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How to Create a Nature Journal: Recording the Wonders of the Outdoors
Have you ever noticed something exciting outdoors but later needed to remember the details? Or do you want to remember what spring wildflowers looked like so you could find them again next year? Keeping a nature journal allows you to write down and sketch things in nature you want to record and remember.
A nature journal is a fun hobby for all ages that lets you connect more deeply with the natural world. This guide explains nature journaling, how to get started, what to include, creative ideas to try, and its benefits.
What is Nature Journaling?
Nature journaling is the practice of documenting observations and experiences in the natural environment through written descriptions and drawings in a journal. This activity encourages individuals to explore and connect with nature, whether in parks, forests, beaches, or their own backyards.
To start nature journaling, no expertise in art or writing is required. Beginners are encouraged to sketch simple shapes, label them, and jot down notes about colors, sizes, textures, and emotions experienced. The primary aim is to foster a deeper connection with the natural world through observation and reflection, rather than creating perfect artwork.
As one's skills develop, more detailed sketches and descriptions can be added, but the initial focus should be on recording basic observations such as the date, weather, location, and immediate impressions. Nature journaling is accessible to everyone and can begin with simple subjects like leaves, clouds, and sunsets.
Gather Basic Starter Gear
You don't need fancy equipment to start nature journaling. At first, focus more on relaxing time with nature rather than perfect drawings. Simple supplies to begin include:
A Small Notebook
It can be a hard or soft cover. Just pick one you find pretty to inspire starting each session. Size-wise, aim for 5" x 7" up to 8" x 10" pages fitting in a backpack. Starter picks: Leuchtturm Sketchbooks, Stillman & Birn Alpha Series, or a Moleskine Sketch Album.
No. 2 pencils work perfectly for quick outdoor sketching that can be erased and changed easily while learning. Mechanical pencils avoid frequent sharpening, too. For primary color, add a small portable set of 12-24 colored pencils like Faber-Castell's Polychromos or Prismacolor Premier.
Portable Backing (optional but handy).
Plain clipboards provide hard surfaces for drawing on the go. Or opt for a stiff-backed journal cover. Another idea is a lightweight plastic lap desk or foam sitting pad to place pages in the field.
Nature Guide (optional)
While smartphone apps like PictureThis or Seek to identify plants/animals, guidebooks help step away from tech nature journaling. Try the National Audubon Society's regional field guides or Peterson Field Guides. Just bring what precisely matches your location's flora and fauna.
Starting super basic reinforces that anyone can begin without expensive supplies. Elaborate gear often distracts from nature connecting goals. Simple pencils, a compact journal, and focused attention outdoors are all you need to start skill-building. Begin now before overthinking prep! Advanced tools come later as interest grows after consistent field time.
Write, Draw, Explore - So Many Options!
One massive perk of starting a nature journal is YOU get to pick what types of outdoor discoveries to record. There are so many options to make it fun!
Quick sketches of fuzzy caterpillars inching along leaves...I pressed flowers from high mountain meadows taped onto pages. Facts researched on fast falcon dive speeds or the number of a spider's sticky web strands...Your experiences vary widely outdoors!
But common nature journal entries fall into these basic categories:
#1: Observe Weather and Season Changes
Note daily temperatures, cloud types (cirrus, cumulous, etc), snowflakes or raindrop styles, animal behaviors signaling shifts, changing leaf colors marking fall's arrival, and other repeating natural cycles.
#2: Draw Interesting Things Seen Outdoors
Sketch plants (trees, wildflowers, mushrooms, moss..), animals (birds, squirrels, deer...), landscapes (mountains, lakes, canyons...), and much more using basic shapes. Label parts. Add color later for fun if desired.
#3: Research Details on Discoveries
Look up facts using guides about birdsongs, animal diets, plant reproduction, celestial charts for night skies, etc. Paste cool bits learned next to journal sketches, making outdoor exploration mini-lessons!
#4: Write Reflections on Experiences
Record personal thoughts on how hiking mountain trails make you feel. Are you nervous? Excited? Overwhelmed? Tranquil? Do colorful fall foliage displays fill you with energy or peacefulness? Explore emotional responses.
#5: Collect Special Objects Found
Pick up feathers shed on trails, fallen leaves, seeded pods, and more natural treasures discovered, then securely tape them into journal pages, noting locations/dates as decorative memorabilia of adventures.
