The Intersection of Art and Nature

If you were to draw a Venn diagram of Art, nature, and exploration, the intersection of the three is exactly where I like to be. The exploration doesn’t have to be dramatic—and in my case it rarely is—but I love going out and seeing what’s happening outside and trying to capture it in my sketchbook with watercolor and a few words. I’m not looking for grand vistas as much as simple, everyday subjects that mark the changing seasons and comings and goings of creatures that exist in a world of their own. These small things not only ground me, but also make the world larger and more grand. This page illustrates some of my favorite tools of the trade at the intersection of Art and nature.

Tips and Techniques– Painting art supplies or common household objects is valuable practice for capturing different types of textures. This painting presented the challenge of painting plastic, metal, and wood, as well as the texture of the nest and markings on the eggs. In this case, I found that a few simple strokes worked better than lot of fussing. Paying attention to the edges of your subjects is also important. A clean edge is key to the object taking shape.

Take it on the road

I love going out along the roadside and seeing what’s there to sketch. I have yet to do it every month, but at some point I’ll have a nice record of the year. I bring just my journal and a pen, which gives me the ability to safely walk the weedy margins and sketch things that strike me as I go. I make color notes or take reference photos and paint later at home.

C37C3375-AB17-44F2-8A82-2CEAD9E4AD83
Tips and Techniques– Several of you have asked about my travel art supplies, so here you go! What you see above is what I typically bring, whether close to home or farther afield. These supplies fit in a plastic bag that I can tuck in my backpack or handbag, or in a dedicated sketch bag with a long shoulder strap that I sometimes carry. I love being able to do so much with a few basic supplies.

  • Sketchbook: Stillman & Birn 5.5×8.5” Zeta or Beta
  • Pens: Pigma Micron 02 and 005 black for sketching and text
  • Pencil: Steadler F and kneaded eraser
  • Brushes: Escoda Versatil Travel Brushes, size 2,6,8. A bigger brush for painting landscapes would be helpful for larger washes.
  • Paint: Schmincke box with Windsor and Newton, Daniel Smith, and QoR paints
  • Miscellaneous: Paper towels, clips for holding the pages, spray bottle for moistening paints, small water container

If you are looking to carry less on your next sketch outing, try paring down to only what fits in a large Ziploc bag. Lighten up and enjoy!

Just the basics

Art SuppliesIt might have been easier simply to list my paint color palette when recently asked about it by an artist friend, but where’s the fun in that? I hadn’t sketched art supplies in years, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. What I especially love about my basic art kit is that it I can get so much from it. Almost every painting and journal sketch I’ve ever made has sprung from these simple materials (add an F pencil and kneaded eraser for my detailed paintings). These supplies are as simple as they are portable– they fit in a 4×9-inch zippered pouch that tucks easily into a backpack or handbag. I’ve carried them into fields, forests, stream sides, rocky tide pools, and cities. How great is that?

A few notes:

  • I bought this Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolor set long ago and, over the years, swapped in artist grade paints and changed out colors to better suit my liking.
  • Ultramarine blue is a must have. It mixes beautifully with just about everything else to get an incredible range of colors.
  • I rarely use cadmium red; it’s likely the next color to get swapped out.
  • What’s that lovely background color? It’s my most recent addition to the palette: Quinacridone Gold from Daniel Smith.
  • Although I’m a minimalist compared to many, I love art supplies as much as the next artist. I’ve tried all kinds of pencils, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, pastels, acrylics, intense watercolors, and inks. I just keep coming back to basics.
  • What’s next? I’m pining for an old, black metal Prang watercolor box that can hold larger sized pans of color. I’ll paint it when I own one someday.