View Full Version : Raindrop's Nature Journal

09-23-2015, 01:52 PM
Hi, I've recently discovered the world of nature journalling, and that seems just like the thing for me. I've started my journal a few days ago; I'm using a Daler-Rowney Graduate sketchbook: A4, spiral-bound, with a hard grey cover.

Here's a couple of sketches to start with. I'm afraid the pictures aren't that great; I still have to work that part out. Funnily enough, it's not quite like taking a normal photograph!

A rosebay willowherb:

Red deers (with Jackdaw accessory):

And finally a willow tree (I think it might be a crack willow) and two damselflies:

09-23-2015, 03:32 PM
Wonderful start to a special journal.

Joan T
09-23-2015, 09:39 PM
Nice start!!! Looking forward to seeing more of your work.

09-24-2015, 02:12 PM
Thank you, Debby and Joan!

One more. This one's a bit funny. I wanted to shade the cylinders in a way that was close to reality, and I started it that way... then the sun disappeared! So I switched to lines to show the direction of each branch. I wasn't entirely successful, but I still learned a lot from it, which is the main thing really. And it was fun.

It was raining, too, so I had to watch out that the page wasn't wet where I wanted to draw on it... and be a bit patient when it was. :lol: I was wearing a hat with a large brim, which offered some protection; I can't see myself carrying an umbrella around, though. How do you guys do when it rains?!?

09-24-2015, 07:56 PM
Oh wow! I love this. Great nature sketches. Especially the forest of antlers, the deer are so lively and elegant. Beautiful drawings. like the cylinders breakdown of the oak, it's very powerful. The lines are effective at showing volume!

Joan T
09-24-2015, 08:35 PM
Nice job! I paint outdoors all the time. When it rains I look for someplace with an overhang or canopy or I sit in my car and sketch. That works out well when it is too cold to be outdoors too.

09-25-2015, 10:22 AM
Thank you both :-)
Joan, I don't have a car, so I think I'll just have to choose my spots carefully.

I'm just back from a non-sketching session. I had a short walk, but I'm a bit sick, so I thought stopping in the middle of a field and losing track of time wouldn't be the smartest thing to do today. Anyway, I still have some catching up to do...

This page was drawn in a park full of rhododendrons and exotic and marvellous plants. So what did I choose as my subject? Yes, that's right, a common daisy. And a just-as-common blackbird (with an attitude). :lol:

09-25-2015, 02:27 PM

09-25-2015, 03:34 PM
Raindrop -- great nature studies, and so interesting to see you working with just value, no color. Is that intentional? I love drawing from nature, but always am seduced by color!

If you plan to 'step into' color, will you go to colored pencils next, do you think? Or painting? (I began with watercolor pencils and wash, before moving on to watercolor painting. -- though I still do use pencils sometimes....)

I don't know the paper you are using, so can't judge how easy it is for you to blend/smudge your gradations. Do you like the spiral binding? I found spiral-bound books impossible to use, as the binding interfered with my hands all the time! 'Whatever works for you,' as they say.

Keep those sketches coming!

09-25-2015, 05:41 PM
Thank you Debby and BeeG!

Well, regarding the lack of colours, it's partly intentional. I really need to work on my values. I constantly have to remind myself that, yes, I can actually make a mark on the paper, it's not going to bite! So working in graphite is actually perfect, at least for now.

Besides, I don't have much in the way of material yet. I have a set of coloured pencils, very cheap WH Smith ones; I paid less than two quids for a set of 24, so you can imagine what they're like. It's fine for mucking around, but I definitely wouldn't use them for anything I'd like to keep, like my journal.

I'd love to add colour to my sketches at some point. I've started looking into colour theory - I made my first colour wheel yesterday, using only the primaries - and I'm looking at reviews of coloured pencils (OwingsArt is getting a lot of traffic from me!). I think I'll go for the Faber-Castell Polychromos, as I've found a local supplier. I can't justify the cost at the moment though.

I love the spiral sketchbook. I quite like having a full A4 page to use, but I'm a tiny wee thing, and I wouldn't be able to keep a hard-cover book open while standing / crouching / laying on my back / running from a deer or what have you. Whereas with the spiral-bound book, I just "roll" it back and hold the whole book on my left arm. It fits nicely in the nook of my elbow. Keeps it, and me, stable, and the thickness of the book is consistent no matter how much I've used it (not that I would notice yet, I've only used a few pages so far!).

In fact I like it so much that I'm going to get another sketchbook, same model, next time I go to town, to draw all the other things that don't fit in a nature journal.

09-26-2015, 07:52 AM
Thanks for the background. I admire your sticking to the value work. I probably ought to do more of that, too.

