Getting Started With Nature Journaling: Practical Aspects for Sketching Outside (Part 3)

In the third part of this series I want to give you a few practical tips for nature journaling, so that it’s a bit easier to start drawing and actually feels like fun – this is an important point!

Read the first two parts here:
Part 1: Choosing a Sketchbook
Part 2: Assembling Your Sketching Toolkit – Choosing Pens, Watercolors and Colored Pencils

Being Relaxed When You’re Drawing – Logistic Tips

It’s important to think about your needs as a human being when you go outside for a sketchbook hike. If you don’t feel comfortable and relaxed, you won’t want to start sketching and it won’t feel fun. So take care of yourself. A few things to think of:

  • Protect yourself against heat or cold. Bring sun protection, or wear warming clothes.
  • Bring something to eat and drink. Bring a map and maybe a small field guide to quickly reference plants and animals while you sketch them.
  • Nature journaling should be a joyful activity – so have fun while you’re doing it! If it doesn’t feel good, why could that be? What could you change?
  • It can sometimes feel a bit weird to sit outside by yourself and draw stuff. It’s alright to be weird, and in fact you’re simply one of the cool kids when you go outside with your nature journal. Other people do weird things too, and a lot of them don’t even think about it. Keeping a nature sketchbook can train you to become less self-conscious about these things. Sometimes your sketching activity can end up in a nice chat.
  • That said, if people you meet give you unsolicited advice and tips (or criticize your drawings), then try to defuse the situation. You don’t have to show what you’re doing to anyone (let alone have them judge it), this is your personal work. Sometimes there’s a specific type of nature lover out there traipsing around in the field. These experts love nothing being right, so I often let them be right when they tell me that the wing feathers on my bird look wrong, or the color on the plant specimen actually don’t look like that in spring… Simply nod, thank them and let them continue on their way. Nature Journaling is actually about experiencing and observing, and not about being „right“. Of course, only a minority of people is like this, and you will likely make positive encounters.
  • The first few sketches usually turn out a bit funky – they’re for warm up, so that’s alright. The hand has to warm up and get into the groove, too.
  • If your sketchbook is brand new, make a small mark or write your name on the first page. It’s easier to start drawing when it already feels used.

Remember that drawing is a skill, so the more you do it, the better you get. The same thing goes for observing. Don’t hold on to the thought that you can’t draw. You will get better. You can learn a lot about yourself and your life when you review your nature journal at a later time. Drawing and creating always means making decisions, and for making a decision you need a standpoint. You will see later what were the most important things to you in that drawing session – because you chose to include them on your page.

Let me know what tips you have for being (and maybe drawing) outside in the comments.
I hope you enjoyed this series about getting started with your nature sketchbook. In the next post, I will share a few basic elements and categories that you can think about in your drawings, if you want ideas for the content of your sketchbook.

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