I teach nature journaling and drawing to inspire an immersive relationship to the natural world and foster a duel proficiency in logical and creative modes of thinking. My lessons are designed to demystify drawing for all ages by making it fun, accessible, and rewarding in the process. I believe that artistic talent is something that is earned through practice. Given time and dedication, realism will emerge as an added benefit for the new way that you as an artist have learned to see the world.
Weather permitting, my students investigate outside spaces and document their findings with a combination of drawing, writing, and numbers. My lessons incorporate simple scientific instruments and digestible amounts of artistic technique that can be tried during the day. With a balance of structured guidance and creative freedom, participants develop a unique story of personal discovery. As depth and detail of inquiry are the metric for success, frustration is reduced and practice encouraged.
In one of my favorite examples of student work, I can see from the page that a student was drawing the spines of a devils club plant when a bird flew into his view. Attention shifted to the bird who, as indicated by an enlarged drawing of the head, made a call that wobbled its throat. As expressed by the arrows that scrawled across the page, it then flew to its mate nesting in a nearby birdhouse. The label “woodhatch” had been changed to “nuthatch”, and a check mark replaced a question mark, indicating that he had verified the identification of the bird. I rotated the page many times to understand the story. It represents the essence of observation and documentation of a discovery.
My curricula and teaching style are highly adaptable to facilitate age, background, academic performance and rural villages. I mostly love to teach directly in nature, but when the rain falls we collect things to bring inside, and in deep winter I teach traditional drawing and visual art fundamentals. My teacher workshops aim to dispel ‘non-artistic’ stereotypes and equip teachers with supplies and guidance to make drawing an attainable practice in the classroom.
During the opening reception of the Wrangell Shorebird Festival, an aide from the middle school biology class approached me and exclaimed in a baffled manner that the table of rowdy boys had spent the entire period (a Friday afternoon no less) quietly drawing crabs. The “totally not an artist” biology teacher had gravitated to the scientific approach of nature journaling and was incorporating them into his subsequent unit on arthropods. I believe that nature can lure out the artist and scientist in every one of us.