Given that you are in the UK, did you look at Derwent? I LOVE their pencils. Not sure if they would be priced any better for you there, but maybe? And you can start with just a few primaries. Depending on whether you get water soluble (yay!) or not, you can start to play around with mixing or blending.

And I get the spiral-bound logic, though I ended up squishing mine which made it hard to use after a while! (Tip: avoid the death grip on your sketchbook while running from the....WAIT! Did you say running from the deer??! In my neck of the woods, they run from us! Silly Raindrop!)

09-26-2015, 07:56 AM
You are off to a great start. I look forward to following your journey..

09-26-2015, 09:31 PM
The F-C Polychromos are great colored pencils. Does the store have open stock? If so, just buy a couple of your favorite colors or the 3 primary colors and begin. :D

09-28-2015, 12:43 PM
Thank you Laudesan!

BeeG, I've had a look at the Derwent - they'd be easy to get (especially the coloursoft ones, which look very interesting indeed), but looking at the reviews... I have a feeling I'll like the Polychromos better.

Debby, I think one of the art stores in the area has an open stock of F-C. Thing is, I wanted to go there the other day - walked to the city center, it's about an hour walk through the park and then some, but then got lost! Typical.

Anyway, I have some serious catching up to do with my sketches, so back to the red deers. They're a bit tetchy at the moment. But I didn't run away from them. :smug: And they didn't run away from me either (though I wish they'd stop showing me their backside!!!).

I started with the compressed charcoal sketches; my first time using charcoal. I love the feel of it, but oh dear is it smudge central!!! Note to self: start on the top left corner of the page and work my way down next time.

Then I started drawing the tree; then Mr Backside, who was laying in the grass near the tree (at a safe distance), decided to join the main herd and walked past me, then stopped on the path. So I turned back a page and added him to my collection of deers.

I think he knew I was there - but I was so quiet on my bench that he didn't mind. It was impressive seeing him up close and personal - he may have been 15 meters away, at its closest, for a short while. I wouldn't recommend it for a longer stretch of time, though: male red deers pee on themselves during rut season, as it seems to have a positive effect on females. Gag.

Not documented: a wayward fallow deer who crashed the party, only to skedaddle on his "five" legs when he realised that no, he wasn't big and mean enough for that crowd! If I had any doubts that rut season had started, that would have erased them. :lol:

09-28-2015, 04:12 PM
Maps, maps are good. :) Lovely sketches. Do you have hunting in your area? If so, it's just about time for that if the deer are in rut. Be careful.

09-29-2015, 01:53 PM
Color is overrated. I found Irene Brady's books a huge help. Find them on her website. Keep up the good work. Sometimes the coolest discoveries are in our own backyard

Joan T
09-29-2015, 09:03 PM
Smart move to stick with B & W for a while until you are comfortable with values. Nice sketches of the deer and the tree. Cows do the same thing...pose with their back ends facing you. lol I don't mind a spiral binding either.

09-30-2015, 03:13 AM
There's no hunting there, fortunately. And I get lost all the time, maps or not! Although weirdly enough, plop me on a mountain with a good map and I'll find my way around.

I'll resist the call of coloured pencils as long as I can! I've got a colouring book to scratch that itch, in the meantime. :D

Iris, I didn't know of Irene Blady. Thank you for the tip! Wonderful blog, and I'll definitely have a look at her book. I'm planning to get John Muir Laws field drawing guide as well at some point; his videos prompted me to start my nature journal, for which I'm immensely grateful. It's only been a few days but I can already tell I experience nature much more vividly, and I can remember it better too.

Anyway... I mentioned I had a cold. Still do, and it's getting really annoying. So the other day I only went on a short harvesting trip. I found a small branch on the ground, and some acorns. I cut one of the acorns in two; I didn't draw that one as it didn't reveal anything juicy. I mean, I know there's supposed to be cool stuff in there, but I must have cut it the wrong way or it's not quite the season for it yet... I could just see two green masses. I'll have to keep my eyes open for one that has split naturally and isn't rotten inside, or wait until Spring.

09-30-2015, 03:28 PM
So sorry you are still battling a cold. The oak branch and acorn are wonderful.

10-01-2015, 09:12 AM
Excellent oak leaves, Raindrop! Try opening breaking open a chestnut ("conkers," yes?) or walnut -- much more interesting inside, and may be just what you were hoping for!

I love John Muir Laws' bird sketching book. It got me back into drawing again too. (My other favorite inspirations for nature journals: Cathy Johnson, whose site is a rich and wonderful resource, along with Claire Walker Leslie, who has a lovely, very loose style.)

10-01-2015, 04:11 PM
Gorgeous oak spray and acorn, the leaves are lovely and shapes harmonious. Miss having those around to sketch, but next year I will.

