Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sketchbooks - Sketching Nature

Wintertime Pennsylvania Birch Tree
Sketching in Nature can be done any time of the year, at least in places I've lived, but this time of year - Springtime - is particularly good for it. Spring fever and sketchbooks just fit together! Here are some thoughts about the natural world, along with some sketches (directly related to the text or not) I've done in the past.

Forget- me-Nots, Unidentified Leaves, and a Frog that Wouldn't Stay Still!
There's not much that draws my heart, mind and soul more than the natural world. Walking into a deep Pennsylvania forest - with it's rich, moist smell, it's dappled sunlight filtering through the tall, thick surrounding wild green of elm, oak and maple, and it's sounds of abundant life – I'm greeted with what seems like an embrace to me. Fireflies in summer, a red eft on a green mossy bank, the ghostly light of glow-in-the-dark mushrooms called foxfire, the white dappled sides of a whitetail fawn; these and many other things are part of the magic the deep forest is full of.

Gesture Studies of a Hawk in a Pennsylvania Forrest
Or – the dry, electric air and wide open views of the West, whether flooded with unhindered sunlight or brooded over by isolated summer thunderstorms. Here are landscapes with multiple personalities, full of it's own variety and surprises. Here are silver frogs in the desert, or white mountain goats on high ridges of jagged tundra, their dark eyes and horns resembling pairs of exclamation points as they observe my climb.

Dead Cottonwood in a Utah Desert Canyon
The desert's dryness keeps watch over artifacts of people who walked here long ago. Many of those artifacts bear fingerprints of the souls who shaped them. The manner of their works reveals something about their hearts, minds and attitudes. 

Rocky Mountain Flora and Utah Lake Shells

Blue-gray limestone bears record of primitive life incomprehensibly more distant. And there are those high overlooks that reveal so much geology, so much sky, so much - that even though I can see it all I can't wrap my mind around it. Those kinds of places show much more to me than I'm able to take in. Perhaps to some degree everything is like that, and on every scale.

One doesn't always have to travel deep into the wilderness to enjoy the benefits of sketching nature. Simply sitting down on your own lawn* near some bushes or under a shade tree can provide a wealth of subjects to study. 

A Study of Pine Cone Geometry

The sketch shown immediately above was made when I came across a strange plant growing in a Pennsylvania field. Making that sketch and taking notes enabled me to research the plant upon returning home and find out what it was.

The study of natural things includes not only natural history but also the history of humankind. So many people don't see themselves as part of nature – part of this Earth. Many surround themselves with - and even ingest – artificial things, which way too often provide us with nothing beyond the here and now. The study of nature can not only benefit us here and now, but opens pathways that extend beyond our own life and times, and offers means for positive change. When I sketch in the wild, I'm not just sharpening drawing skills. I'm not only studying nature. I'm also learning about myself. And I'm learning something about you.

*Note: a lawn that isn't over manicured and drenched in herbicide and fertilizer is highly recommended.

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