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Nature Art: Keeping a Nature Journal

I'm always on a quest to find the right sketchbook. It's not easy to find the particular combination of spiral binding (easy for a lefty to keep open!) and heavy paper. I tried this one, Holbein's Multi-drawing Book, for the first time on a lime-green plant--Euphorbia polychroma, or Yellow-green spruge. Not a catchy name, but an amazing color against pink tulips at this season, below:


I tried a few new things in the drawing, below. Instead of beginning on unpainted, white paper, I floated a light yellow watercolor wash on the paper and let it dry. Then I contour drew the plant on top of the dry wash. Finally, I added the blues and greens to make the darks.


Once I was warmed up, I painted the plant again from two different angles without drawing it. I used my brush to make the leaf shapes, loading both yellow and blue on it at once, to show the sunlit and shadow sides of the leaves. I was trying to capture the plant in as few strokes as possible. You can see these little paintings on the right side of the full sketchbook page, below. At the top of the page, to the left of the dark shadow, is a pen and ink drawing of another garden plant that is a good ground cover in dry shade, Epimedium:


You can find this particular spiral-bound sketchbook at New York Central Art Supply in Manhattan, but any sketchbook with paper marked over 80 lbs. is fine for watercolor painting. A pencil, a kneaded eraser, a sketchbook: that's all you need to start your record of the seasons. If you want to paint, you can include a travel watercolor palette and one #8 size round brush, too. Pour a bit of water into the cap of your waterbottle to wet your brush. Give it a try!

 -- Sue Fierston paints and teaches just outside of Washington, D.C. in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. As a painter, she works in acrylics and watercolor and is in the middle of a series called "100 Flowers." As a teaching artist, she works with teachers to bring art into their classrooms in grades 4-8. Her posts focus on her nature-themed art collaborations. For a look at her paintings or more about her teaching, check out her website at suzannefierston.com.

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