S How to Begin a Watercolor Nature Journal | Some Little Good

How to Begin a Watercolor Nature Journal

“Wild roses are fairest, and nature a better gardener than art.”
Louisa May Alcott

For some years now Brittany and I have wanted to regularly keep a watercolor nature journal. Growing up, each of us filled nature journals as part of our outdoor school time, but after graduating the habit slipped. 
We decided that the new year was the perfect time to take the plunge 
and start nature journaling again - together!

Materials and Supplies

I thought I'd share some of the materials and supplies that we have found to be useful, for anyone interested in starting a nature journal of their own. 

The first item of importance: A Watercolor Sketchbook
Ours were purchased at a small, brick and mortar, art shop so I couldn't find the exact sketchbooks we're using online. However the one linked above is the same brand and paper as ours, it's just a different size.

We thought the handmade paper in these sketchbooks would be interesting to experiment with on this project. Each journal contains 20 pages total and since the pages are so thick, the watercolors don't seem to bleed through as much. We should be able to paint on the front and back of each page, giving a total of 40 pages to fill out during the year. 

 So far we have found the paper to have a lovely texture.
The paints absorb more slowly into the paper than what we're used to, however, once the pigments settle they do not blot up easily. It has taken some trial and error, but I think that for this particular project, it's going to work very well. This paper really forces artists to keep moving and to focus less on details and more on colors, shapes and shadowing.

Secondly, we organized all of our watercolor paints before we began using
this paint palette
We use a variety of watercolor brands and usually purchase them in tubes.
This palette keeps them well sorted, and allows us to rearrange the paints as we add new colors to our constantly growing collection.

The palette linked above comes in three different sizes with the option of holding 12, 24 or 48 half pans. It's perfect for carrying all your paint colors around at once.

Lastly, for brushes we've been using some Refillable Waterbrushes.

These refillable watercolor brush pens are perfect for painting outdoors. They can be filled with water and the brush can be wiped off on a damp paper towel as they're used.
They are a great solution for painting on the go.

Nature Journal Guides and Inspiration

Sometimes it can be struggle to know exactly where to start or what to record in a nature journal. I have found much inspiration from studying the following books:

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady

"The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" by Edith Holden is an artist's nature journal from the year 1906. I love the way she interspersed quotes, poetry, and facts throughout her diary and her illustrations are just lovely.

"The Watercolorist's Nature Journal" by Jill Bays has a great many tips and tricks for painting nature, many of which I found insightful. I would definitely recommend this book to any watercolor artist who loves to paint the outdoors, regardless of whether they're planning to nature journal or not.

(Pictured above: Brittany's Journal Titlepage)

Our Nature Journals

And now for the journaling itself! We began by creating title pages for our journals.
Britt and I each picked a Psalm to go on the front.

Brittany went with strictly watercolors and ink and had lovely results.

(Pictured above: Bridget's Journal Titlepage)

I opted for a more mixed-media look and interspersed torn book pages throughout my journal. The actual truth behind this decision was because this paper is unforgiving when it comes to erasing pencil lines and I am an indecisive sketcher - a deadly combination! 😂
However, the ephemera gives a vintage feel to my journal,
and I'm actually rather pleased with the results.

(Pictured above: Bridget's Pages for Janury)

January was wet and cold, as usual, so our nature walks were a little more brisk!
We decided to paint from photographs that we took, instead of painting in the elements,
but we are hoping to do more plein air painting when it starts to warm up.

Despite the fact that there is not a lot of flowering plants in this winter month,
we were able to fill our journals with, mushrooms, seed pods, budding plants, and some of the very first blooms of the year - hyacinths!

(We are blessed to have early blooms since we live in the southern U.S.)

All in all, I would call January's nature journaling efforts something of a success,
and I'm looking forward to continuing it and updating everyone on our progress.

Have you ever kept a nature journal?
We would love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below!


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