My Sketchbook In April 2019

Another month has passed and it’s my time to look at what happened in my nature journal in that time.

Spring is finally here and everything is coming to life in an amazing speed. There is so much fresh green growing everywhere suddenly, after the long winter months. Spring flowers appear in soft colors and the forest slowly turns green as the delicate tree leaves come out. The days are getting warmer – almost too warm for April (I’m a bit concerned that this will be a lasting trend after last year’s heat and drought in summer). Suddenly you can watch all kinds of animals, not only the birds who are busy building nests, but beetles, bees, butterflies and small mammals.

April marked the start of a new sketchbook for me, so I got to start fresh on my favorite kind of page – the weather and sky thumbnail paintings that I include on every first page (see more examples from my last sketchbook here).

A few color tests with a small landscape – I like to record these small palettes sometimes instead of making a full sketch. And collared turtle doves: these are a bit less known and smaller than our usual wood pigeons, they have a beautiful cream color.

Cloud sketches in preparation for my class on how to paint clouds – I like studying clouds almost as much as I like watching birds, it’s very soothing and a subject that always changes so it never becomes boring. This page is one rare case where I taped paper over the original page, because I ruined what was under it with spilled ink.

A page of goldfinches – I suddenly saw a group of goldfinches in the garden the other day, they only stayed for a few minutes and then they were gone. They have such beautiful markings.

Long-tailed tits are also common here, but usually more in the winter months. They are very small and always look a bit tousled and fluffed up. These birds also seem very nervous – they never keep still.

A quick trip to a local nature preserve – lots of orange-tip butterflies and lots of lush, fresh greens.

On another hike we observed a kestrel for quite a while who was doing flight acrobatics – they can be identified by their habit to stay in spot while in the air while flapping their wings. A beautiful, small bird of prey. There was a lot of noise in the leaves around us, so he probably was hunting mice.

A group of tree sparrows – they are a bit smaller than our house sparrows and not as loud.

Another trip to two local castle ruins (one prehistoric and one medieval) was a wonderful hike through deciduous forest which is turning greener every day, simply a feast for the senses with the smell of woodruff (Galium odoratum) and the warm air. Lots of plants and animals, Solomon’s seal, local orchids, butterflies (I only caught a quick glance of some of them), a wren (!) and groups of bank voles who pop their heads out of their wide tunnel systems. Such a beautiful day. There was so much to draw that I ran out of time to include everything, so I made another color chart.

A few experiments with landscapes and maps.

And another day in the forest, we actually spotted a raven!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into my nature journaling in Spring. What is happening in your sketchbook at the moment? Let me know!

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Do you ever take photographs of your little subjects and paint from them? I’m visiting a monastery in a few weeks that caters to bird feeding-LOL-
And there just are always so many to observe… capturing by camera seems reasonable’


Yes, you can absolutely do that! I like to have photographs of subjects so I can study details and color later (although colors can look different on photos). That monastery sounds awesome!! 🙂

Anna Maria

Hi Julia, I enjoyed your descriptions and your lovely drawings. We have many ring-necked doves here in southern Italy as well. They are cooing away right now. Unfortunately they are hunted in winter. Sigh.


Thank you very much Anna! Yes, I think these kind of doves are more common in Southern Europe (they’re also called Turkish Doves here). Hopefully people will stop hunting them.

Angela Cox

I love your pages of goldfinches and long tailed tits. I’m painting longtailed tits at the moment from my own photos.


That’s wonderful Angela, they’re such cute birds aren’t they? Thank you!

Romana Davies

Thank you for sharing your sketchbook. Really gets me motivated!!! What kind of sketchbook are you using (size and brand). Your water colors are Daniel Smith?
For practice at my desk I use bigger books but not very practical to carry around


I often make my sketchbooks from paper pads so I can choose watercolor paper that I like. I’m not very good at binding books, but it does the job. My preferred size is around A5 (that’s 8.5×11 inch) – large enough to draw in and make notes, but still portable. I too love big sketchbooks but as you say they’re not so practical outside!
As for paints I use mainly Schmincke Horadam, and the odd Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith. Here’s a detailed look at my current palette:


Thank you so much Terri! Yes I use binoculars all the time, particularly for birdwatching. It’s like en entire new world opens up when you have binoculars, isn’t it? Your back porch sound wonderful, I’d love to have a place like that!


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