Natural History Arts

Journal:  14 August 2018

Art is a generous practice, open to all sorts of ideas and obsessions. Whatever you find interesting, you can find a way to convey it through your art. It’s great fun for me to watch my students open up as they learn new skills and figure out what it is they want to express.

One of the best ways to explore your own inner workings is to keep a sketchbook or visual journal.  I always have one nearby, and I use it to sketch, to play with ideas, to make notes and record what happens in my daily life, and to blow off steam. Some ideas that first appeared in my journals simply as things to play with have later turned into more formal drawings or paintings. You never know where an idea will lead, and art journaling, also called visual journaling, is a wonderful place to give birth to your ideas, and to figure out who you are as an artist.


Journal:  10 April 2018

Drawing is for everybody! 

Many people think that drawing is something only artists can do, but in fact it's a learnable skill, like handwriting.  Before the invention of photography, drawing was the only way to share visual information.  It was an essential skill for scientists because it helps you learn to observe and to document findings. Scientific illustration is still taught in universities, and it’s considered more accurate than photographs because it can account for individual variations in species.

Some people do have in-born talent for art, just as others have talent with machines, or math, or sales, or cooking.  Not everybody can be an artist, but everybody can learn to draw.  


Journal:  12 January 2018

I absolutely love drawing, and I have dozens and dozens of pencils. Why so many? What’s the difference between them?

Pencil quality and hardness can vary between manufacturers — kind of like dress sizes. For example, the Japanese tend to like softer, darker pencils than average, so a Japanese HB pencil is likely to be a little bit darker than the same grade made by a German company. Some brands have a smoother feel than others, and some are simply designed so beautifully that they’re lovely to hold and use. My resistance to beautiful pencils is very low. Okay, nonexistent. 

I discuss pencils in more detail in my beginning drawing class. In my intermediate drawing class, students make a value chart with their own set of pencils so that they gain a better understanding of what they have to work with. A value chart is a great tool. If you want to learn to draw, it can help you comprehend the concept of value and help you to choose the correct pencil to use to accomplish your goal with a particular drawing. Check out the Art Classes & Workshops page if you want to join me and learn more.



Journal:  30 November 2017

One of my favorite practices is botanical drawing. It’s calming and meditative, and the perfect thing to work on at times when life is stressful. I also love to teach botanical drawing. 

I approach it in the same manner that I teach my other drawing classes, with attention to composition, value, and personal expression. But what gives my botanical drawing class a nice twist is the subject matter itself. I love seeing how quickly people start to look differently at the natural world after just one class. The key to botanical drawing is direct observation, and students immediately find new interest and beauty in things as simple as sticks and seed pods from their own backyards. Take a close look at those leaves you’re raking, and pick out a few to draw!