Keeping a Nature Journal

Lots of people ask me about my journal. Here are a few thoughts about why keeping one is a brilliant thing to do.

A nature journal is a personal, visual record of the natural world around you. By observing, sketching, and noting what you see, you become connected to the natural world in a truly unique way.

You learn to stop and really pay attention to the details, give free rein to your curiosity, and reinforce your sense of wonder of the natural world.

Forming this close relationship with nature:

  • allows us to see our world with new eyes
  • helps us learn about ecosystems and how everything is connected
  • stimulates our curiosity, and our sense of wonder
  • boosts our creativity; opening our minds and senses to new opportunities, as we record the variety and diversity of the natural world
  • reinforces our personal connection and place in the world
  • demonstrates the importance of  local nature, through developing a closer relationship with natural world on our doorstep
  • encourages us to be more mindful and aware
  • slows us down, helping us to be more calm, and to feel less anxiety and stress. Changes in our brain and body suggest we are physically and mentally healthier when we are interact with the natural world nature, and recent experiments have shown it can even positively affect our behaviour, and improve memory!
  • may allow us to research and collect valuable information for wildlife and nature organisations

Remember, nature is everywhere!

There’s no need to go on a trip to the Scottish mountains, or a Kenyan safari. Nature really is everywhere - and it's always fascinating. Take the time to really get to know the wildlife on your doorstep; your garden, allotment, local park or green space.

You will be amazed when you take time to stop and really look at what’s there, especially those things you might consider commonplace. You'll see them with new eyes!

Think there’s no nature where you are? Look out of the window at the sky and the changing clouds. Watch the opening buds on your houseplant.    Notice the  shape of the leaves on the Cherry tree planted on your street. Appreciate that annoying weed, coming through the crack in your paving...... 

Keeping a journal helps you to think differently. By really getting to know your own local area you will become attuned to its seasonal changes, and you'll see and experience more than you ever imagined!

I’d love to keep a journal but, I don't have time.

Journal when you can. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time.  The most important thing is wanting to do it!

Find a ‘sit spot’ or two. This is a location naturalists return to again and again to observe and record nature. Make it as close to home as you can.

If you have children or grandchildren consider journaling as a family. Drawing, painting and being outside equals fun!. It's a great way to get children interested in nature. Their natural curiosity and wonder will be infectious! Take your sketchbooks along on trips to the local park, zoo or city farm.

If your time is short, minimise. Make a grid on your page and draw something in each box - a leaf, twig, feather, pebble, a flower, fir cone etc. Follow the opening of a flower, or draw cloud studies.

Aim to make a one or two page spread each month

Creating just one page a week would give you over 50 pages in a year!

Okay, but I don’t know how to draw!

Absolutely no problem! There’s no quick fix, but, like any thing else drawing is a skill, not a gift. Just like driving a car it can be learnt and developed over time. The more you draw, the better you will get. Practice, patience and perseverance are the keys. 
Many of the sketches in your journal will be done on the spot, capturing the essence of the moment. There is no need to worry about creating serious botanical illustrations (unless you want to!) The important thing is learning to draw what you see, not what you think you see. The careful observation of nature journaling  dovetails perfectly with this.

So, the more you journal; the more your drawing will improve! It’s a win win situation.

There are lots of simple exercises, tips and techniques to help you learn to draw and paint, and will help you develop and enhance your skills.  Over time you will find your own style, but it’s fun trying out different art media and finding what suits you best.

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