The Violet Fern

A Colorful Tale of a Garden in the Making

Project: Nature Journal

13 Comments

I bought a wonderful book last year with the intention of starting a nature journal. This spring I am going to make it happen. Though I love journaling my garden on this blog and sharing it with all of you, I find a deeper connection sitting immersed in nature with only sketchbook and pencil (or paints) in hand. Last year I tried a brief session observing this bug on a solidago cultivar, Little Lemon.

Let me try to explain the difference between taking a picture of the bug versus studying it without the lens and sketching it instead. I recorded the date, time and weather. I noted the bug had six legs, three to each side. I noted its markings and colors. I noted how large it was and that it had long antennae. I noted what it was doing. Instead of walking away with a “picture of a cool bug” on my solidago, I walked away with a full, 3D moving memory stored in my mind – which is not an easy feat these days as I tend to forget just about everything. I would never remember it had six legs with just a photo. I would not really know its size. I couldn’t be sure of what it was doing on the flower. From this picture I cannot tell the antennae were long or that the underside of the bug had opposite colored markings. Later, I was able to look this bug up and know for certain it is a locust borer. It was the first I had seen in my garden.

By the way, the sketches and/or drawings are supposed to improve with practice over time. If I were to come across this borer again, I might do a close up sketch of his legs or mouth, or a drawing comparing the markings on its underside to the markings top side. This would capture even more detail. I would also add color with colored pencils or watercolor paints.

I have been collecting leaves, seeds, nuts, feathers, etc. for some time and I hope to gain a much better insight into the nature of their nature by sketching them into my journal. I will force myself to see more.

To begin, I plan to focus mostly on the plants and creatures stirring in my garden. To be sure this project gets going, I am going to include a monthly post on this blog “From My Nature Journal” from now on – a journal by hand to enhance the digital journal. I hope you will enjoy these future posts and that maybe you’ll try a bit of nature journaling yourself!

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Author: Kathy Sturr

Author of the Violet Fern blog, artist, and master gardener.

13 thoughts on “Project: Nature Journal

  1. Oh, I love this idea! I will enjoy your nature journal posts very much. You're right, writing about the bug and sketching it etches it into your memory much more indelibly.Looking forward to more.

  2. There's something about journaling that is so relaxing. Good luck with your project – it certainly helps that you can draw.

  3. Adding colour is the bit I enjoy. I remember battling, to get my mind to observe, when we had to draw what we saw under the microscope. I could do the thousand words, but the drawing of, defeated me.

  4. Great idea! You are very artistic. My oldest daughter will do this sometimes, just sit and draw a flower and notice all the detail.

  5. Dear Kathy, What you say makes perfect sense but I don't feel confident or competent to be able to sketch. I agree a photo isn't enough to really absorb the nature of their nature (wonderful phrase). The next best thing to sketching is meditating on it, which I often try to do instead of photographing it. Wonderful project – enjoy! cheers, catmint

  6. Like Catmint, I can't draw worth beans, but I really love this idea. I'm going to look forward very much to these posts. -Jean

  7. I am beginning to learn to draw as my artist friend believes we all have it in us we just need someone to bring it out…so I love this idea…although I have very little time at this point I think it would be a great endeavor in the future when I retire…I look forward to learning from you the proper way to do this…the idea of slowing ourselves down to really observe is so important especially in the world today…

  8. How exciting! You are very talented and keenly observant. And lucky the bug stayed long enough for your scrutiny! Those of us with lesser gifts must rely on photography. sigh. It will be wonderful to see your observations and sketches.

  9. This is such a great idea. Taking the time to draw it, really makes you stop and admire all the intricacies the natural world has to offer. Sadly, I'm not very good at drawing, but if I was, I'd love do create what you have created!

  10. That is indeed a great idea! I wish I were more of an artist and I might attempt something similar. I do enjoy the garden journals I keep – they contain not only what is occuring in our garden, and our plans for its future, but I also write about my family in the hope that someday my grandchildren may be interested in my scribblings.

  11. Dear Violet Fern, How inspiring to read and see your nature journal. There is indeed a great difference between sitting before our computers to that of sitting in our gardens with watercolors or pencils studying nature. I love your journal and drawings. Lovely! Good luck with your project! It has been too long for me. ;>)

  12. What a wonderful idea. Long, long ago I used to paint mushrooms and flowers and landscapes but other things like running a business or raising a family have kept me too busy. Over the last few years I have been returning to what I love. A simple live of gardening, creativity and becoming more self sufficient. I will get a journal book and draw what I see around me. I sound a little easier than pulling out the watercolors.

Thank you for joining me in the making of my garden!

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