Nature Journaling for Beginners:

Art on the Go Starts at Home

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Nature journaling is a great traveler’s activity that can be done anywhere, and it’s a perfect way to connect with your surroundings while exploring new places. It is a versatile hobby that helps you get in touch with your creative side, capture memories of your adventures, and carve out time to sit still and observe the world around you. These techniques can be used by both children and adults. 

This is nature journaling for beginners! Don’t worry – it’s easy, and there are plenty of ways to get started.

What is Nature Journaling?

A nature journal is simply a record of your observations about the plants, animals, weather, landscapes, and any other natural phenomena that you encounter.

The primary aim of nature journaling is to cultivate a consistent practice of connecting with nature. It can also be a great way to improve your artistic skills and learn more about the ecology of your local environment. 

A nature journal can be as simple as a sketchbook and pencils, or it can be as elaborate as a handmade book with watercolors and pressed flowers. The key is to find what works for you and to make it a regular habit.

Nature Journaling sketch of dog smelling thistles with a lake and mountains in the background
Nature journal sketch by the author, Mackenzie Bakewell.

The Benefits of Nature Journaling

Taking time each day to connect with nature is a wonderful way to relax and rejuvenate your mind and spirit. Additionally, it is a place to practice creative expression and the technical skills needed to make art, such as illustration, penmanship, or imagination. 

When you look into the benefits of journaling, spending time in nature, making art, and quiet observation, you’ll find there is a growing amount of research studies that say, “This stuff is really good for us!”

These benefits can include reducing stress and anxiety levels, improving concentration and focus, helping to reduce cortisol levels, and promoting a sense of well-being. In addition, forest bathing – or simply spending time in forests or other green spaces – has been shown to boost immune function, increase energy levels, and improve overall health.

When traveling, you can tap into these relaxation-promoting benefits simply by taking out your nature journal. For me, this has been a great tool to help prevent stress and enhance my on-the-go enjoyment. 

     

      Here are some of my favorite benefits of nature journaling:

  1. It connects you with nature, which can help you feel more grounded and peaceful.
  2. It helps you become more aware of your surroundings, which can increase your appreciation for nature.
  3. It encourages you to pay attention to detail, which can improve your observation skills.
  4. It helps you develop a deeper understanding of the natural world and how it works.
  5. It inspires you to take action on behalf of the environment.
  6. It provides a versatile outlet for creative expression.

 

From the Traveling Naturalist’s Perspective

A nature journal can also double as your travel journal. This is a great way to jot down details about places you’ve visited, your timeline of events, and other interesting tidbits that you’ll want to look back on once home again. 

Pay attention to colors you see, plants that are unique to the place you’re visiting, and of course, the animals that you meet. 

This is helpful for later identification using field guides, as well as to enhance your memory and create a personal keepsake from your journeys. Eventually, your nature notes may even grow to be a multimedia journal and a full-blown blog with photographs, audio, and video.

My Simple Nature Journaling and Field Sketching Process

This is something that I learned from my mother, who has always been my primary art teacher and nature mentor. Her background in scientific illustration mixed with her innate curiosity for the natural world are the foundation for my own perspective on the creative process. 

The beauty of a nature journal is that it can be as unique as each one of us. Yet, I find that having a flow to follow makes things easier and helps build a lifelong habit. 

Here is my simple process that you can use as a starting point:

1. Sit Down and Settle In

Take five big full belly breaths, to help ground you into the present moment. As you do, say a simple “Thank You.” Giving thanks is one of the core routines of nature connection and a wonderful way to start your journaling.

2. Start Coloring

I always keep a few coloring postcards in my journal, because coloring is an effective tool for dropping into a creative flow. Pick a color you spot, then as you begin coloring pay attention with your other senses. What (or who) do you smell or hear? What can you taste on the air? How does the day feel?

3. Quick Check-in

Now that you’ve paid attention to the natural world around you, jot down the Date, Time, Location, and Weather in your journal. Then take note of “What’s Happening” with both words and a simple field sketch to capture the key elements of your observations. 

4. Appreciate and Go On Your Way

Set down your journal and simply soak in your surroundings. Breathe slowly, really noticing the quality of the air, the sounds, and even the art you’ve just created. Feel gratitude for yourself for showing up and checking in, and then pack up your supplies so they’re ready for next time. 

Whether I’m sitting for five minutes or several hours, this is the formula I follow. The Quick Check-in can, of course, expand into a full art making experience, a longer written entry, or a detailed field sketch.

Colorful sketch in the author's nature journal of two birds
An observational nature sketch in the author's journal during a trip to Peru.

Resources

To add a set of coloring postcards to your Nature Journal and give my simple process a try, check out the Coloring Postcards from my company ZieBee Media. My family and I developed these products and tested them with all types of mediums to ensure they provided a great coloring experience.

Leather Nature Journal with wooden pen in red, gold, and brown leaves

If you’re looking to expand your ideas on what Nature Journaling is and see some real-world examples, check out Marley Peifer’s blog and Nature Journal Show. He is a nature journaler and educator who is passionate about helping people get the most out of their nature journals. 

 

You will want to find a sketchbook that is right for you. Consider both the size and the medium you prefer to work with. A cardboard back provides a built-in drawing board. 

The author's nature journaling essentials.

Grab a Pencil and Give It a Try

If you’re looking for a way to slow down, connect with your surroundings, and document your travels, nature journaling is the perfect solution. It can be done anywhere and doesn’t require any special skills or equipment. All you need is a notebook, something to write with, and an open mind. 

Ready to get started? Simply grab a pencil and a piece of paper then do a Quick Check-in journal entry: Write the Date, Time, Location, and Weather. 

As easy as that, you’ve embarked on your journey of nature journaling. 

Woman nature journaling next to the Nile River
The author, Mackenzie Bakewell, nature journaling along the banks of the Nile River.

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. 

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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13 thoughts on “Nature Journaling for Beginners”

  1. I looooove journalling, especially when travelling. I think it’s such a unique way to remember your travels. I always carry my pencil case with me! This is a great guide for beginners.

    Reply
  2. When I travelled with my younger kids, we used to always nature journal. It is a great way to record your impressions and observations and creates a lasting memory of the places you visit.

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  3. This is a great idea! I already journal every day but never thought of journaling on a nature walk. I love drawing so I think I am going to give it a try. I think it would almost feel like a form of meditation.

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  4. I used to have to keep a nature journal at college and this post made me realise how much I miss it! I will definitely give it a try now as it looks very relaxing – thank you for sharing.

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  5. Ok first, those sketches are GORGEOUS!! I use to nature journal when I was younger whenever I would go camping. Now I do other types of journaling, but that’s what got me into it. Journaling is such a great way to focus your thoughts and take a moment out of the day to reflect.

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  6. I must admit I wish we did more nature journalling when we travelled. I think it is a great way to really stop and record things before it is forgotten. Just not sure about my drawing though. Our daughter is an ornithologist and she does detailed journaling – but pretty much just about birds.

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  7. This is such a sweet idea for stopping, really absorbing nature around you and for being more present in any day that you are out and about! It must make you so happy to go back, view the sketches and think about the moments you sat being peaceful.

    It would be great to do with kids too. 🙂

    Reply
  8. I feel like I’m always running all over the place and never truly sit and enjoy an area. Journaling seems like a cool way to counter that bad habit

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  9. Journaling is my absolute favourite way to stay in touch with how I’m feeling and where my adventures are taking me – so this post is definitely something I’m interested in. Will try to doodle more and get into nature journalling. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. What an amazing way to imprint what you see and feel when in nature. I imagine talent is required, which I have none of. Love the idea, and something that could start younger with children.

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