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  • Writer's pictureMattie V.

A Journal of Nature and Practice

One Friday morning, I grabbed my bike and headed to Case for Making in the sunset to pick up my latest order of handmade paint. It was such a beautiful day and I wanted to rest my legs a bit, so I poked my head into Black Bird Bookstore and what a cute little shop it was! If you ever find yourself out by Ocean Beach around Judah and 45th, go check out Black Bird Bookstore and then go snag some beautiful handmade paints and art supplies from Case for Making! I seriously love their paints so much. I'll do a post on the ones I have soon, I promise.

I ended with 2 new books and a beautiful sketchbook/art journal from 1Canoe2. The pages felt thick enough for light watercolor and maybe a wash or two if I was careful with water usage and to not allow the pens I wanted to use to bleed or ghost. I'll post links below if you want to purchase this same sketchbook.

Starting the practice of nature/field sketching and journaling is one of the many things I've wanted to DO this year instead of thinking about doing it. I knew immediately that this new sketchbook was to be the one that I would fill with all sorts of nature sketching goodness. And I needed to actually DO that instead of collecting yet another sketchbook that I would never touch (yeah, I'm one of THOSE people). Spring decided to show its face here in San Francisco the last few weeks, so first up was starting to document the various flora in our back yard. So I grabbed a pencil, pens, binoculars (you never know when you'll spot a good bird!) paints and my new sketchbook and moseyed on out to enjoy the beautiful weather and start actually doing the thing! As soon as I set up and sat down to figure out where to start, movement in the big pine tree nearby had me pulling out my binoculars - I told you! You never know when you'll find a good bird to watch. At first, I thought it was a dove or a pigeon, but it was actually a Northern Flicker! I was really excited to see a new-to-me bird and to watch it climbing around the branches poking its beak into the pine cones looking for snacks. I attempted to sketch it as the very first being captured on paper in my new nature field guide and let me tell you, I need to work on drawing birds! But that's the point of this whole thing, isn't it? To get better at drawing. Specifically to get better at drawing plants and animals spotted both locally and as I travel. You can't get better at something if you don't practice. For some reason, I've been 100% ready to apply that to anything else I've done. When I was growing up, I would spend hours practicing my clarinet in preparation for school concerts, region/district/state band and the Erie Youth Symphony Wind Ensemble. Hours! Until my lips bled! I would spend a whole hour on a line or two of music to get it just right. Why am I so mentally against practicing art? Maybe it's because the sounds of a clarinet can be fleeting. If you aren't recording, there is no record of the thousands of times I got it wrong - you would hear the outcome of the practice. But with art, I can flip through and see all of the issues and pick everything apart, which I think is really the kicker to the perfectionist in my that I am trying to quiet. On the flip side, you have documentation of growth and I think that is what I need to focus on - this terrible picture of a northern flicker is the first of its kind to make its way out of my hand and on to paper.

Last year, I started reading Find Your Artistic Voice by Lisa Congdon. In it, she says you need to create a lot of art to find your voice. Piles and piles. So I did. And the outcome of those hours and hours of making art was my plethora of new mountain paintings that I absolutely love.

I need to channel that whole idea of just making tons of art again. Let myself create some ugly daily studies to work on people, faces, leaves...birds!

And so, with that in mind, welcome to my nature journaling journey!


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