I've been reading Drawn to Nature: Through the Journals of Clare Walker Leslie.
I discovered Leslie's work more than a decade ago, when I found Keeping a Nature Journal in a used bookstore in Portland. I'd never heard of the concept, but being an avid journal keeper, I was intrigued. I bought the book and I've read it a dozen times since.
Drawn to Nature is more a collection of Leslie's journals than a how-to guide, though she includes a lot of helpful tips and techniques.
I love the way she lays down swaths of color and lets them mix together on the page. I think she uses Payne's Gray or something similar. Other artists have warned me against using blacks and grays, because they can make a painting look muddy, but there's something about them that draws me in. I think it's the gritty quality. (I like this about artist Eduardo Salavisa's work, too.)
If I can find a moment to paint, I'd love to copy one of Leslie's spreads, the way art students copy old master paintings. I'm hoping it might give some insight into her techniques. My paintings always look so careful, and I so admire the energy of her brushstrokes. I want to capture more of that in my work.
Leslie has a number of techniques for recording her observations, from those splashy paintings to weather logs to swaths of color. But my favorite is what she calls the "daily exceptional image."
"When my mother was dying, I didn't know what to do. The grief was too wrenching. Without much thinking, I began to do something that I still do today, which I call recording 'daily exceptional images.' While my sister kept a journal of Mum's medical condition and needs, I filled mine with observations of nature. Every day, while my mother's illness progressed, I would find an image outdoors that I could hold onto, like a marble in my pocket that I rubbed for nourishment and balance. This looking out at the world helped my looking in, towards my own pain. ... I hope you'll be inspired to make your own. They can be ordinary, extraordinary, funny, upsetting, or unexpected, but always grounded in nature."
As 2016 comes to a close, I've been pondering which habits I want to cultivate in the new year. Daily documentation keeps rising to the top of my list.
I haven't yet decided what kind of documentation: blogging? A gratitude journal? An art journal or a sketchbook?
Whatever tools I ultimately choose, I want them to help me foster mindfulness, creative expression and a deeper appreciation for beauty. And why stop at one? Perhaps I'll use them all, and the Daily Exceptional Image, too.
If you do, share them with me!