Tag: sketchbook

Challenges of nature journaling

One of the challenges of any nature journaling for the purposes of learning is finding a balance between enjoyment and enlightenment.

So far I’m achieving both, but not without some conscious decision-making. This has not been a passive sketching project. There are thousands of species of ferns, from many different groups – many I’ve never seen or heard of. Finding good reference photos for some has been a challenge. Knowing how many and which fern species from each genera to include on a page is another time-consuming concern, but all part of the process of enlightenment. It would also be easy to pick the least complex leaves to draw in order to finish pages quicker, but I feel this would misrepresent an ancient and diverse group of plants. Besides, the end result would be a less visually appealing spread.

As with most taxonomy and phylogeny, sometimes a species inclusion in a group doesn’t make sense, at least to a non-botanist like me, especially when the experts don’t agree. There have even been several occasions when there has been some ambiguity, even controversy, about a species’ placement within a particular group. I do my best with the taxonomic nomenclature, but systematics is not the reason for the journal so it doesn’t really matter if some of it is imprecise. I won’t be travelling the world identifying fern species any time soon.

Another minor issue I have is my own handwriting. I write in all caps because it’s more legible, but even then I keep it to a minimum because, frankly, it’s ugly. I’ve updated my Lamy Al-Star nib to a black stainless steel medium nib rather than the fine nib I was using as it is much smoother, so I am more inclined to use it. Clearly, though, I still need practice.

The final issue with a journal like this is time. I’m impatient to see a page done, but since a spread can take an afternoon to complete I won’t be finished any time soon. Fern leaves can be complicated, at least when it comes to drawing them.

Whatever the challenges, I am committed to seeing this sketchbook filled, no matter how much time it takes.

Ferns: a continuation of a visual journal

I have an appreciation for the diversity and charm of ferns, but I’m not a botanist, so defining their form isn’t always easy – understanding their taxonomy and phylogeny even less so, but that matters less to me than the act of journaling. My homage to ferns is mostly meditative, and it is lovely to look back and see the work I’ve done in this medium-sized journal. I’m a long way off from finishing it, which is ok, because I’m a long way off from finishing the division of ferns. There are over 10,000 species to play with, after all, and that’s only the extant species; there are many extinct species in the form of fossils that could probably fill a small sketchbook. Now there’s a challenging project.

More bovines, plus some wonderfully weird goats

Living bovines (from the family Bovidae, subfamily Bovinae) come in many shapes and sizes. Some of them could be mistaken for antelopes, which occupy a seperate subfamily (Antilopinae) within Bovidae.

From musk ox to ibex and barbery sheep, members of the subfamily Caprinae, on the other hand, are unmistakable and just a bit more difficult to sketch. This has been fun to do as I wind down of an evening.

What tinnitus tastes like

I produce a lot of monochromatic (sometimes two-hued) artwork, such as in the top three recent entries in various sketchbooks. Mostly, I think this is just aesthetic preference, with a side order of apprehension over colour-coordination.

I have always had an unusual relationship with colour, mostly because what makes sense to others doesn’t necessarily make sense to me. For me, certain colours can have a sound and vice versa. Mostly colours and sounds are associated with sensations in certain parts of my body or often tastes. These perceptions aren’t present all the time and they aren’t usually intrusive. Most of the time I just go with living in a noisy rainbow world. Except when my tinnitus is switched on to high: it turns out even the sounds my brain produces, can have taste too. In my case, tinnitus tastes like a dirty silver coin under my tongue.

I have early-onset hearing loss which causes tinnitus in my left ear and means I need to wear hearing aides in both ears. The hearing aides mostly alleviate the silver coin under my tongue, but they haven’t cured my awkwardness with colour. Hence, most of what I produce in my sketchbooks remains monochromatic. Monotones are quieter, easier to navigate. Ultimately, though, I really do love the way it looks, the delicacy of tonal changes, the way they can communicate form, as well as the level of detail I can achieve without too much effort.

Even when I attempt to reproduce the colour of the fruit of yew tree (below), next to the blue-green leaves, I feel I’ve done a woefully inadequate job, so I retreat very quickly back to the safe zone of monotones, which is fine. It’s allowed. It’s only a visual journal, after all.

Visual journals aren’t meant to be laborious endeavours, requiring us to perspire over the slightest detail or hue – unless it’s what makes your heart sing, of course.

Fern journal continued

Here’s another two pages from the fern journal. I’m loving this journal and can’t wait to see it filled.

Ferns from Eupodium and Marattia genera

Right now the ferns are fairly easy to draw, but harder ones with more more complex leaves are coming, especially ferns with tripinnate and bipinnate-pinnatifid leaves. Each new fern brings with it more knowledge and confidence, so I think it will be worth it.

Soup and sketchbooks

It’s a cool and rainy Easter weekend here in south-east Queensland. Perfect days for soup, sketchbooks, reading and getting cosy with canines. Each day I try to add a little more to one of my many sketchbooks. Most of them are themed; they all have purpose, and much of the time my mood dictates which one/s gets attention.

This weekend I’ve been working on more ferns and a visual journal for word association doodles. More on that once I have a few more pages to show.

In the meantime here are three more pages from the fern visual journal.

Sketch to understand: Ferns and more ferns

I’m only on the second two page spread, but already I’m thinking this might be a multi-volume project. There is so much to learn. Sketching ferns is time-consuming, even for the less complex leaves, but very enjoyable and quickly becoming a favourite side project.

From the genus Danaea, Marattiaceae family

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