Before going to the Denver Botanic Gardens with the Front Range Nature Journaling club , I revisited my list of field trip tips , and it helped me take better care of myself. I had a stool and sat whenever I could. I took breaks and let myself drink in the setting instead of journaling every second. Still, I learned three more things I hope will help me do even better next time.

The pages I made before lunch, in the alpine rock garden.

Walk off your nerves. I got lost driving to the gardens and was ten minutes late as a result. Drawing in public is nerve-wracking enough. I was wired and knew I wouldn’t be able to settle down without doing something about it. So I started my visit by walking the full length of the gardens and talking to a friend to calm myself down. By the time I reached the alpine rock garden, I was ready to get out my sketchbook and draw.

The day was cool, so I put my watercolor dabbing sock over my coat.

Make a list of the things you didn’t bring (and one of things you didn’t use). I caught myself saying “I wish I had” three different times, so I made a list right in my journal of the things I missed. While I’m not sure I’ll be adding them to my kit, it seems like a good way to help me remember what I might pack next time. I also have made notes on my packing list after a trip of the things I didn’t use. Both lists seems like a good way to get myself to a stream-lined kit of essentials.

Remember it’s all practice. My goal for this trip was to use color, specifically watercolor. I was successful in that I got color on every page, but I was also frustrated. I spent a long time mixing colors without success. I also wasn’t able to capture detail accurately. I fought with the paints. During the last page of the day, I had to take a lot of deep breaths and remind myself that while I wish I was more skilled with watercolor, this session actually counted as good practice. I wasn’t happy with the results, but I can’t get better if I don’t keep using them.

Frustrated that I couldn’t do a better job on these ducks when I had such a great view of them.

This trip was much less draining for me than the last one, even though the driving was more stressful and the journaling more frustrating. On my to-do-at-home list is to experiment with other ways of making color. I want a way to capture color quickly, and I’m no longer certain that watercolor is the answer for me. I may try gouache, watercolor pencils, or colored pencils with watercolor washes. More practice is needed, especially if I want to enjoy my “big event” nature journaling field trips.

What are your favorite tips for nature journaling field trips? What’s your favorite color medium for the field?

9 thoughts on “3 More Nature Journaling Field Trip Tips”

  1. Hi Kit! Here’s a tip of something I have found really helpful as I am still very new at mixing colors from a watercolor palette. I use 15-half-pan field set that I put together of the most useful colors for my area. Then I made myself a little card that slips into my journal that is a grid of swatches of those colors. Each square has the color painted thick then to lighter wash. On the side of that grid are swatches of mixed colors with the names next to them of how I made it (like to make a rich orange, purple, violet, blue/gray, deep red …). That way I can more easily mix something I think I want. Then I feel more comfortable about using the watercolor paints more often.

    1. I have a swatch page at the beginning of every journal, but I hadn’t thought about adding pre-mixed colors with recipes to them. That’s a great idea. Thanks.

  2. I like your “I wish I had…” list, Kit. I’ve made a list like that many times when I’ve been on trips (for next time).

    1. I have also done this with packing for trips, but it seemed like a new idea to apply it to this.

  3. Well, I could tell immediately that the two ducks were a male and a female Mallard ducks.
    Think your watercolor, done quickly, are pretty darn good!

    1. Thank you. Isn’t it always the way? We are more dissatisfied with our work than others are.

  4. That looks like an excellent way to really appreciate the Botanical Gardens, and a good way to absorb the experience of life in general.

    1. It is! I thought it was especially appropriate at this time of year when so much of the garden is dormant.

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