My Sketchbook in May 2019

May was a productive month for me sketchbook-wise, as I spent a lot of time outside nature journaling. A part of my adventures found its way into my new class about drawing ideas for spring, and the rest shows how many things are in nature right now to enjoy: birds, butterflies, trees and delicate landscapes.

The month started with a close study of a wren that I saw hopping through the bush, these small birds can easily be identified by their upright tail.

The swallows have come back and are filling the air with their loud cries and their acrobatic movements. If you explore the small towns here you can see the most common swallow-like birds that we have: house martins (in the sketch below), swallows, and swifts (mostly in the city).

The great tits were still feeding their young at the start of May (as I’m writing this the nest is already empty..) and the fledglings are impatiently waiting for food. I’m using webcam footage of a bird nest for my sketches here. This allows me to get close to the birds to study them, without disturbing them at their nests. On the right side are more house martins on colored paper.

More experiments on colored paper, which is fun to use because you can use the color of the paper as the middle value, and then punch in some darks and highlights, as in these sketches of white wagtails.

Colored paper also works beautifully for landscape studies, here with two colors (white and ochre) and some ink.

For last month’s Skillshare class I went hiking in the beautiful spring forest and showed some techniques and ideas for drawing outside. I covered different topics such as plants (fern, woodruff), the colors of spring, drawing butterflies, creating a small map, and sketching birds with the help of the webcam.

Since I saw a small brown bird on my hike, I investigated further and found out it was a black cap (the male has a black cap like a monk, hence the German name Mönchsgrasmücke, the female has a brown cap). I wanted to sketch a page of these delightful small songbirds.

Butterflies are another one of my favorite subjects, and when you’re lucky, they sit still for a while so you can study them. Sometimes I will just take a photo so I can take my time. On the right side a ink and watercolor sketch of a buttercup.

I love drawing with dip nibs and I try to include them into my sketchbook as much as I can. Of course they’re not very practical outside (for that I have a fountain pen that gives nice lines), so these sketches of butterfly and bird wings were done at my studio desk. For me this still counts as nature journaling, because I still learn a lot by studying small details of my subjects.

Another page with butterflies, this time in color. I like to combine watercolor with colored pencil for the details and the texture.

A page of Eurasian jackdaws – these small corvids have bright blue eyes, and light gray plumage on the head and nape. They like to build their nests in colonies and especially on (or in) chimneys.

And as the last image here’s a quick sketch of some swallows, they have the most interesting and acrobatic flight patterns and almost never sit still.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my sketchbook in May. What have you been nature journaling about? I’d love to know!

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