Thursday, July 12, 2012

Nature Journaling -Stage One continued

Do you have a child who just doesn’t seem to enjoy drawing in his nature journal? Does he draw his specimen in a few minutes and then is ready to go on to something else because this activity bores him?  This is a normal behavior for children in the first stage of nature journaling. We must help them get past this initial phase or they may never learn to enjoy nature. Charlotte Mason wrote that we should not use nature journaling as a means to teach drawing lessons but nature journaling is the natural way for children to learn to draw; they just need encouragement in observing closely what they are trying to copy on paper.

 A good artist is simply one who has developed the skill of seeing the details of something. For example, when a non-artist attempts to draw a red ball, he begins by drawing a circle and then colors it red.  An artist, on the other hand, notices that it is not a circle, but a sphere. He draws the sphere by paying attention to how the light makes a light blotch on one side of it and different shades of red around that blotch that gradually get darker. He also notices that there is a dark shadow at the base and draws that as well. He sees what the unskilled eye does not see.                                                           

We can teach our children to do the same through nature journaling. In order to illustrate my point, let’s suppose my daughter and I have returned from a nature walk and she has picked a Black-eyed Susan to draw and paint. She sits down, places it in front of her and draws a long line, six oblong petals with a circle in the middle and a leaf on the side. She is finished in three minutes flat and ready to paint it. Here is the conversation I would have with her in order to help her better observe what she is drawing.

That’s a pretty flower you drew, but I think you left something out. Use your magnifying glass and look very carefully at the stem. What do you see?


Yes. Let’s draw those hairs. Now look at the center of your flower. You drew a circle, but look at the Black-eyed Susan. What do you see in the center?

Fuzzy stuff.

Great! Let’s draw all those little fuzzy hairs. Do you see anything between the petals?

Little green leaves.

Those are called sepals. Let’s draw those too. Is there anything on those sepals?


Why don’t you use your magnifying glass?

Okay. Wait a minute! There is a little line in the middle.

Well then, let’s draw it. How about that leaf you drew? Use your magnifying glass and look at it carefully.

Wow! There are lots of little lines all over it.

Those are actually tiny little tubes that carry food to the plant so it will grow. Let’s pencil those in very lightly.

Then we would begin painting our flowers and I would help her to see the different shades of yellow and green by asking questions again while she painted.

After a few lessons like this, my daughter begins to observe nature closely every time she draws. She enjoys this much more than quickly drawing a few shapes and painting them with basic colors because this challenges her thinking and children naturally love to be stimulated intellectually.

Next time, we'll discuss stage two of nature journaling for older children.

one step at a time...


  1. Oooooo...thank you for the dialog between you and your daughter...this is going to be helpful with my son!

  2. I think *I* needed that lesson! This was immensely helpful...

  3. These nature journal lessons are terrific! Thank you for providing them. I'm studying them with much sincerity and looking forward to more to come.

  4. CherylG14.7.12

    The conversation in this post was excellent. I tried it with my dd this morning and her second drawing of the same flower was unbelievably different. I'm so grateful and happened upon this blog. It's made our summer more rewarding in our Nature Study

  5. Thanks for taking the time to give some feedback, ladies. It's nice to know it is helping someone out there.

  6. Anonymous17.7.12

    Would you sharing what brand of watercolor pencils you use? At some point, a list of your essential nature study art tools would be so helpful. It is hard to know where to begin!
    Thank you!! Julie Z.

  7. Anonymous31.7.12

    Thank you for this post, it actually helped me with my own nature journaling this weekend to really look at the flowers we were drawing and put some concentrated effort into a sketch of my own!

  8. Our favorite watercolors are Sanford Berol Prismacolor Colored Pencils. I plan to make a list of our favorite nature study supplies at the end of this nature study series I've been writing. Just really busy right now traveling.


  9. Great!!! Thanks for this glimpse into your process of seeing and drawing.

  10. This is *extremely* helpful. Thank you Linda.

  11. Thanks for this series. I found it very helpful as it is our first year doing a nature journal.