Thursday, May 26, 2016

3 Easy Ways to Begin Keeping a Nature Journal

Discovering and identifying a Common Yellow Throat
click to enlarge

3 Easy Ways to Begin Keeping a Nature Journal

#1  Find your Rhythm

No time? No problem!

The first myth about keeping a nature journal is that it must be done every day. It seems impossible to take time every day for sitting quietly in nature looking, listening and drawing. Yet, doesn't the idea of doing so whisper to your soul? 

Keeping an on going nature journal doesn't have to take a lot of time. Nature moves in cycles and tuning in to those cycles and using them as a template for your journal provides many easy ways to establish a practice that fits into your life.

Five Easy Rhythms to Follow

1.) Create just one journal page a month, focusing on things that capture the essence of that month, and you'll have a small, but beautiful nature journal that documents the changes in nature during the course of an entire year. 

2.) Journal just once a week and you'll fill a fifty page sketchbook in one year. Your book would be complete in just six months if you filled a two page spread once a week.

3.) If you went outside each evening for a few minutes and recorded the moon you would capture the entire cycle of the moon's waxing and waning in a single month.  

4.) Try quick sunrise and sunset studies like the example below. They're fast and easy!

5.) Create a grid of small boxes on your page and fill one each day with an simple, single object from nature, an acorn, a leaf, a pebble, a twig, a flower, etc.  You'll be amazed at how quickly this will go and how beautiful your page will look. 

Quick sunrise and sunset studies
click to enlarge

Excited and ready to begin? Click HERE for a Free Nature Journaling mini class video

#2 Get to know your own Backyard

The western mind set is besieged by dualistic thinking. Something is this, not that. We often make such a mistake when thinking about what is, and what isn't nature. In truth, nature is all there is. She is all around us at every turn, in the country or in the city, above our heads and beneath our feet she is all encompassing not "out there' somewhere. 

Your backyard, large or small is nature, and I guarantee you it's teaming with life. 

Here are 4 ways to create a splendid habitat right outside your door

  1. container gardens with flower varieties to attract pollinators 
  2. bird feeders (hummingbird feeders are wonderful!)
  3. bird baths, any shallow dish will do, add a rock or two for perches
  4. solar powered table top fountain (the sound of moving water will attract birds)  

It's all about Relationship

When your goal is to form a deeper relationship with nature the best place to start is the exact place that you inhabit. Get to know your own yard, the land you live on, or a local park. The closer your "sit spot" the better, as getting out there will be much less a chore and you'll be primed for success.

Take this Action Step: Start looking around your own yard or local park today.  Find your perfect place and claim it as you very own "sit spot", the term naturalists use for the location they will return to again and again to observe and record nature. 

My backyard provides habitat for native plants and animals
click to enlarge

#3 Master Drawing Skills (not Required !) 

Not knowing how to draw is actually one of the easiest obstacles to fix, and should not stop you from beginning a nature journal. The process of drawing is a cumulative one. The more you draw the better you will get.  Each tip, and technique you learn along the way will broaden your abilities and enhance your skill level.  Soon you'll have experience with many approaches, and techniques. You will be able to pick and choose what is most expressive and comfortable for you.

There are many clear, simple drawing exercises, as well as different approaches to drawing that will help you learn to process what you see and then translate that into lines and shapes on your paper.  Remember, a nature journal is a living document, something that's created on the spot, in the field. It's never meant to look like a photograph, a biological or botanical illustration  or even "fine art". Your sketches will be uniquely your own and filled with the life and vitality of the moment. 

New to sketching? Try this simple exercise.....

click to enlarge

The primary benefit of practicing any art , whether well or badly, is that it enables one’s soul to grow." ~ Kurt Vonnegut 20th C American writer

Click the image below to see how my own nature journals have progressed from 2002 to the present

Are you ready to experience a deeper connection to the natural world through nature journaling? 

I'd be honored to be your teacher and guide, journeying with you as you discover the beauty, joy, and soul nourishing practice of keeping a nature journal. 

To receive a free Nature Journaling Mini Class Video


**Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2009


  1. thank you so much for the inspiration. I home school my children. My eldest (all girls) have sketching journals throughout the school year. You have inspired me to take it to the next level. We are going to summer school using nature journals.

  2. Mommy of 4 Princessses. I also homeschooled my 3 children. They are all grown up now, 26, 24, 22. We used the Charlotte Mason method along with other things. We were all out in nature, and recording it in notebooks and journals. Every year in April we went "looking for spring" suited up in old clothes and boots and waded through streams, and along pond edges looking for skunk cabbage, salamanders, turtles and frogs eggs. I am so happy that you're finding this useful!

  3. This is a wonderful blog post. How can I follow you?

  4. Hi Marilyn, You can follow this blog by signing up in the right hand side bar under the big box that says "STAY HAPPY FOLLOW by Email" So glad you're enjoying the posts and video! ~ Jan

    1. Thank You Jan. I was using my phone this morning but now that I am on my computer I can see how to follow :-) I thoroughly enjoyed your video, I now must get the courage to try nature journalling myself.

  5. This is your best blog post yet to date! Your online class looks like it's going to be great!

  6. Hi, you've probably already addressed this but do you keep a journal only for Nature?
    I tend to mix it into my regular journal thinking one book for everything. Not sure if I am satisfied with that.

  7. Hi Diane, I journal everything together in one sketchbook. Because nature is my favorite subject 90% of the entries are nature journal pages with the occasional food, town, or people sketch thrown in. I tried keeping separate journals for different themes....too complicated. I think for me keeping just one book really documents the flow of my life and the enormous part nature plays in it.

  8. Hi Jan. I have been a secret admirer of your art journals for a long time. I loved your mini class on Vimeo. Thanks for generously sharing for free. I want to be more regular at keeping a nature journal. Thank you for the inspiration.

  9. Hi Jan, This is a great post, I loved the video mini class, and your introduction was fab. I'm super busy with work and have been really bogged down - but you've inspired me to remember I need to make time for my nature journaling,a and realise how much I'm missing it. I know your new on-line class is going to be amazing!Every good wish to you.x

  10. This is just wonderful, Jan, thank you for sharing!

  11. Fantastic post, definitely speaks to my soul! If it wasn't so sweltering hot I would start right now. Think I will wait until dawn :) Thank you for the inspiration and motivation!


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