10-01-2015, 09:50 PM
I've been enjoying your tenacity and the little stories that accompany the studies :)

10-02-2015, 01:39 AM
Great thread. It's an exciting record of nature in your region. I like the weather drawings too :)

10-07-2015, 09:19 AM
Thank you everyone :cat:

Sorry for being a bit silent these last few days; my internet is wonky (it's a technical term).

I've gone and drawn geese. It was fun. I found a nice log to sit on, made myself comfy, and waited for the birdies. One came near me, and I thought: "Nice! I'll be able to draw the markings on its face!". The goose quickly proceeded to clean its tummy, adopting the posture of a yogi master (it's that goose with the leg stretched out). Not... helpful... :lol: To add insult to the injury, it did something like that whenever I tried drawing it!

Anyway. Some have a bit of a short neck. Rest assured that the real birds have nice, long, healthy necks. :D

Then yesterday after a short break, I went back out again and walked to a small clearing where I often see rabbits. I drew some flowers, they're a bit gothic because they're wilting! Hypericum, probably our good ol' common St John's Wort but I'll need to double-check, as it might also be St Peter's Wort. It was really fun because the flowers wilt into many different shapes: cones, bells, flat circles, stars... even mushrooms! I hadn't noticed that before. (Unfortunately, not a single rabbit was seen. :D )

Finally, I heard an owl last night. Happy!

10-07-2015, 09:29 AM
These are fabulous! BeeG recommended John Laws books, and I was just looking at the one he is releasing next spring on natipure journals. He would be proud of you! I have a difficult time trying to sketch birds, deer, etc. I can't get close enough, and they don't stay still long enough! But then, I have a tough time wth rocks too! :rolleyes:

chammi kaiser
10-09-2015, 03:15 AM
The sketches are great. Good idea to combine technique and nature drawings. Wonderful how as artists, we are on a permanent learning curve.

Joan T
12-05-2015, 06:14 PM
Nice collection of sketches!!!

01-26-2016, 08:55 AM
My favorite is the acorns and oak leaves. Wonderful sketches. Hope to see more

01-26-2016, 02:56 PM
Great sketches.

01-26-2016, 06:34 PM
Great work on the nature journal! I have just started one for a national wildlife refuge which is very close to our house, and am looking forward to getting out in the field. (It has been an extremely wet winter...). The deer sketches are really impressive - well done.

I just received John Muir Laws newest nature drawing and journaling book, and it is already my absolute favorite. Huge (and expensive) but worth the investment. He has outstanding instruction on drawing and sketching techniques - I believe that book will really help me improve my journaling. Highly recommend it.

Vivien Maloney
02-25-2016, 08:53 PM
Lovely nature sketches! :thumbsup:
Isn't it great to get outside and sit and sketch! I love it too. Sketching out in the fresh air, seems to take you to a whole new place!

02-27-2016, 09:41 PM
I just read through this thread Raindrop. I love your idea of nature journaling and think it provides endless inspiration.

02-28-2016, 07:57 AM
Nice work Raindrop!

02-28-2016, 03:39 PM
Great start and I like the idea of the nature journal. It's good to practice values with standard pencils, I like working in black and white aswell too!
Hobbycraft do pencils that you can buy on their own instead of in sets, at least, the store near me does. Unfortunately I find Hobbycraft a bit addictive and tend to leave my money there every time I go! On the plus side, I'm not in that part of town very much! If you have a Coleman's near you, you can try them too for art supplies. Can't remember if they sell single pencils though. :)

08-14-2017, 05:13 AM
First, thank you for the comments... I'm sorry I didn't see them until now.

One might think I'd given up on that journal! To be fair I stopped for a long time because of shouldercuff injury. I've started using it again a few months ago, slowly, but mostly for scientific-ish drawings (with more writing than drawing!). Might as well be brave and update this thread with my latest addition.


Ink drawing of Jackdaws on a dead tree - the Jackdaws were briefly chased away by a Kestrel, then came back.

The tree has lost most of its bark, revealing lovely shades of cream, orange and grey underneath. It has an odd protuberance on the left. I now realise I could've added more details (i.e. bark) on the lonely branch on the right. Nevertheless, ink! Straight in my journal! That's a first. :smug:

chammi kaiser
08-14-2017, 11:46 AM
Well worth loading it!! I think the textures on the tree bark are terrific. I do hope your shoulder feels a little better and continues to heal.

