Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Art of Keeping a Nature Journal

There is a deeper joy in our education this year - due in no small part to my youngest child who cannot be contained indoors. In truth, Luca is more apt to be found asking the beasts or the fowls of the air while his brother and I consider the way of the ant or the work of the Lord's fingers.

Among the benefits of taking most of our subjects out-of-doors has been a newfound ease in the keeping of our nature journals. Following are specifics of our journals along with some of the technical details Charlotte Mason mentions.

Really, anything goes in a nature journal. Charlotte makes some good points that we've found true in application though and it is a question often enough asked. I'm also a bit of a colophon addict. Those smidgens of information in a book's frontispiece that tell whether the typeface is "Gorilla" or "Bembo," oh, those are good. Better yet if they give the really intimate details such as the cotton content of the paper or that the illustrations were done in Liquitex acrylics and Prismacolor pencils on bristol board.

Acorns present a hazard if you plan on journaling under a mighty oak.

The children keep a dated record of what they see in their nature note-books, which are left to their own management and are not corrected. These note-books are a source of pride and joy, and are freely illustrated by drawings (brushwork) of twig, flower, insect, etc. (Vol. 3, p. 236).

An exercise book with stiff covers serves for a nature-diary, but care is necessary in choosing paper that answers both for writing and brush-drawing. (Vol. 1, p. 55).

We use Moleskine's Watercolour Notebooks which have a stiff cover and an elastic strap closure. Pages don't get bent and they flatten out nicely if you use a wash. They come in perfectly portable sizes and I'm not sure where else 72-pages of quality watercolor paper could be found for a better price.

Boxes of cheap colours are to be avoided. Children are worthy of the best, and some half-dozen tubes of really good colours will last a long time, and will satisfy the eye of the little artists. (Vol. 1 p. 313).

The best doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive. We each have a compact set of Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolors, which are economical and travel well. Good colors do seem to satisfy as my five-year-old has never made a muddy mess of these like he would his cheap set. On the left is a student set of honey-based watercolors from Russia. Though they're in pans they are always moist and we like them so well we stock them up whenever we can.

Even so, the greatest factor in the art of keeping a nature journal has little to do with the mechanics and more to do with mother. As I take the time to closely observe and wonder at our natural surroundings, my children's interest is piqued by my own.

Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:2


Amy in Peru said...

YAY! I'm posting on nature journals as I type... though I am having serious issues with blogger at the moment... it may be tomorrow or next day before it will let me post it. I'm so glad we're on the same wave length. I LOVE nature study! We're on our 5th year of bliss... I've just been organizing my fotos from 2005! :) what wonders we've discovered!

love to you,
amy in peru

Mish said...

I need to do more nature study, but our days are so full already. See http://mishlevi.wordpress.com/ my new blog if you are interested. I am in your sister's cm group and have the same name as her. :)

Heather said...

Thank you for explaining this way nature journaling. I have no experience working with watercolors like this so I have a few questions.
I take it the pans in the Winsor watercolors can be replaced or do you purchase the whole set when you run out of paint?
Do your boys typically sketch with pencil and then add the color with the watercolor or are they usually using the paint only?
Aside from the company you have mentioned, how do you determine good paint from cheap paint other than price? Or is anything say over $20 a good paint?
Okay, sorry to ask all this, but I have no idea how to do all this.

Richele said...

@Amy Loved your post and will be back to follow those links!

@Mish Do read Amy's post. You may be glad to drop some things and go do nature study! Thanks for your new blog addy.

@Heather I'm going to answer your very good questions in a small post so I can provide some links to what I talk about.

pebblekeeper said...

Beautiful Study and writing. I hear your heart and am encoucouraged. I'll tuck you in my reader!

Heather said...

Oh, thank you, Richele! I look forward to it!

Sarah said...

Hey Richelle...thank you for your gentle remider, we have'nt done much nature journaling in the last few weeks, it's something that can easily slip away if I don't organise it. Thise paints look fantastic! xxx

beckyboop said...

You have been given the "One Lovely Blog" award! Normally I don't do this, and I don't expect you to pass it on if you don't want to, but I am fulfilling my obligation. LOL!


joyfulmum said...

I'm not sure how I missed this post! anyway, I have similar questions to Heather so look forward to your post on it.
We do pencil drawing only in our nature journals at this stage with my 6 year old dd. Is brush drawing for a later age or do they start now?

Jeanne said...

We're struggling with nature study at the moment because Jemimah doesn't think her paintings are realistic enough all of a sudden. She doesn't want art lessons either. She is getting so frustrated...and so am I!!!!!

We used moleskine notebooks too.

Renelle said...

I think it will be great when they draw the same or similar thing in a year or two's time and see how their skills have progressed. I know that Carter likes it when I do it too and when he's struggling he watches me to see how he can approach it differently. Sketching & painting are not as easy as they would seem.It's a great skill to experiment with colour and method. We have some terrible looking attemps but we tend to laugh about them. We made out cat look more like an alien in one attempt.

MamaChi said...

Hi there, I've recently discovered you blog and am enjoying reading your posts. I have given you an award at my blog.


Nadene said...

I came over from a-pilgrims-heart-blogspot and you have really encouraged me to let my girls try painting in their nature journals again! I agree that the art materials should be quality products - they work so well and last longer.
I wrote a post about this here.

Richele said...

Just a quick note to say I'm having problems with blogger and will be back when that is settled. Haven't even been able to comment without problem.

Beckyboop and Mamachi - thank you so much for the awards!

That Crazy Family said...

We miss nature journaling, picking it back up as soon as we can though! I love your photo's here!

Toyin O. said...

Love the shots and your writing. Really informative.


Anonymous said...

This is great. My daughter and I made a little video to maybe help someone with the mechanics of dry brushing. Maybe some of your readers would find it helpful. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJE7qlkj2Xo