How I Started Nature Journaling in Nepal

I didn’t know that sitting on a hillside in Nepal would be the beginning for me. I was enjoying a quiet moment to myself sitting in the sunshine with my journal, pen, and a few colored pencils. Looking across tawny terraced hills over range upon range  making up the foothills of the Himalayan range, I saw dots of people working the fields of millet and mustard.  I wanted to soak up the view and the smells and sounds forever; my journal was my best medium, although I didn’t know its power then.

I was on a trek in the Annapurna region of Nepal, my first group trip with porter and Sherpa support.  As a long-time outdoor educator, it was strange to be sitting in the sun and relaxing, while our cooks worked to create a hot lunch for our group; I usually did those types of tasks for others.

Several boys from the  local area near Lamdi in the Annapurna region of Nepal gathered around me quietly, yet politely looking at my colored pencils.  Since I had no other paper than my journal, I motioned for one of the boys, who was probably 10 or 11 years old, to look out at the view and make some marks on the blank page. 

Sketch from 2nd day of Annapurna Circuit Trek, Wednesday December 13, 2000

I drew some of the terraces and he and his friends took turns penciling in some color. We laughed and they drew, and I made a few notes. The whole encounter was perhaps 15-20 minutes; yet, now twenty years later, I realize that experience was the first time I took a few moments to really look, observe and draw the view in front of me.  That is when I started nature journaling and sketching.

Seeing that journal page now, I am transported back to that wonderful experience  in a way that my photos or words don’t accomplish. Then, I wasn’t a sketcher or artist — I had brought the colored pencils because I had enjoyed making colored borders and symbols on my journal pages. Now, I saw that I didn’t have to create a masterpiece to connect with nature — as well as place, and local people — in a much deeper way.

Our trekking group was made up of four families. I started drawing with the 10 and 11 year olds when we stopped for breaks, so my journal features our collaborative drawings:

Since then I have started carrying a small art kit pretty much wherever I go — a small, unlined journal, (usually 3”x5”) a watercolor set that I made in an “Altoids” mint-size tin, a water brush, which holds a small amount of water in the barrel, and a fine line pen. It all fits in a sandwich bag. I have created many such kits for other new sketchers on my Hike & Sketch Adventures.

Small sketch kit I provided for participants on a Hike and Sketch Adventure, as well as a few participant journals.

 I have about 30 sketch journals, each page taking me back to an after-dinner walk on Kilimanjaro’s  Marangu route; watching an arctic fox on Hornstrandir, in the northernmost part of Iceland; learning about natural dyes from Quechua women in Peru; Rhumba dancing in Havana, Cuba, and so many other adventures around the world and home. 

My sketch journals have traveled the world with me. Through time and practice, and a few art classes along the way, my drawing and painting has improved. 

But really, that’s not the point.  To me, the point is to take time to stop and really observe my environment, even if that’s a five-minute sketch.

7 comments

  1. Brenda, your nature journaling is like breathing in the beauty of the world around you deeply and lovingly.

    Thank you! Lorraine

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  2. I love the art kits. And seeing your beginning art and how it’s developed. I’ve been doodle sketching on my journeys lately. I’m more comfortable with words so it’s a new stretch. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Hi Lisa, I am so glad you liked my post. It is really fun to start working with color, especially watercolor! This morning I went outside and spent some time looking at the emerging spring colors and painted a strip each of many of the colors in my journal — just wide lines of color and wrote tags for them, ie grassy field still showing brown, light side of Cottonwood trunks, dark side of Cottonwood trunks, etc…. I will do a blog post about it — super easy and fun way to get the colors into my journal.

      Liked by 1 person

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