Tag: nature journaling

MB Nature Journal Club Sharing Page

MB Nature Journal Club Sharing Page

Sharing your pages is the BEST way to build your skills, be inspired with new strategies and ideas, and spark motivation and excitement to keep you journaling nature! We share our pages as an exchange of information rather than to be critiqued. We give and…

Following inspiration: Nasturtiums

Following inspiration: Nasturtiums

On this particular day, I wandered around looking for something to capture my attention. The nasturtium flowers were in full bloom and I have been wanting to study them. Here is a series of photos showing the process of how I nature journaled this page.…

Drowning in the details? Intention is the lifeline that can get you out.

Drowning in the details? Intention is the lifeline that can get you out.

Sometimes during a nature journaling session, I find myself getting caught up in drawing minute details: every feather, hundreds of pollen specks, or pinecone scales . This can be painfully time-consuming!


Sometimes I might want to show this level of detail because its a point of interest like the head stripe pattern in a sparrow or the arrangement of spines along a cactus.

But here, I’m talking about when I’m documenting a big picture view of a subject or I telling a story about an action. This is when every stripe or minute hair or series of spots can drag me down the rabbit hole of detail!

Or perhaps I get bent out of shape that this crow’s beak doesn’t look right when I’m really wanting to show something it DID.

The Detailed Drawing Trap

Most of the time, I’m trying to document the story or overview and I end up getting caught in what I call the Detail Drawing Trap (DDT).

I’m giving it a name because it happens so often. DDT shows up and I get pulled in IF I’m not paying attention to what I’m actually doing and thinking.

My younger self always approached drawing this way, caught in DDT. I was so curious about nature and I saw all the detail in everything. I drew every speck of pollen, or wrinkle in a rose petal. A few hours into the painting session I got so tired of the tediousness, got irritated with “WHY DO I DO THIS?”. The pain and frustration became so great that I stopped drawing and painting altogether.


Now, here’s a caveat- noticing and drawing detail is important and valuable —it’s a skill that makes us keen observers and good naturalists. But only when drawing it is needed or wanted.

So, you must have an awareness of whether it’s wanted!

Back to the solution for DDT

These days I can quickly snap myself out of the detail drawing trap by asking myself a simple question. “What is my intention?”

That is actually a shortcut to remind me of a bigger question. What is my intention or purpose of this nature journal page? What am I trying to document or convey?

In my late 20’s I started drawing again after going back to college and taking a biology class. We had to keep detailed drawings of biological dissections—and the details were necessary and appreciated. I learned how to observe with intention, draw details, take careful measurements, and label everything! This was such fun!

Sea urchin internal anatomy from college invertebrate zoology class

Some examples to illustrate the point

Some examples of when you may want to focus on the minute details.

  • Drawing the head feather pattern on a bird to set it apart from a similar bird
  • Investigating parts of a beetle for identification
  • Comparing the leaf margins of two plants (and use a Zoom in strategy to save time)
Intention: Document the tiny Kalanchoe succulent “pups” on the leaf margins. Showing details and zooming in further. Melinda Nakagawa © 2020
Intention: Show the variation in patterns on the petals, so yes, I spend quite a bit of time on this page! Melinda Nakagawa © 2020

Some examples when you don’t need as much detail

  • Show what the bird did (carried something or flight pattern)
  • Arrangement of leaves on a branch (don’t need leaf detail, you can use a diagram)
  • To show the flight path of a bee from bush to to bush (don’t need to show every stripe or wing detail)
Intention: I wanted to show the movement of the turkey- so its more like a diagram. So detail of turkey feathers is not important. Melinda Nakagawa © 2020
Intention: Showing a collection of whats growing in my garden today. So details of every leaf and flower less important. Melinda Nakagawa © 2020


If you find yourself drawing the 10th leaflet of a fern dreading the 30 others that need to be drawn, as yourself this:

What is my intention or purpose of this nature journal page? What am I trying to document or convey?

Additional tips

Practice gesture sketches. These are rough, loose lines to capture the main shapes of a subject and are sketched rapidly.

I find that doing a number of 30-second gesture sketches improves my hand-eye coordination, my understanding of the general shapes, and my drawings capture the essence of a subject without getting too much detail.

Numbers in Nature Journaling

Numbers in Nature Journaling

Today we explored different ways to incorporate numbers in our nature journaling. Tips on how to train ourselves to count and measure more in our observations. From counting petals, estimating groups of birds, or measuring the length, learn ways to visually display your numeric observations,…

PG Museum series: #1 Native Plants (Video)

PG Museum series: #1 Native Plants (Video)

Nature Journal at the Museum Series Nature Journaling is far more than knowing how to sketch. It’s about reconnecting to nature, observing what lies around us, and deepening our relationship to the natural world through curiosity and wonder. Spark in Nature’s Melinda Nakagawa and Pacific…

Galaxies in petunias

Galaxies in petunias

This year my petunias are overflowing with blossoms! They remind me of the starry night sky.

A deep blue-purple with spattered white markings that fade around the margins- like galaxies!

It makes me so happy look at them. This morning it was my inspiration for my nature journal page.

Finished page- this took nearly an hour because I waited for the purple to dry before adding white. And I spent a lot of time just being with this petunia- not just busily recording data.

In nature journaling, we look at nature more carefully than we normally would. I record my noticings, ask questions, and write down what it reminds me of. I sketch the flowers, slowing down to see the details.


