length of a fallen beech tree. One particularly bold one who was missing part of its tail I christened "Stumpy".  Very imaginative, I know.  It was such a perfect day,  I captured the moment with a selfie - something I rarely do.  But, I kind of like this one.  It really captures the feeling of the moment - warm, peaceful, and happy.  I discovered so much more than is evident in my sketch.  There is a whole micro ecosystem living on and around that fallen tree.  There is such a story to tell there, and I think I will spend a bit more time trying to capture it.

I am trying hard not to be too critical of my drawing, but I really wish I could learn how to draw the fungus at the right angles - foreshortening in essence.  See how the brackets I've drawn look as if they are perpendicular to the ground? Well, they don't grow that way.  They grow parallel to the ground, but I haven't worked out how to achieve that yet.  I watched a fantastic YouTube video by John Muir Laws on drawing wildflowers in which he addresses the issue of foreshortening, but it just hasn't clicked with me yet.  I will keep trying.

But, the good news is, I have discovered that nature journaling is about a whole lot more than drawing.  It's an active form of meditation, sitting quietly and focusing intently on capturing some small element of the wonders unfolding before my eyes.  I felt so calm, happy, and refreshed and also as if I had been allowed to peek into a secret world.  Even if my drawing doesn't receive any benefit from the practice, my spirit definitely does, and so I am inspired to continue.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A New Creative Journey - Nature Journaling

My very first nature journal page 11/27/15

Nature journals are one of my favorite things, and making one for myself is something I've always wanted to do.  I've collected a few - Edith Holden and Marjolein Bastin are my favorites, and I've admired the work of many others I've seen on the internet, but I never had the courage to try it for myself.  I just didn't think my drawing skills were good enough.  Recently, however,  I purchased the book Create Your Own Artist's Journal by Erin O'Toole because it looked like another beautiful book full of watercolor sketches and nature pages and found myself greatly inspired and encouraged to have a go at it. It's a wonderful book full of practical information and helpful tips.  There's even a short section on how to create your own handmade journal.  It's a perfect book for a beginner like me, because it makes art and nature journaling seem more accessible.  So, I purchased an inexpensive journal and assembled a kit from things I already had on hand and set out on a warm sunny day to sketch something - something easy to start with.  I chose a favorite winter tree - the witch hazel, which blooms here in Alabama throughout the fall and winter.  I wanted to sketch the pair of wood ducks I saw bobbing around in the creek or the little anole who climbed up on my back pack to warm himself in the sun, or the amazing grasshopper who was so perfectly camouflaged that I almost overlooked him, but the witch hazel was willing to stand still, so that's where I began.  I have set some goals for myself and am hoping that with regular practice my drawing and painting skills will improve with time.  Sitting around looking at other people's work and wishing I could draw won't make it happen.  I think it has finally dawned on me that I am the only person who can teach me how to draw.  We learn by doing. Yes? yes.