Online Nature Journal Class, Session #2

In February of 2020, I started an online nature journaling class through Cornell. [There will also be a separate page showing all of the classes in case you’d like to take the course yourself or maybe want to start nature journaling on your own.]

This is an image from the lesson itself.

This session focused on different marking techniques, and how to depict light and shadow.

  • Keeping your lines short and sketchy for more accurate drawings.
  • Varying your strokes to capture shapes, textures, and dimension.
  • Understanding light to capture three dimensions on a two dimensional page.

“Every artist was first an amateur.”

Creating Texture:  You can creature texture on an object using a variety of techniques:

  • Hatching: all the shading lines go in the same direction
  • Contour Hatching: all the shading lines go in the same direction but also follow the contour of the object.
  • Cross Hatching: shading line cross one another (like “###”)
  • Stippling: shading with tiny dots
  • Scribbling: literally scribble in the shaded area
  • Blending: can use any of the above and then blend/smudge the lines with your finger tip or a “blending stump” [available from] The softer the lead in your pencil (B or 2B),the more easily you can blend it

Here are my drawings from this lesson.

Practicing drawing in a single line versus short sketchy lines, and trying different shading/texture techniques.
Here I tried different techniques just drawing the apothecia of a species of lichen.

I used to do all kinds of “pointillism” (stippling) drawings, so I’m familiar with that one, but that takes a LOT of time and concentration, so I can’t see doing that in the field.  And for blending, I need a much softer lead in my pencil. So, I ordered some 2B lead and some blending stumps from

I tried different techniques with simple shapes, like the apothecia on lichen.  I liked using the pencil more than the pen for most of the techniques.

The class suggested creating a “value scale” (light to dark) to use as a guide before you start drawing, but I didn’t think that was helpful at all.  I didn’t know what technique(s) I was going to use until I started drawing, and I tended to mix several of them, so a single value scale in a single style was pretty much worthless (for me anyway).

With any three dimensional object you see, be it a plant or animal, light and shadow fall across that object, and that’s how you see that it’s three dimensional. This brings me to our topic for this lesson, Chiaroscuro. [KEE-ar-oh-SKOOR-oh] The word Chiaroscuro comes from the Italian words for light and dark. It’s a term to describe the way light and shadow fall across an object.

Q. After trying some of your new drawing skills, was it easy to see where and how each could be applied? Are you starting to feel more comfortable putting marks on the page? Which do you still want to work on?

I am feeling a bit more confident about laying down shapes and doing shading, but I know I’ll need more work to get comfortable with it in the field.  I need more work with fur and feather’s too as they seem daunting.  Drawing things likes eggs and lichen seem easy in comparison.

It’s easier seeing the differentiation of shadows when looking at black-and-white images (rather than color images), and when outdoors the light will change a lot from one moment to the next, so catching the shadows may prove even more difficult in the field.

CLICK HERE for my class notes on Making Your Mark.