We left Costa Rica today, flying out of Puerto Jimenez after an early morning hike on which I discovered a beautiful passiflora vine in flower, and sketching a red-capped manakin. Dan and I said goodbye to El Remanso with great regret. We have so enjoyed this tropical paradise, and being looked after so wonderfully. We want to come again soon, and I want to lead another workshop of eager students as they discover the wonders to be found here and become aware of their increasing ability to draw and add color to it. I can’t think of a more rewarding way to spend my time.
I’m developing another workshop right now on nature journaling for those people who enjoy keeping a journal and would like to add life and breath to it with drawings in pencil, pen, watercolor pencil, watercolors, whatever. It will be a chance for participants to develop their writing skills as well. I think this would make a particularly fascinating workshop here.
When I go on trips, I always take photos for my journals, and I usually sketch. I’ve found it’s the journals with sketches that I take the most pleasure in, by far. I visit them again and again, while the photo albums languish.
A journal is not only a record of what you see and do, but a narrative to return to again and again later. My journal of this workshop and all the sketches I did will provide pleasure frequently in the coming years – and it will be great fun to share with family and friends.
Colorful descriptive writing can make a simple journal a work of art. A walk in a wild Costa Rican jungle or beach, your local woods, the city park (or even a willful back yard) can provide lots of opportunities for a great journal page, but there are other sources for a wonderful sketch/journal, too.
For instance, a gardener is in contact with nature on a daily basis, and many gardeners keep journals of what they plant and when, the date the veggies ripen or the flowers bloom, etc. But how much richer their lives would be with an additional focus on journaling and sketching about these miracles. Here’s an example of a simple garden entry:
“5/27 planted 2 ponypacks of snap peas today.”
Now consider how much more enjoyment you could get from this entry – not only as you write it on 5/27 but as you read it on 11/30 when it’s cold outside and the peas are long-ago consumed – if you had journaled:
“5/8 10:30am Sunny with a slight breeze, and the blossoms on the madrone trees fill the air with a sweet honey scent. We’re having an unseasonably cool spring, but that makes it perfect for planting since I haven’t been able to turn on the irrigation drippers yet. I just planted two ponypacks of snap peas in a big pot on the deck, and looped the tiny tendrils through the chickenwire so they could begin their climb to the sun. The chickenwire keeps Jesse [the cat] out of the pot – he thinks those pots are there for his personal enjoyment.
The lettuce and bok choy I planted 2 weeks ago aren’t quite big enough to provide a full salad bowl every day, but by adding a few pea leaves (yum!) I can give a small, delicious taste of spring to my daily lunch menu. The peas are so robust and lively they’ll never notice.”
And along with that entry you sketch the pea plants and their spring-like tendrils, or the pot and chickenwire, or Jesse peering wistfully into the forbidden pot, or even the whole deck with its array of pots and salad greens. And just imagine drawing (and maybe painting) your roses or clematis blooms! As you gain experience and confidence, you can get really detailed about the drawing, and add color or shading as you wish. And no matter how skilled you are at drawing now, you will get better with practice – and your enjoyment in the journaling, the sketching, and even the gardening will grow exponentially. Reading back in your journal is like a time-machine visit. It fully evokes the day, the time, the scent and quality of air (if you write about it) and the very event you chronicle. What a lovely gift to make to your future self!
So THAT’s the workshop I’m putting together, to help people get started on a fascinating-to-read journal decorated with pleasing drawings. Having done it for decades myself, I’m really going to enjoy sharing the pleasures of it. I hope you can join me here at El Remanso for the adventure. Be sure to click on the link to get on my newsletter list so you won't miss it -- plus the art tips and techniques you'll also find in the newsletter. By subscribing to my free newsletter, you'll also let me know how much interest there is in such a workshop. Keep in touch!