People often ask about the practical aspects of starting to keep a nature journal.
It seems straightforward. You need a book to draw and write in in, and something to draw/paint with.
The problems begin when you look at the huge range of different art tools and equipment available!
All that choice, and so many different options.
What to choose?
Which paints to buy?
Should you get this product, or that one?
The magical world of art supplies can be very confusing when you're starting out!
Make it easy on yourself
I'm all for keeping things simple at first; my top tip is; don’t rush off and buy a load of things that you probably won't need or use - yet. Just start with stationery you have around the house. There'll be time later to try new and different art media as you get more confident on your creative journey.
Reuse and recycle. Every little helps look after the planet. As you progress, you'll find out what works for you, and feel more confident when you buy supplies. New tools can also be a bit scary to use, so practicing with what you have will take the pressure off, too! You can play around, make marks and have fun!
Drawing your kit is always fun to do and a great way to practice!
A BASIC WATERCOLOUR SKETCH KIT
It's easy to put a starter kit together quickly using items you already have. Then you can start journaling!
Find a sketchbook:
Now, this is something you might need to buy, but you can begin with any plain notebook. (Any book will do, but you might feel more comfortable with blank pages rather than lined.)
Any sketchbook will work for drawing with pencil, and probably ink, but, if you want to learn watercolour, you’ll need one with suitable paper! Most good quality sketchbooks will have information about what media you can use; check if the label/info says the paper is ‘suitable for ink and wash, or light watercolour’.
If you plan on journaling outdoors, I'd suggest getting a sketchbook which is small and light enough to carry in your bag. An 8”x5” hardback is a good beginners option. It's a reasonable size, it gives you some support, and you can work across 2 pages if you need a larger spread.
Draw and paint with...
Now, many sketchers advocate going straight in with pen, but I've found beginners often find that scary. I love pencil and use it a lot! A 2B graphite is my favourite; it gives a wonderful range of tones. An HB will do fine to start and is easily available. The most important thing to do is keep it sharp!
I sketch with a fountain pen but you can use any fineliner pen with waterproof ink. A size 1.0 nib is ideal for starting off. (The nib size is usually written on the end of the pen.) Using waterproof ink means you can add watercolour later without your lines going blurry (which is another technique in itself!) If the small print says ‘waterproof or archival ink’, you are good to go!
Don't rush into buying expensive paints. Maybe you have an old children's set around which you can use for practice. If you need to buy watercolour paints the easiest way to begin is to buy a small box of ready filled half pans. I use a round No 6 brush for almost everything in my journal, and when I'm outside I love to use water brushes.
Don't forget coloured pencils, brush tips, ballpoint pens, gel pens......
Look around and see what you can find! Try scribbling, doodling and making marks, and see what feels good - you may be surprised!
A pencil sharpener, and an eraser will also be useful.
Other useful things
You may also want to gather a few other things as you go, such as-
A small spray bottle for moistening your paints (mine once held peppermint foot spray! )
A rag for wiping your brush ( mine's part of an old cotton sock which I wear as a bracelet!)
A small bag/ backpack for carrying your outdoor kit ( whatever is comfortable to use)
A nature id guide or app on your phone
Excitement at starting your journal
Willingness to experiment, and have fun!
That's it! We'll look at some of the details later, but now you can get started!