GREENVILLE — Neil Baker grew up nature journaling near his home between Pitsburg, Ohio, and Arcanum.
“I have done this my whole life,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. It is a reflection of you and none of us are perfect.”
Baker is the summer naturalist intern for the Darke County Park District. He is attending Hocking College studying a dual major of Wildlife Management and Forestry. From there he is thinking of attending The Ohio State University to study Entomology, the scientific study of insects.
Baker paired up with two artists from the Greenville Art Guild: Carolyn Armstrong, of Versailles and Marilyn Banks, of Arcanum, for a workshop on the Art of Nature Journaling, Saturday June 24. They and their students met at Shawnee Prairie Preserve and Nature Center, in Greenville, to discuss the different styles, purposes, and media used to keep a journal.
After a power point, a class on water color from Banks and a class on Colored Pencils from Armstrong, students went outside to apply their lesson in nature. Baker outlined the basics including the importance of writing legibly. The first step is to do nothing before one does anything.
“Nature needs time to settle in and be accustomed to you being there, and that sometimes takes awhile,” he said. “You trudging through the woods to your spot makes noise. Sit down and wait.”
The next step is to start each entry with the date, time and the weather, including the types of clouds above and possibly applying the Beaufort wind force scale for more detail. Published journals require specific rules, such as the dates are written like this: 24 June 2017 and Military Time is the preferred clock. From there, one can relax.
“Don’t feel pressured that you have to get it all,” he said “Get what you feel is the most important and write that down first. If you are writing about deer, don’t mention all the crows that you saw. And write how you would talk – not in somebody else’s style. You want it to be a reflection of yourself.”
According to Baker, recording the weather is important to explain some things as one goes back through their journal. For example, one day someone might see a bunch of rabbits and the next time the rabbits are scarce. Why was their a difference? Was it raining? In addition, journaling materials will vary from person to person. Greenville Art Guild artist Carolyn Armstrong uses colored pencils; preferably Prismacolor pencils. She has been an artist for 25 years. She also likes writing poems or printing quotes beside her sketches. Her favorite subjects in nature are flowers, birds and butterflies.
“I think someday when I am gone, my boys will find my stuff and maybe appreciate what I have done,” she said.
Greenville Art Guild artist Marilyn Banks, of Arcanum, enjoys using watercolor in her nature journals. She suggested folks test their colors first on scrap paper. Banks said it is important to get something down, which can be challenging as nature usually does not sit still very long. She said to get anything down: an eye, a wing, or even a gestural line implying flight. She gave advice on the tools of the trade, such as different journal sizes. Canvas rigger bags are cheap and can easily hold the supplies. These can be found at the new Harbor Freight store, in Greenville.
“This is a particular blue pencil, by Prismacolor that is recommended for use under watercolor,” she said. When you paint watercolor over, it doesn’t leave graphite like a lead pencil. Arches is the ultimate in water color paper and it is very expensive, but you can buy a big sheet and can cut into many pieces.”
Nature journaling can happen after observations are made. An audio recorder can capture sounds to play back later, a piece of bark or a rock can be collected and rubbings can be made from different items. Also, many people take photographs and paint or draw the subjects later. Baker said there are many reasons for nature journaling, including scientific studies that log changes in nature. Other good reasons are to be creative and to record an adventure. Baker has often mediated through his journaling, he said.
“Nature has always been very inspiring to people throughout time,” he said. “It’s a very good place to go when the world gets too hard. Writing and being at peace with nature helps to alleviate stress.”
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