Inspiration from chooks

Chooks are irrepressible, despite the uncertainty of their lives. They give me inspiration.

Here’s a nature journal spread of our backyard flock that I completed last night.

In case you’re interested in doing some nature journaling yourself, here are the steps I used to create these pages. The first step was getting out there with the chooks and catching a very sketchy impression.

I drew this from life, not photos. But I took some photos as a guide for adding the colour, which I knew I’d be doing later, indoors.

See how many lines I’m using here to roughly describe the subject? Look at the outlines of the combs and the large flower – Lots of lines there, because I wasn’t happy with my first attempt.

I’m drawing with ink, so I can’t rub it out. I like the dark crispness of the ink line, and I don’t want to spend time rubbing it out, because that would take time away from drawing! I’m having fun just getting some impressions on the page.

Everyone’s drawing style is different. That’s what makes each person’s work unique. The important thing is not to judge yourself, or worry too much about a drawing that isn’t exactly like the subject. It’s fine to have wobbly lines. It’s also fine to be way off the subject. You are observing and playing and experimenting. There is no right or wrong.

Chooks tend to move all the time, so I needed to take a leap and guess at what I glimpsed in a moment. But have faith in yourself and just get it down. Go with it. Don’t judge.

Next I added some colour, using artist-quality coloured pencils (Faber Castell Polychromos). The journal is The Cappuccino Book by Hahnemuhle. I really enjoy using ink and coloured pencil on this paper.

I could have left the journal entry at any stage, but I kept adding more coloured pencil to get more vibrant colours, and also shading. Notice how by adding dark hues and shadows, this makes the birds seem to ‘pop out’ more from the page. I also re-drew some of the eyes and outlines in ink.

Lastly I added a story with text. But I could have just left the page without text, or just added the names of the birds. But I think this journal is becoming my ‘coronavirus’ journal, so I’m finding it interesting to add to the story as I go.

Even if you feel that your world has shrunk right now, you might find by looking closely and paying attention to the natural world, many new wonders can be discovered. Draw a pot plant! Draw a weed! Draw a bug!

If you glimpse a bird flying by, try to draw what it looked like from memory. Then enjoy adding some colour, and maybe a story. Or just write down your impressions of what’s going on in words – you don’t need to draw to journal.

Happy journaling! Have fun, play, explore and learn.

Small wonders, new cards and Bimblebox Wonderland is back!

In case you need to be reminded of the many small wonders in the world, I’ll start with today’s nature journal entry:

It was very special to hold a tiny live bird in my hands this morning, and wonder how something so small and delicate can survive, and thrive. White-browed scrubwrens are sedentary birds, and have been known to live for 16 years in the wild. I wonder how old this little chap was?

In other exciting news, I now have 5 new cards in the Wild.Life greeting card range:

Wild.Life greeting cards are $4.60 each. Each card is printed in Australia on recycled paper and comes with a recycled paper envelope. See my online shop for more details and to order.

Please contact me for wholesale orders.

I’m also thrilled to announce that my Bimblebox Wonderland colouring book is back in stock. In a way, this book is where my new career of combining art, science and writing first started, back in 2015. I’ll be writing more about that at a later date, and also telling the Bimblebox Nature Refuge story again, because this wonderful place needs your help more than ever.

Bimblebox Wonderland is now available for $15.99 from my online store.

Today’s nature journal entry, plus workshop dates for 2020

I’ll be leading a number of nature journaling workshops over the next few months, mostly in south east Queensland, but also one in Charters Towers and maybe one or two in Melbourne. Check out the dates below:

Wednesday 12th February 2020 Introduction to Nature Journaling workshop, Beechmont, Qld. Free. Organized by Beechmont Landcare. Meet at the Tennis Club at Graceleigh Park, Beechmont Road, Beechmont, at 10 am for a 2 hr workshop in the Beechmont Pioneer Reserve. BYO unlined notebook and pencil and/or ink pen, plus chair or rug to sit on. Be prepared to be outside (hat, sunscreen, insect repellent, sturdy shoes, etc). Watercolour paints and pencils available to try on the day.

