On Sunday, I met with members of the Front Range Nature Journaling club at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science so we could spend time drawing whatever interested us. I’m still fairly new to nature journaling field trips, so it’s not surprising that I learned (or was reminded) of important things about nature journaling that have nothing to do with what goes on the page.
Here are nine things I will be doing from now on:
Give yourself plenty of time. Because I live an hour from the museum, I left home early. I-25 is notorious for delays, and I didn’t want to worry about being late. I wound up arriving almost twenty minutes before my entry time, but that gave me a chance to warm-up by drawing the T. rex skull in the lobby and the drive was stress-free.
Keep things simple. The museum doesn’t allow paint. I could have used colored pencils but decided instead to take advantage of the limitation and work in black-and-white. I practiced conveying shape with shadows. This kept my kit light and saved me time, because I already knew what I was going to be doing.
Plan ahead. I made my supply and packing list the night before, but revisited it on the morning of the event. Fortunately, I took the time to decide on my goals for the journaling session while I was still at home. It kept me from packing things I didn’t need.
Fuel your body to reduce fatigue. I carried a liter of water and a healthy lunch with me, and made a point of drinking all the water in the morning. I also had a snack and drink waiting in the car to help me recharge before driving home.
Meet with others. For years, I’ve wanted to draw at the museum, but I have never made it down there on my own. Arranging to meet others helped me make the time, and having others there to talk to and share with made it easier to relax.
Only carry what you need. While this is obvious when it comes to the art supplies, it applies to everything. The forecast called for rain, possibly snow, later in the day, but I only wore a light jacket into the museum. I had a heavier coat, warm hat, and gloves in the car so I could wear them if necessary. In the end, it didn’t rain, and I was really glad I didn’t have to deal with a bunch of unneeded bulky layers indoors.
Relax. Drawing in public makes me tense. Fortunately, I realized this early on, and started checking in with my body regularly. Dropping my shoulders and taking a few deep breaths helped me to calm down and improved my drawing.
Take breaks. I made the mistake of working for an hour and a half straight. It took some disastrous drawing before I realized I needed to take a break. I can’t believe I needed a reminder. Marley Peifer often talks about stopping before you wear yourself out and Roz Stendhal points out that drawing is tiring and you have to train up to do it for extended periods.
Enjoy your surroundings. Look away from your journal. Walk around. You don’t have to spend every minute of your time journaling. Sometimes sitting and staring is when you learn the most.
Never stand when you can sit. This is old travel advice that I quote all the time, but I didn’t follow it. The result? My legs hurt quite a bit that night.
While the hours I spent at the museum were fun and educational, they were also stressful. Taking care of my body and beind kind to myself kept me from being completely exhausted.
How do you take care of yourself on a nature journal outing?