Part 1. Getting Started
The wonders of creation surround us. From small treasures of the garden—flowers, insects, birds, squirrels—to parks and grand landscapes, the diverse world of nature is prime subject matter for a Nature Sketchbook. Some hobbies, like collecting natural objects, are no longer possible for us. The world is too populated. Nature cannot survive if we keep interrupting eco-systems and destroying life by taking natural objects home for a collection. Even foraging and nature harvesting are a cause for concern. These days we can “collect” fascinating natural objects by recording images in sketchbook or journal; telling stories; photographing; crafting; sculpting, or other means to note the wonders that speak to us and remind us of a time and place.
A Nature Sketchbook is a place to record simple images and observations from the great outdoors. This is ground level investigation—a primary source of information. Observation is where the artist and the scientist begin. That’s what wonder is all about. Take a longer look at things, make marks on paper to record what you see, and you will find yourself asking the “what, how, and why” questions. Investigation will get you more closely acquainted with your nature neighbors, those living plants and animals that keep all of us alive—our lifelines.
Drawing pad: 6×9, 8×10, or any other size that is easy to carry. Choose a spiral bound pad that will lie flat; choose good paper, such as Strathmore 400 series (or any other name brand). Some people prefer a bound book-like drawing pad. Choose paper that is not too thin, has some weight, and is a surface that feels good when you draw, one that can be erased more than once.
Drawing pencils: HB is optimal for starting; plus a 2H (harder/lighter) and a 2B (softer/darker). Add more soft (B) or hard (H) pencils as the need arises. In a pinch a No. 2 pencil works just fine even though a little soft.
White eraser: rectangular form works well; pen-like form is handier, easy to erase fine lines, and can be retracted into its case for protection from dust and dirt.
Small pencil sharpener: handheld brass or metal sharpeners are durable; student pencil sharpeners work too.
Pencil protector: small ¼” tubing about an inch and a half long can be put over the pencil point for protection from breaking; or create your own solution.
Simple pencil case for keeping these supplies together.
To begin: Fear not! That blank white paper awaits your scribbles! I admit a blank page is a fearsome thing for any artist or writer, but be bold. Put the first line down and go from there. Is someone watching? Move out of their sight line and carry on. Don’t know how to start? That’s what the lessons are for, although many an amateur artist has learned the craft through trial and error. Can’t get it right? Don’t know how to draw? The good news is this: if you can learn to see, the drawing comes naturally. It’s the vision that counts. Read more next week when I discuss how to learn to see.