▹ Fall is here! It is a great opportunity to slow down and notice the Life around. In temperate climates, late bloomers come into focus, deciduous trees explode in colors, all are preparing for the Winter.
Fall is also the perfect time to start or resume Nature Journaling. Get your pens & pencils out, and join us out there in our gardens, yards, parks, and forests. Go alone or with friends and enjoy! ツ
Type » Activity
Level » Naturalist + Sketching
When? » Fall
Where? » Outdoors
Time » 1 hr+ & Often
"Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower." —Albert Camus
Fall is a time of 'change'. Here in the Northeast of the US, vibrant colors burst out. The days are shortening yet they are mostly bright and sunny, the temperatures drop suddenly. This is the signal for Nature that ‘Winter is coming’. And winters in this part of the world can be brutally cold. So the maple produces red leaves, or more precisely it reveals its colors. Reds, oranges, yellows, and purples were there all along. The chlorophyll was masking those pigments, so once gone, the other colors are free to show!
Then there are the squirrels packing few more nuts, moving from their summer dens to their winter quarters in tree holes and underground. The last monarchs gorge themselves of nectar before starting their migration south…
All are fascinating subjects to observe and record in our journal.
For a start, take a stroll around your neighborhood. Choose a quiet spot that attracts you and with a mix of trees and bushes. Has it a bench? Even better! You'll then be able to return regularly and just sit, watch and sketch. Give yourself a moment to find your peace and breathing. Note how you feel, and how the season makes you feel.
Look around and move from one related group to another: plants, flowers, trees, bushes, animals including birds and insects. Then in no specific order focus on the tree, or the birds, or the flowers. Shift your gaze from focused to broad. Let your eyes travel around.
Trees. Trees are prime signs that there's wildlife around you. They provide food, shelter and building material, clean our air, and cool our activities down. Look at the ones that you see around. Can you name them? If not, it's okay: call them the way you want. Note their general characteristics. Start with their shapes (round, oval, spreading, pyramidal, canonical, weeping...). Look at the trunk, check the pattern of the bark. Differentiate the deciduous from the evergreen. At this time of the year, the deciduous trees up north are likely to change color and shed their leaves. If they did not shed, with the cold they would essentially die of thirst unable to get to the water that freezes in the winter...
Note the colors, color the colors. Pick few differently colored & shaped leaves, draw and color them. What are the dominant colors that you are using?
Plants. Which flowers and plants are still in bloom around? Are some late bloomers? Draw a few flowers and grass. Which ones are changing colors now? Check your Nature guide(s) and write down the names of the ones listed. For those you can't find, take a snap to check later what iNaturalist suggests that you saw.
Birds & Mammals. What are your local birds? Check your Nature guides. Which are the ones who are migrating? Which ones will be staying around this winter? How do they prepare for the cold to come? Draw a couple of birds or more from Life, but also from photos and videos once back at home. Draw them in various settings (flying, foraging, preening...).
And how about squirrels? Look for nipped twigs, nuts and acorns around. Look up in the trees, are you seeing activities on the branches? What other mammals do you have in the area? In cities, rabbits, possums, raccoons, and skunks wander around. But you'd be surprised to know that deer, coyotes, foxes also roam the areas quietly when you're not looking. Outside the cities, expectedly, there is a greater diversity including in our region: bobcats, fisher cats and bears. What's in your region? Look on the web for a local animal tracks chart, make a copy and go investigate in your own backyard or local park. If you find some, sketch and record them. Where we live in a city close to Boston, we found once coyote tracks.
Fungi. For those of us living in cities, it seems harder to find funguses. You might simply have less gilled mushrooms and polypores that need humidity, decaying wood, and are sensitive to pollution. But they're 'here' in hiding and popping under the right conditions... Go on a hunt, check the trees up to see if shelf fungi are present, look in more humid areas. And if you find some, record them: they're truly precious...
Insects. Check for the bugs! They're preparing too, like this monarch feeding on this butterfly bush that we spotted late October. With warmer fall temperatures, they're staying around longer in the Northeast. And we truly hope this one is not going to be too late starting migrating south, to winter in Mexico...
We never miss an opportunity to get out at this great time of the year. Life is busy for all, but we make sure we set an hour aside every week to get out with our journal. Every time that we get out for doing chores and such, we collect leaves, acorns, and other 'Fall'en objects. Once home, we take few minutes here and there to detail and sketch them. Doing so, we imprint their shapes and colors in our mind, getting more familiar with our surrounding each time.
▹ If you're new to nature journaling and sketching, don't be afraid. Everybody can sketch, it is about seeing before anything else. As soon as you learn 'to see' and a few sketching tricks, you're all set. Remember that nature journaling is about recording information in words and lines. It's all about the observation, not the drawing per say. You'll be surprised to see how fast actually one can learn how to set lines and shapes on a page, and then how quickly one improves!
▹ Don't forget to be correctly equipped. Nothing is more annoying than realizing that you forgot your special pen or brush!
▹ Here are a few books from Nature sketchers and observers to inspire you, and to set you up on your own personal journal journey.
Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman
How to Keep a Naturalist's Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson
Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth
Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, The 1st Edition by John Muir Laws