Drawn to Nature

Wednesday, 26th October 2005

Drawn to Nature, Clare Walker Leslie

Clare Walker Leslie's new book, Drawn to Nature has a fresh, spontaneous feel to it and is full of the spirit of the outdoors. Even just riffling through its pages, I find myself wanting to get out there and start drawing.

Clare tells me that she has aimed to encourage the complete beginner to take up nature journalling but I'm sure her latest book is also going to be an inspiration for people like myself, who are well into their nature journals but enjoy being reminded umbrellahow much fun it is and just how simple it can be.

I love, as I did yesterday, spending all day beneath an umbrella just drawing a country scene but Clare makes the point that even if you can manage only half an hour, a few minutes even, you can make real contact with the natural world by stopping, seeing and sketching.

nature journal
Using Clare Walker Leslie's previous book, Nature Journal - 'A Guided Journal for Illustrating and Recording Your Observations of the Natural World'.

Time and Place

Clare's habit of adding time, date, place, weather conditions is not only good practice for naturalists, it's also a great way to get over the sometimes overwhelming experience of finding yourself faced with the natural world and wondering what to write next. Just recording those bare facts, which anyone can do, without a great deal of thought, is a way of starting to react to the complexity that lies before you.

In the 30 seconds it takes you to write those basics down, you've engaged with the environment; you've started to centre yourself. It's a way of getting over any sense of 'writers block' you might have in nature journalling. It's as if you've written the opening paragraph of a short story; you've set the scene.

In Rough Patch I deliberately didn't insert specific dates and, as the entire book was drawn in our back garden, I didn't need to give the location. The drawings were done over a total of about 15 years, though the bulk of them are from the last 3 or 4 years. I didn't want to go for an overtly a seasonal format, although that does run along in the background, nor did I want to go for a strict habitat by habitat approach, like a conventional 'back garden nature reserve' guide.

It's a more personal book than that, for all the wildlife observations in it, and I wanted to try and evoke that sense of timelessness that comes over you when you just step out of the back door into the garden. I wanted a sense of aimlessness and serendipity running through the structure of my sketchbook. I wanted some sense of losing your identity as an observer and becoming, imaginatively (and in reality if you think it through far enough), a part of the natural world around you. Next Page

Richard Bell, richard@willowisland.co.uk