A Walk In The Woods


So far the tail end of summer has been a whirlwind of transitions and the to-do list keeps getting longer instead of shorter. Whew! I'm kind of ready for the cooler, shorter days of fall! So when I had the chance to take Marty Colon's wonderful Illustrated Field Journaling class, I jumped! Two whole days with nary a cell phone or computer in sight – just the beautiful woods above Jamestown, a wonderful teacher and our journals.


I've always looked at wonderful nature journals like Hannah Hinchman's and wondered, where do I even start? I am a committed journaler, but have not really included or explored a field journal approach. Marty is a masterful teacher, leading us four eager students through step-by-step instruction on how to both structure and fill an illustrated field journal. HIs "No Big Deal" approach made so much sense and put everyone at ease.


After some discussion and explanation of field journaling, we jumped right in. He had this fabulous box of treasures that I could have ogled for about an hour, but we were asked to pick one object to draw. One that seemed difficult, one we didn't think we could draw. Of course everyone's biggest hurdle in this class is thinking that they can't "draw". 


So we began with a blind contour drawing to connect with the page. If you really do it right, it shouldn't look like what it is. The idea is to make your eye and your hand move at the same pace while you "draw" your object and NOT look at your paper. Which for me was the hardest part. It's really simple hand eye coordination and very satisfying. 


Leading us into another bit of drawing, we picked a new object, this is one of the cool bird skulls from the box. From upper left, a blind contour drawing, a mostly blind contour drawing, a minute drawing and a 30 second drawing…changing the angle each time. We added some observational writing and three questions….and voila! An Illustrated Field Journaling page! 


Another approach is using thumbnails to create a page. This limits the intimidation factor by narrowing your drawing space to a 2 X 2 inch square, eight of them on the page. And some observational writing and the place and date and…another page is created!


This time we were to choose a flower or plant and create a page. I chose thumbnails so I could capture different parts of the plant. It was at the end of it's life cycle and it created a marvelous standing plant skeleton, with many dried parts to explore.


We went back to the box for another nature object and this time the assignment was diagraming…another fun and useful technique for field journaling. Simple drawings and observations along with questions. I discovered a lot about sea urchins just by taking 40 minutes to observe and draw. I knew nothing when I started and now I really see the structure and have 10,000 questions about this amazing creature's shell and life.


Our final assignment was to make an Event Map. We all said we could have done this for a whole day. It's a wander and wonder on paper. We began at a little pond surrounded by an aspen grove. You just start to wander and "map" your walk through the woods. Whatever catches your attention, stop and record it. Continue until you've filled as many pages as you have time for. This is a wonderful way to learn a "place". Marty likes to do this soon after he sets up a camp site to really dive in and learn about his surroundings. I think it easily translates to an urban environment. The next time I check into a hotel in a new city, I'm heading out for a walk around the block to see what's there in my new neighborhood, stopping to observe and record along the way. It was great to be a student again and just wander and wonder and journal. Soul food for sure!

I don't think Marty has a website, but you can contact him via email – marcoll@earthlink.net. I signed up for this class through the wonderful Two Hands Paperie (and BTW their new class schedule is up) but I know he teaches other places, so shoot him an email to find out about his next class.


2 Responses to A Walk In The Woods

  1. Kathy says:

    You are so amazing! Thank you for the gift of a great lesson plan! I can’t wait to do these activities with my advanced art and drwing classes. Your illustrations are illuminating. I love seeing you grow as a stunning artist. Thank you for your insights and sharing your drawings with all of us in blogland. I am emailing Marty to see where his next adventure with the mighty pen and journal will be! Much aloha dear friend, Kathy

  2. Lisa Hoffman says:

    Nice “..day in class” experience. I hope that anyone inspired by these details will continue to give Marty full credit. Looks like a thoughtful, well planned class. Your drawings are a beautiful tribute to his skill as a teacher and your Big Talent as the student.
    “well done Grasshopper….”

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