Nature journaling outside: What could possibly go wrong?!
You can sketch outside in all weathers - if you want to of course! I’ve been sketching outside for years, drawing nature on my walks. In that time I’ve had a few fair scrapes with the weather, and the terrain. Here are a few problems I’ve encountered, which I hope you’ll avoid after reading this. I’ve highlighted a few things you may find helpful on your outdoor expeditions, too!
Rain - and it’s various offspring!
I don’t use a car to access my journaling patches, and I’m often in exposed places, so sheltering from the rain is a problem for me. Living in the green and lush West Country of Britain, it’s an occupational hazard! Balancing an umbrella and drawing is a bit tricky, so it pays off to keep an eye out for any shelter which you can use to protect you, and your sketchbook, from the elements.
Some species of these dangerous little critters live on boggy ground, camouflaging themselves under grass and plants. They entice the journaler with promises of tempting blossoms or interesting leaves - and then, splash!
Wet boots, wet socks, and I’m sure I often hear a mischievous giggle on the breeze…
Watch out for these!
Mud – in many forms
Sometimes, when you’re squelching deeply in wet oozy mud, (because you just, really wanted to look closer at that tree) it’s hard to remember soil is such an amazing thing! If you’re using a sketching stool on muddy ground, don’t get carried away in your excitement to begin sketching! Please, find a stable spot, and then, unlike me, you will not start wondering why your viewpoint is changing…. as you sink slowly downwards!
Carry something to wipe off muddy stool legs – and also equipment and tools which love to escape and jump into mud!
Mud also loves certain footwear. Stopping to gaze at a bird whilst walking through an area of very heavy clay/mud is likely to result in the loss of one wellie (gumboot), with sock attached; while you look down at your bare foot, trying desperately not to overbalance, and regain your boot at the same time!
What problems could you possibly have on a lovely sunny day? Journaling in warm bright weather sounds wonderful …except when you forget the appropriate kit.
Heat and I don’t mix well, so I’m normally hiding in the shade, but when I do venture out I need a wide brimmed, fold up hat which shades my neck and shoulders, (rather than sticking my jacket over my head!)
The water in your reusable bottle can double up to as a drink and cleaning product if your watercolour palette’s drying too quickly on a hot day.
Covering up is a good idea to avoid being munched on by some of the insect life you are journaling. I seem especially tasty, so I carry a small bottle of citronella insect repellent to scare them away. Don’t forget sun cream on any exposed skin, and sunglasses are handy too.
Wind loves sketchbooks! Pop some small bulldog clips in your kit to keep your page flat and secure, and remember, pencils are convinced they can fly when it’s breezy, and often need a strict talking to! Elastic hair ties are really good for keeping a few pencils together.
I pack an extra layer of clothing for the cold. Wearing a hat, scarf, thick socks and warm boots really help. Try not to get distracted by such an interesting subject, that you end up sitting too long in one spot, (especially if you have back problems and find you can’t move when you try to get up!) I recommend a vacuum flask with a nice warm drink to hydrate and cheer you up, and give you an extra half hours work on a very cold day. (A choccie biscuit or snack of your choice is always acceptable, and gives a nice energy boost when it’s really cold.)
Trying to sketch wearing gloves is challenging, to say the least, but the fingerless types are brilliant! I highly recommend getting a pair.
Please don’t put your stool on an incline to draw to get the best view of your subject (See ‘Mud’ above, especially).
I never learn, and have lost count of the times I’ve ended up with my legs waving in the air!
If you’re journaling in a public place, like a park - check the ground before you put your bag down, just in case. Sadly there are sometimes naughty dog owners who haven’t scooped the poop. Very frustrating and not nice!
Sitting on logs, rocks, damp park benches etc is much improved with a quilty/waterproof layer between you and your seat! I have a small, light fold up ‘sit mat’, which gives me a wider choice of places to perch.
Small drawbacks aside, sketching outside is absolutely wonderful, there is nothing like connecting and drawing nature out of doors, but it’s always a good idea to be prepared!
What issues have you encountered while journaling outside? Do you have any tips to share?