A botanical artist colleague just emailed me about any scans I might have of my nature journals. I was recently interviewed by Joyce Westner for a column in the ASBA (American Society of Botanical Artists) newsletter. My colleague read in the interview that I teach Nature & Travel Journal classes. She is teaching a Nature Journal class herself and emailed to ask if I have any scans of my journals to include in her Powerpoint presentation.
So I went back to my folder of images for my classes. And I rediscovered the magic of keeping travel/nature journals.
Even after many years have lapsed, one look at the drawing and I am transported back to the moment I created the image. Reading my written entries has the same affect but not the same immediacy.
Seeing the above image of the Chilkat River in Alaska I can feel the dampness in the air, smell the rich ‘greenness’ of the forest and see my husband Greg, a fisherman, gesticulating at me from upstream to see if I can spot his fallen prescription fishing sunglasses that got whisked away in the brisk current.
My husband I I have spent many happy vacations in Yellowstone; he flyfishes while I hike/drive to find wildlife and plantlife to photograph, draw & paint. When I look at the drawing above, I remember that it was a beautiful, sunny warm day. I remember that there were a lot of elk around us, grazing and wading in the river. I remember Greg hollering for me to grab my camera to take a picture of ‘the big one’ that he just caught, and I remember reaching for my camera and hearing something ‘plop’ into the river (I was sitting right on the edge of the bank). When I turned to look at what made the ‘plopping’ sound, I see my binoculars sinking into the watery depths amongst the sunken grasses at river’s edge! Yes, I missed the shot!
In August of 2000, I spent almost 3 weeks traveling around Scotland on a painting trip. I went without a solid plan, itinerary, you name it, I didn’t have it. I only had a few botanical gardens I wanted to see. I stopped when I felt like it, stayed for a few days in the same spot when I liked it and found myself on a quest to be in the most northernmost spot of mainland Scotland and then to the southernmost spot on the mainland which was the lighthouse above on the Mull of Galloway. I try to paint postcards for Greg when I travel, this one was my last one of the trip. Looking at it, I can feel the rain-laden wind whipping my hair and jacket, smell the salty tang of the sea air, and hear the cacophony of bird sounds emanating from the nesting colonies on the cliffs below the lighthouse. The heather and heath was blooming; I didn’t capture the earthy pinks and purples in my quick painting, but I can see them in my mind’s eye.
There is a magic in a quick gesture drawing or rushed painting in the rain that doesn’t quite exist in even the most perfect photograph…