Starting a Nature Journal

First, a quick definition of a nature journal. Similar to a personal diary, a nature journal is a place to record our observations and to reflect upon them, but unlike a diary, a nature journal is used specifically to record our observations of, and thoughts on, nature. But a funny thing may happen, you may also learn more about yourself in the process.

These journals contain notes on weather conditions, place, observations as well as sketches of what is observed and any reflections you wish to include. All you need is a blank journal and a pen or pencil to get started.

The trick to starting is to just dive right in and do it. Don't over think it.

But, here are a few thoughts to help you get started:

1. Don't focus on trying to make "pretty pictures".

  • Open your journal with the idea of learning or discovering something new. Use the journal as a way to "slow down" and notice your surroundings.
2. The first page of a new journal.
  • A brand new sketchbook is a beautiful thing, full of possibilities, however don't get intimidated by the blank page. Put your contact information on the inside cover and then turn the page and start on page two. You can always go back and make a title page but until that time feel free to experiment.
3. Get your journal out each time you go out.
  • It is easy to go outside and enjoy yourself but forget to write in the journal. Start each time by getting your journal out and writing down the date, weather conditions and location on a page. This little bit of a start will get you thinking about recording what you observe and allow you to think more deeply about your time spent in nature.
4. Warm up your drawing skills each day
  • If you have ever made pancakes you probably have experienced that first imperfect pancake out of the pan. Sketching is a lot like this. So, do not expect the first sketch to come out the way you expect. You need time to reconnect your eye, brain, and hand.
  • I do this each time I go out and journal by practicing a technique called "blind contour drawing". With a blind contour drawing, you don't look at your page at all while drawing the outline of the object you are sketching. Don't lift your pencil off of the page and just continue to draw the outside. The mere fact that you are not looking at the page ensures an imperfect sketch so you can get over the need for perfection but it does create a stronger bond between your brain and your hand.
5. Journal with friends and family
  • Humans are social creatures and just like have a buddy for dieting helps you stick to your program so too will having someone to journal with. Children are especially fun to have along because they come to the experience with a totally different perspective, literally! You may find yourself seeing things you would never have noticed without them.

"The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder."

―G. K. Chesterton

Journaling can open the door to our world filled with wonders, will you open the door?