08-14-2017, 01:39 PM
Well worth loading it!! I think the textures on the tree bark are terrific. I do hope your shoulder feels a little better and continues to heal.
Thanks Chammi, the shoulder is getting better! I'm back to doing sports and silly things. I can even brush my hair now! (Not that I do, but, you know... if I ever feel like it... I could. :lol: )

Monastic Bat
08-14-2017, 01:49 PM
A very nice rendering. Glad you are getting back to some normalcy, welcome back.

08-15-2017, 09:13 AM
Thank you, Greg! :)

I went out this morning and finished a three-stage drawing of a Rosebay Willowherb. This plant is funny because it flowers in stages (which is quite clever, when you think about it -- it means its flowering period is really long). Also once it starts wilting, first the flowers fall of the pedicle, and then it produces cotton-like filaments that wrap themselves around the plant. Finally, the pedicles themselves wilt and curl around the stalk.

That's why I draw this plant three times, to show different stages. Well, not the *same*, same plant, but the same species.


Scene Chaser
08-15-2017, 10:40 PM
Glad you're back to your journal, Raindrop. An interesting plant you have drawn. I did a little research on it and found it very interesting. Thanks for introducing it to us. A lovely three-part drawing.

Munin Raven
08-18-2017, 12:23 PM
Very nice observational sketches. Your little notes add so much.

08-18-2017, 03:21 PM
Thanks, Bill! I'm glad it prompted you to do a little bit of research. I was surprised to find out some parts of this plant are edible! I'll try it out next year.

Munin Raven, thank you! The little notes are, basically, the core of my journal. It wouldn't exist without them. I had that stupid fear of drawing something that wouldn't be "pretty" -- the notes took care of that. It reminds me that the point of a nature journal isn't to make a pretty drawing; it's to spend time outside, observe, wonder, and learn.

And sometimes while you ponder, a heron poops on your head. That's cherry on top... or so I've been told...

08-19-2017, 01:28 PM
I went out to draw some Bindweed between two showers, but got distracted on the way by a pretty Honeysuckle. :lol:

Sketched with a UniBall Signo 0.7. I'd like to use my fineliners, especially the thinner one, but the paper is a bit toothy (great for pencil) and I'm afraid that I'd damage the tips.


Scene Chaser
08-19-2017, 04:15 PM
Very nice honeysuckle sketch, and carefully drawn.

08-20-2017, 05:41 AM
lovely to see sketches from life

08-21-2017, 12:12 PM
Thank you, Bill and Vivien!

I need to take a few more photos -- it's too dark now, so hopefully tomorrow.

08-22-2017, 01:50 AM
Great sketches, Raindrop.

08-22-2017, 11:46 AM
Thanks, Sandra!

Sorry in advance for the long post. I'm about to wrap this one up, because... I've bought a new sketchbook! :clap: As much as I would recommend my super-cheap Daler Rowney for casual pencil sketching (because it's sturdy, cheap, and it has lots of pages), it smudges an awful lot, and I can't really achieve a clean look for my sketches.

Besides, I've switched to ink, and I really need a whiter and smoother paper.

Until then, though, a few reasonably recent sketches that I like...

First, a treasure map!!! That's right, I found a treasure -- well, lots of little ones, on one of my walks. Basically the concept is that you "map" your walk as you go by sketching landmarks: an interesting bird, a tree you like, random damselflies. You get the idea. It's BRILLIANT.

Next was a day drawing Canada Geese's backsides. I don't know why Geese insist on showing me their bums. It's rather rude of them, really. Anyway, they were quite sweet. They were busy combing their feathers, and making quite a bit of noise while doing so.

Then, a messy sketch of Mandarin Ducks -- a chick and her mum. Mum was quite the mother-hen, although she was mostly wary of the Crows. There were four of them, 2 adults and 2 cocky teenagers, croaking their throat out fromt he top of a tree. Mamma Duck didn't give a hoot about me. I'm apparently less threatening than a Crow! :lol:

And the last two, in ink. First one is really weird. It was sunny, and I couldn't draw because I was distracted by the shadows cast by the grass on my sketchbook. So I traced the shadows.


Finally, some Calluna. I didn't think I could tackle this because of its complexity, but well... it's OK. I wouldn't have had time to draw everything, so most of the flowers are "ghosted" in. As long as I know what it means :clear: !


I'll start a new thread soon, as I understand that's what we're meant to do when we switch to a new sketchbook?

08-22-2017, 01:53 PM
I like the ducks.

Keep on.

Scene Chaser
08-22-2017, 08:29 PM
Raindrop, lovely sketches. That is the purpose, to sketch what you see.

Joan T
09-12-2017, 05:47 PM
Finally catching up with everyone's sketches. Love the one of the dead tree. Super nature sketches!

09-13-2017, 03:25 AM
that duck from the back is beautifully observed

09-13-2017, 11:47 AM
Thank you :-)