One of the real highlights of the retreat was the wonderful group of women who got together for it. Women who talked about books and ideas, who are interested in lifelong learning, and who are passionate about educating their children using life giving methods. It was such a delight to be around such enjoyable people!
During the retreat, we spent a fair amount of time on our nature journals. Ever since the Seattle conference, I've been diligently working away at my nature journal, and it has become a fairly established part of my life. I'm averaging an entry a week, which is right where I want to be. However, as I looked at other women's journals, I realized how text heavy my journals are. The writing is a good thing, and the cataloguing and descriptions are certainly useful endeavors. My observation skills are growing and I am learning more about what I am seeing around me. However, I realized I would be encouraged to look even more closely and carefully if I was also challenging myself to draw more often.
It isn't that I didn't already know that my nature journaling would be enriched by more drawing. After all, I own The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, a couple books by Clare Walker Leslie, and a few others that I've reviewed and then passed along. I've even spent some time paging through them and reading them. But it always seemed a little too challenging, a little too daunting.
However, as I watched some of the women I had come to know work with their journals, I was challenged in a new way. And this time the challenge seemed within reach. Because I knew these women a little bit, and because I could see how their journals had progressed over time, I had a sense of what could happen if I made the effort to do a little more. I had a sense that I could improve over time, and that the time spent practicing and drawing would be enjoyable and enriching.
So I tried to stretch myself at this retreat. I did a more involved sketch at the retreat, and with encouragement and some tips, tried some watercolor as well. The result certainly wasn't amazing, but really, it isn't about the results. It is about the process, the observations, the willingness to try, and the time spent in focused attention. And I enjoyed the process, and as I drew I was encouraged to look at the object in front of me in a way that I wouldn't have if I was simply cataloguing it or writing about it.
|This is the best I could do with a photo, so I knew I would have to make close observations if I was going to try and sketch them.|
|I had so much fun stalking these |
Since the retreat I've finished reading and commonplacing through the first section of The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, and rather than flipping through the various sections, getting overwhelmed, and putting it on the shelf, I opened to the wildflower section and started working on his first pages for drawing simple flowers. And then I went outside, found some basic five petaled wildflowers, and sketched them. And you know what? It was great fun. I noticed so many new things by trying to sketch as well as catalogue. And by pairing my sketching with some instruction, I was much more satisfied with the process and the results.
|Drawing practice in my drawing sketchbook|
|Practicing the techniques I learned in my nature journal|
Even though I'm only one step ahead of my kids, I introduced these techniques to them as well. First during one of our drawing instruction times I introduced the basic methods, then during our nature journaling time we worked on using those methods to draw buttercups. I was so encouraged to see how much more they enjoyed their nature journaling and the greater confidence they had just from this little bit of knowledge passed along.
|Working with Nathan on sketching a buttercup and also introducing him to watercolor.|
One further note: If you're interested in going to a retreat like this, I would encourage you to seek one out. Or consider planning one yourself and putting it out there. There is a strong interest in retreats like this, and I think they are well worthwhile. They also aren't all that hard to organize and arrange. If you'd like to know more about how we did it, please contact me and I'd be happy to answer questions via email or a Skype call.