#6: Create Descriptive Nature Poetry
Use vivid adjectives and deeply felt sensory impressions of smells, textures, sounds, and visions that move you, composing verse gifts celebrating remarkable moments outside.
However you creatively capture treasured times spent immersed in nature, know that consistency bonds you deeply to the healing magic, beauty, and mysteries of the natural world!
10 Simple Tips For Nature Journaling Fun
Starting a nature journal opens up adventures, closely studying the great outdoors. But building skills and capturing impressions takes a little practice. Try these tips to make your documentation attempts more rewarding:
Tip #1: Schedule Weekly Outdoor Journaling Sessions
Consistently exploring the same backyard tree, neighborhood park trails, or nearby wilderness spot lets you note nature's endless seasonal changes more quickly. Dedicate 30-60 minutes weekly to make in-depth observations.
Tip #2: Pack a Journal Every Nature Outing
Spontaneous inspiration to document discoveries strikes when you least expect it! Always toss a compact notebook and pencil in your daypack or back pocket to record outdoor wonders anytime.
Tip #3: Sit Quietly At First Noticing With All Senses
Rushing to immediately sketch overlooks many wildlife signs. Allow 5-10 minutes to silently absorb a setting when arriving before documenting. What birds sing? What plant scents waft? Slow down to fully tune in!
Tip #4: Photograph Some Discoveries For Later Sketching
Snap pics of fascinating fungi, wildflowers, animal markings, clouds, or landscapes with your phone to reference later for journal drawing or painting. This allows more accurate documentation of details once home.
Tip #5: Practice Quick Contour Drawing Skills
Contour drawing's basic technique involves using one continuous pencil line to outline subject shapes without looking down at your page. This heightens observational focus since drawing from life versus sketching what you think something looks like from memory. Great skill builder!
Tip #6: Repeat Drawing The Same Objects
Dedicate pages recording one object (acorn, stone, leaf, tree, etc.) viewed from multiple angles in different light across days/seasons. Progression glimpses improved detail and realism with consistent practice attempting accuracy.
Tip #7: Don't Judge Early Artistry Attempts Harshly!
Comparing early sketches to professional nature drawings sets unrealistic standards, throttling enjoyment and demotivating consistency needed for improvement. Focus on tuning into nature - artistry evolves in time, so be patient with yourself as skills are built.
Tip #8: Note Recurring Elements Drawing Outdoors
Recording repeating motifs like specific cloud shapes, bird behaviors, hourly sunlight shifts, and other patterns seen routinely outdoors grows awareness of nature's rhythms and deepens understanding.
Tip #9: Write Expansive Observation Notes Too
Balance drawings with detailed written records as well as describing weather trends, tree fruiting cycles, animal breeding/migration, and other natural events beyond single-moment glimpse drawings capture. Cross-reference for bigger pictures unfolding over longer timeframes.
Tip #10: Review Old Journal Pages Appreciating Progress
Comparing early attempts to recent drawings displays noticeable advancement, as does rereading descriptions showing more profound knowledge of ecosystems and organisms written over consistent time spent learning outdoors. And most profoundly, feel your inner calm, clarity, and connection to the natural world expand through practice!
Continuously studying and recording what intrigues you outdoors will quickly yield noticeable progress and skill improvements. But do make sure to schedule downtime just sitting still, letting nature work its relaxation magic, too!
Transfer Nature Journal Observations to Other Creative Projects
A nature journal doesn't just hold memories of special times outdoors. It also inspires all kinds of other unique creative projects!
For example, your sketches, color swatches, sensory descriptions, and adventure stories can spark later art pursuits like:
- Painting canvases depicting favorite places and discoveries
- Writing poetry books inspired by seasons, plants, and animals
- Sewing quilts featuring treasured textures, shapes and hues
- Composing instrumental music echoing sounds heard in forests and canyons
- Building sculptures molded from natural impressions stamped into clay or paper mache
The seeds you plant tuning into nature through dedicated observation, cultivate abundant creative blooms in all domains! Journaling grounds deeper awareness, yielding plentiful future inspiration.
5 Big Benefits of Keeping a Nature Journal
Beyond inspiring other arts and crafts, consistently journaling nature observations offers profound personal rewards, including:
1. Improved Observation Skills
Focused attention to recording details sharpens your senses and heightens your appreciation of subtle wonders easily missed.
