Nature Journaling and Field Sketching: Creating a Personal Practice

Photo and sketch by the author

Nature journaling and field sketching are excellent activities for travelers. Here you will discover how to create your own personal nature journaling practice that you can enjoy anywhere. To discover my simple four step process for getting started, read Nature Journaling for Beginners: Art on the Go Starts at Home.

The most important thing to practice before you start nature journaling and field sketching is simply paying attention. 

Prime your mind to notice nature – the colors, the scents, the specific types of plants. Pay attention to the weather, to the little details of the day, such as the shape of a tree’s leaves and the exact color combinations of a blooming flower. And remember to jot them down. 

The more you pay attention, the easier it becomes to keep a nature journal. 

With time and practice, you’ll be able to develop a habit of paying attention to nature and keeping a nature journal will become second nature.

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A great way to practice is to replicate the illustrations in a field guide.

Nature Journal Ideas

To get your imagination activated, here are a few nature journaling challenges to try. 

Real Time Observation

Sit still and quiet, observing, and then writing or sketching what you see. Start with your Quick Check-in then expand it to include anything that is most notable to you. While at home, imagine you’re on a trip in a place you may never return to. What stands out to you? What would you want to remember later? See if you can put that onto paper.

Look Closely

Sit still and quiet. Try to capture what you see in sketches, words, and colors. To exercise your imagination, pick something around you. Look closely and carefully at all its details. Look away and draw it from memory. Look again, what did you miss? Repeat this process until you feel your sketch is complete. Sketching in this way helps stick an image in your mind.

Colorful Compositions

Mix pieces of scenery into a composite of things you see, narrowing focus, distorting proportion to create perspective, and bringing the page to life with the colors around you. This type of nature journaling distills the immense amount that you see down to a unique composition of your observations. 

Mind’s Eye Imagining

When you get back from a hike or excursion, sit for a few minutes with your journal. Close your eyes, retrace your steps. What stands out? What can you still see clearly? Then, put your memories onto paper.A great way to enhance your ability to see things clearly in your mind’s eye and to exercise your imagination. 

These are the teachings of my mother, the naturalist author, Ellen Haas. You can find her books and her column on my site at Ziebee Media. You can also purchase through her books through Amazon below.

Create a Routine Before You Leave

When on the go, it is easy to forget to carve out time to sit with your journal, to sketch the day’s notes, and to document the details you want to remember. This is why it is key to practice at home before you go on your trip. 

Paying attention applies here too, as you’ll want to pay attention to the best times in your day’s natural flow to pause and put pencil to paper in your journal. 

Here are some of my favorite times to mix nature journaling into my day.

A snapshot of my indoor nature journaling sit spot.

Greet the Day with Nature Journaling in the Morning

This is a great way to get grounded and set the tone for a productive day. Take in all the sights and smells of your surroundings and let the peace of nature wash over you. Put your nature journal and pencils right on your bedside table. When you get up, grab your supplies and take a look outside. Quickly jot down the date, time, location, and weather. Then, add a doodle or short paragraph about one noteworthy thing that you observe. This can take as a little as 5 minutes or upwards of 20 depending on how much time you have. 

Take a Break with Nature Journaling at Lunch Time

When you’re taking a lunch break, whether on a hike, at home, or on the go, set aside 15 minutes to journal. Add some sketches to capture your current scenery and pay attention with all your senses to what’s happening around you. Practice putting it onto paper, narrowing it down to just a few key things.

Reflect on the Day with Nature Journaling in the Evening

At the end of the day, before you head to bed grab your nature journal and find a comfortable place to sit. Close your eyes. Replay your day. What stands out? What was noteworthy? Allow your mind to wander and jot down the best words you can think of to capture the day.

How to Create the Habits You Want

The Power of Habit 

The key to a daily practice is to make it a habit, this book can help you understand how to create habits of your choice. 

Create Your Own Nature Journaling and Field Sketching Personal Practice

Did you find a nature journaling and field sketching challenge you are ready to try? How about a journaling routine you can incorporate into your day? Tell me about them in the comments!

They are sure to enhance both your days at home and while traveling. Grab your journal and give them a try!

This guest post was contributed by Mackenzie Bakewell

We love to learn from our guest writers and appreciate their expertise! Visit her website by clicking on the image or name below. 

Picture of Mackenzie Bakewell

Mackenzie Bakewell

Mackenzie is a multimedia artist and author and the creator of Journey of Colors, a coloring book product line designed to help people of all ages relax, get creative, and have fun making art in their everyday lives. She is the author of Coloring is Good for You: 13 Reasons to Color Daily and the publisher of the Curious Coyote Nature Education book series. Based in the Pacific Northwest, Mackenzie’s work is inspired by a lifetime of exploring nature and new places with her camera and sketchbook in hand.
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