A few things I observed: 140 open blossoms, with seemingly non-stop formation of new buds.

I also realized that I have never smelled them. Wow! I surprised by the sweet scent of the flowers and the leaves too!

And, each with its own unique collection of markings, mini galaxies. Like fingerprints or in this case- petal prints!


Wow, so each flower is one of a kind– one that will never exist after it fades. It reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite naturalist writers.

What if I had never seen this before?

What if I knew I would never see it again?

Rachel Carson, from The Sense of Wonder

This thought puts me in a different frame of mind. In front of me there is a crowd of cheerful flower faces, each deserving my attention.

As I draw, I give the petunias my full focus, every petal, stigma, leaf, and stem.

Recording this moment in my journal with words and pictures will anchor this memory in my mind. And every time I flip to this page iwill be transported to this very moment, seeing the galaxy in a sea of purple petunias.

Ordinary nature has so much for us to discover. But only if we stop to smell the —petunias!

An invitation

What ordinary nature is around you? Perhaps your driveway plants, your hedge, the tree in your back yard that shades you in summer, or the weeds growing with vigor in the sidewalk cracks?

Can you stop to give a few minutes if your attention?

What did you discover when you did this? I’d love to hear your experience so please comment below!

Spark you Curiosity Level 2:

Spark you Curiosity Level 2:

Registration open Now. Save your spot now! After Level 1 course, continue to expand and reinforce your nature journal skills. Learn more tools and strategies to enrich your journal pages. Practice and learn with others! Join the Spark your Curiosity with Nature Journaling Level 2…

July 26: Words – Telling a story

July 26: Words – Telling a story

What we’ll be doing By incorporating words with pictures, the nature journal become more that a record of an experience, but tells a story of what happened during time in nature. This Sunday we’ll look at using descriptive words, simile, and simple poetry in our…

Extra-ordinary: Squash blossoms

Extra-ordinary: Squash blossoms

A close look at male and female blossoms

This week’s topic in one of my nature journal classes was FLOWERS. I taught about basic flower anatomy- petals, sepals, stamen and pistil, to name a few. We looked at a few of the more common plant families and characteristics of their flowers.

With this information fresh in my mind, I went out to visit the squash blossoms in our garden. Even though I grew up on a nursery and my parents grew all kinds of plants and veggies, I don’t think I ever smelled a squash blossom. I mean, I think I would remember that because I just discovered how strong it smells.

So, the other day I leaned in and smelled one. I was blown away by how intensely aromatic it was! I didn’t have the time to journal it then, so today I was back in the garden to examine this better.

Bee lapping up nectar inside a male squash blossom.

The first thing I noticed were the bees. They landed right inside the trumpet shaped flowers, tucking their heads deep down inside. I saw them stick their proboscis, or tongue, lapping up nectar! I had never seen this before- it was so cool!!

I have noticed that there were tiny zucchini fruit at the base of some flower stems, but not on others (male) of the same plant.

Nature vocabulary: A plant with both male flowers and female flowers is called monoecious (meaning one house) as opposed to dioecious (‘two house’ where male and female flowers are on separate plants).

As I started to draw it, I noted the calyx (fused sepals), the corolla (fused petals), the prickly hairs all over the stems.

This zucchini was about 10cm long.

Inside the flower were tiny hairs covering the surface of the petals- and wondered if it gave the bees a nice place to land and get traction. It reminded me of the inside a human ear!

It was really fun to draw both the male and female parts like a comparison. The female flower with close up of the center, and a zoomed out view of the flower and stem, then the male flower with similar views.

I know I’ve seen zucchini plants a many, many times, and picked many more zucchinis from plants. But I have never looked so closely or allowed myself to ask and wonder.

So, today I wondered: Why does it already have a fruit if it the flower hasn’t been pollinated yet?

I mean, apple blossoms need to be pollinated before it can turn into an apple, right?

Examining the other squash plants- patty pan and spaghetti squash- I saw some with squashes that swelled and grew larger while some tiny squashes withered on the stem. Could it be that these are the non-pollinated ones?

I wonder if the squash blossoms used in cooking are the male or female or both? Do you pick it when its open? Do you eat the reproductive parts? Are the hairs prickly when cooked? Do you need to leave enough male flowers to pollinate? Why did it evolve separate flowers instead of having both male and female parts on one flower (perfect flower)?

The female flowers had stigma that looked like three fused clubs at the tip of the stalk. The male flowers had a elongated structure, anther, with yellow powder (pollen). One striking thing were the green stripes radiating up from the collar around the base. I wondered, could this be to direct pollinators to the nectar source, like a target? It reminds me of the people standing on the tarmac at the airport, waving orange batons, to direct a plane to the right jetway.

There is always something to learn, even in the subjects that are so common. But I think its because its so common, that we neglect to give it much attention. We recognize a squash blossom and don’t see the wonder in each flower.

This was so fascinating and fun to nature journal. It reminds me again, that nature will always surprise those who are paying close attention.

Go outside and take a closer look at something ordinary and see if YOU an find something extra-ordinary!

July 19: Words in your journal (Video)

July 19: Words in your journal (Video)

What we’ll be doing Nature journaling is made up of words, pictures and numbers to record our experience in nature. This Sunday we’ll be exploring different ways to incorporate WORDS in our nature journal pages. Adding words (such as labels, titles, questions, thoughts, etc) makes…