2. Increased Curiosity & Awe
Immersive nature study grows fascination and sparks imaginative questions, expanding your interests exponentially.
3.Enhanced Memory Retention
Writing and sketching encode sensory inputs more deeply, allowing vivid recollection for years.
4. Stress Reduction & Relaxation
Slow, purposeful recording promotes calming mindfulness, presence, and expanded creativity
5.Greater Environmental Awareness
Deeper nature connectivity spurs ethics of conservation, sustainability, and activism global issues demand.
Fun Nature Journaling Ideas and Activities To Try
Once you get comfortable with the basics, consider stretching your skills by attempting these fun nature documentation ideas:
Place leaves vein-side up on journal pages. Gently rub over them with a pencil or crayon to create cool imprint prints.
Use paper to make rubbings directly from the grooves and ridges of different tree bark. Label similarities/differences.
Sketch interesting cloud types you spot, like cumulus, cirrus, and stratus. Note elevation and any changes.
Find and draw insect holes in trees, nests on plants, or muddy chambers near water. Guess what might live there!
Look for animal footprints and record their patterns. Or note chew marks on plants and nests. What clues indicate their identity?
Tape and label dried seed pods into a journal. Open them to reveal ingenious dispersal techniques helping them spread. Diagram how they work!
Collect and add drops from streams, lakes, and oceans. Let them dry as art—record properties like temperature, clarity, and saltiness.
Note regional bird calls phonetically. When do they vocalize most? What do you think different squawks and trills mean?
Tape printed photos of favorite views into your journal. Or attach a phone to sketch exciting subjects to draw accurately later.
Poetry & Quotes
Find inspirational nature poems, spiritual passages, or motivational quotes to record when outdoor views move you emotionally.
Create A One-Of-A-Kind Nature Journal
Blank notebooks for nature journaling are sold in stores, but making your own unique wilderness art diary is extra fun! Customizing a journal cover sprinkled with natural treasures makes starting each outdoor documentation session more exciting.
Here are some simple nature journal designs to try:
#1: Painted Landscape Cover
Using acrylics, paint a simple landscape scene depicting your favorite nature spot on a blank book's cover. Add actual miniature natural elements like small leaves, seeds, or sand. Finish by coating with decoupage medium to seal.
#2: Imprinted Bark Rubbing Journal
Place a blank journal on top of attractive textured tree bark. Gently rub the side of the pencil lead over the paper, capturing the pattern below. Try different trees and directional rubbings for ideas.
#3: Leaf Pressing Art Cover
Collect colorful fallen leaves and flower petals on nature walks. Place between sheets of paper under heavy books, allowing 1-2 weeks to flatten completely. Decorate the journal cover in natural mosaic or collage designs, fully gluing pressed botanicals down.
#4: Trailhead Map Journal
Find topographic trailhead maps at parks or online for your favorite regional wild spaces—print sections on printable adhesive paper or fabric sheets. Adhere to blank book covers displaying gorgeous nature escape art!
#5: Nature Photography Journal
Crop out and print winning outdoor photos taken on past adventures onto printable adhesive paper. Create unified themes covering the journal exterior displaying the most significant hits compilations from forests, waterfalls, flowers, or night skies.
#6: Upcycled Book Journal
Transform retired books destined for recycling, like old atlases, dictionaries, or novels, into renewed nature journals! Cut the hardback cover off, keeping the literary theme. Then, glue the pages inside of eco-friendly drawing/sketchbook paper, replacing the previous content. Decorate the cover with thematically relevant natural materials.
#7: Hand Sewn Nature Journal
Create journal paper signatures by folding and stacking drawing paper. Sew binding vertically down and fold side using thick thread in contrasting colors with durable blanket stitch. Then, glue pressed leaves, dried seed pods, and other finds from the wilderness onto fabric, leather, or wood covers cut to size. Finish by stitching and creating a nature embroidery art cover!
Ready to Start Exploring Nature Journaling?
As hopefully you now appreciate, nature journaling offers an enjoyable hobby of recording your outdoor adventures through quick sketches, sensory impressions, and factual observations.
Yet it provides so much more - building skills as an artist and naturalist while relaxing your mind and tuning into each unique moment. Keeping a record of special times outdoors also captures memories, allowing nostalgic revisiting years later.
Finally, when new creative urges strike, or life-guiding inspiration is sought, your nature journal offers intuitive wisdom patiently gathered one attentive outdoor wandering at a time!
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