When Fall arrives, it is a fresh opportunity to reflect on Nature’s beauty as the landscape changes from greens to reds, oranges and browns. To some it is the end of summer. To me, it means the beginning of the next phase of the year with new things of beauty to discover. Every year my Fall leaf collection grows. My favorite place to keep my leaf collection is in Gardner’s Art Through The Ages. I have two versions of the book. Occasionally, I need to check an art reference in one version or the other and leaves fall out every time I open either one. Just walking in a parking lot in October may yield new additions to the book! Some specimen have been in the books for more than 10 years. I can’t bring myself to ever throw any out. I love being outdoors and making art in the Fall. The crisp air and changing colors are perfect for nature journaling.
There are so many ways to capture Fall leaves and other bits of Nature that seem to line all outdoor paths this time of year. Naturalist, John Muir Laws literally wrote the book, and course and workshop and more, on Nature Journaling. Laws believes that the way to get kids and others to appreciate and care for Nature is by journaling and creating art out in the wild, parks, or even your own back yard. His premise is the process of painting, drawing and identifying nature in its natural location leads to a greater understanding and love of Nature. And with greater love of nature, there will be more of a desire to protect and care for beautiful spaces where nature can be free to live and grow in its natural habitat. No artist’s or nature lover’s library is complete without a John Muir Laws book, workbook or reference book. Teachers will find a wealth of resources at Laws’ website. Fall is a great time to introduce working outdoors in nature and Laws has the tools to get started.
.Another great resource, for taking your art outside to nature is Clare Walker Leslie. Leslie, also a naturalist and artist, believes one of the best ways to learn about our natural world is to keep a Nature Journal. She has books and other great resources on her website to help you get started. Leslie’s Nature Journal books are fairly simple to follow and can even work well for children. One of the great things about Nature Journaling with children is that it is also a great way to teach botany and other sciences. Her book, The Nature Connection, is a wonderful tool to use with kids and adult beginners. Teachers will find it full of resources and wonderful projects for classroom and field trips. I have a copy and love it. There are so many wonderful projects and tips. Nature Drawing is another favorite of Leslie’s for me.
My favorite tools for field sketching are watercolor pencils with a water brush. They are the easiest to carry requiring minimal supplies. No worry about water jars or easels. No special chairs or tables to go. When going to work in the wild you never know how far you will have go to find the plants and things to paint, so the fewer heavy things to carry, the better. A good mixed media sketchbook or journal with a hard cover is the best to work in. All that will be needed is a box of watercolor pencils, one or two water brushes, filled, and a pencil sharpener. Don’t forget to pack a snack and drink for yourself. You may get so engrossed you won’t want to go back to civilization too soon.
Other tools for getting down your outdoor artistic expressions are many and varied. While my favorite is the watercolor pencils, I have also used oil pastel and oil paint. Oil pastels are also easily portable for outdoor use. The definition and detail of plants is more difficult with oil pastels but landscape impressions are perfect. Oil pastels capture vivid color, so necessary in Fall, in a way no other tool can. There are some very cool carrying cases available for oil pastels with shoulder straps. Mine is made from wood and is a thing of beauty in itself. I found it at Plaza Art Supply in Nashville. It is small and easy to carry. A mixed media sketchbook works well with oil pastels too.
Plein Air painting was the choice of the Impressionists. In fact, the the name came from their habit of painting outdoors to capture the “impressions” of what they were seeing. The term, though meant as derogatory, was embraced by the Impressionists. The Artists Network has a great description of Plein Air painting. There are many wonderful plein air painting groups who will go together to beautiful places to paint as the Impressionists did. Check your area to see if you have one locally. If not, start one! Nashville has the wonderful Chestnut Group. Check out all the wonderful things the Chestnut group does. The Forgotten Coast of Florida has a yearly Plein Air event at Apapalchicola and Carabelle, FL.
We took our Botanical Style Watercolor workshop from Watkins College of Art at Belmont University to Percy Warner Park in Nashville last week end. Even though it was cold, rainy and dreary, we had a wonderful time doing field sketches with watercolor pencils. We collected specimen and worked at the picnic tables under a shelter. The next day, we took our field sketches and made finished watercolor Botanical Style paintings in the studios at Belmont. It took a while to thaw out Saturday night but it was still a wonderful time. There is just nothing like being out in nature to paint it. I prefer the studio for finished work but field sketching creates a sense of actually getting in touch with nature. Pick your favorite tools or try some new ones. Then get outside and get to work!
Check out all the fun we had last week end!