Saturday 21st March 2020, National Eucalypt Day: Nature journaling workshop with Paula Peeters, 9.30 am – 12.30 pm, FREE, at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Toowong, Qld. Sponsored by Brisbane City Council. Bookings open one month prior to workshop. Click here for more details and how to book.

Tuesday 7th April 2020 Nature Journaling workshop for kids, at Underwood Park, Priestdale, Qld. FREE. Sponsored by Logan City Council. More details coming soon.

Saturday 11th April 2020, Nature Journaling workshop, Charters Towers, Qld. More details coming soon.

Saturday 9th May 2020, Introduction to Nature Journaling workshop, Benowa, 9am – 11 am, FREE, Sponsored by City of Gold Coast. Click here for more details and how to book.

Saturday 16th May 2020 Nature Journaling workshop, at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Toowong, Qld. More details coming soon.

Saturday 13th June 2020, Introduction to Nature Journaling workshop, Burleigh, FREE, 9am – 11 am, Sponsored by City of Gold Coast. Click here for more details and how to book.

Tuesday 30th June 2020 Nature Journaling workshop for kids, FREE. Sponsored by Logan City Council. More details coming soon.

For up-to-date information on workshops, markets and other events, please visit the Events page of this website.

Rain returns to Beechmont – woohoo!

Rain has emphatically returned to Beechmont in the last few days. Overnight we received 167 mm!

I don’t like to complain about the lack of rain here, since we still tend to receive far more rain than many drought-ravaged places in Australia. But I guess it’s all relative – this landscape is typically wet, verdantly green and draped in mist. In 2019 it was largely dry, crispy, the lush green grass even started to yellow off, and it was often smoke that wreathed the hills, not mist.

So it’s interesting to compare annual rainfall figures, measured at our home near Binna Burra:

In 2018 we received 1394.5 mm. (A local park ranger tells me the average annual rainfall for the ranger station at Binna Burra is about 1500 mm.)

In 2019 we received 661 mm. That’s less than half the expected annual rainfall.

In 2020 so far we’ve received 200 mm. That’s nearly a third of the total rainfall for last year!

Perhaps it was the rain that finally allowed me to start nature journaling again. Since the fire last September I haven’t felt like nature journaling at all. But I have been inspired by Jo Beal’s practice of keeping an every-day drawing diary. I’m not sure how long it will last, but I am really enjoying it so far. Focusing on nature and slowing down to reflect on it makes me feel calm and grounded. Of course I’ve written about this before and led countless workshops on the subject. It’s funny how at times we can be reluctant or unable to take care of ourselves, even though we know the remedies that work for us.

So please take care of yourself, find your remedies, and…

…I was going to say ‘treat yourself’, but it’s more essential than that. Staying well and happy and kind and calm – especially if you care about nature – is not easy right now. If you can do it, it’s a great achievement. And perhaps it’s the best thing you can give back to the world.

Beechmont Nature Journal 24th December 2019

The Queensland Lacebark Tree Brachychiton discolor

Along a path strewn with brown fire-killed leaves; dried, drought-killed leaves, and scattered with charcoal and ash – I find this:

Opulent pink flowers, freshly tumbled, two hundred or more. While above me springs the parent tree. Leafless, its bare slender branches adorned with pink blooms. Clustered fecundity, gaiety in this dry burnt landscape.

Queensland lacebark tree, butterflies tremble before your pink flowers. Lewin’s honeyeater dips his whole head in, embraced by generous furry petals, spread wide in welcome.

The lacebark tree (Brachychiton discolor) is cousin to the flame tree (Brachychiton acerifolius) : survivors of both are still flowering wildly in these dry, fire-blasted mountain forests. And supping the flowers of both is the extravagant Richmond Birdwing Butterfly. Usually rare (and still listed as vulnerable to extinction in Queensland), it has been unusually abundant in Beechmont this spring. Perhaps the heat and dryness agree with it?

Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Ornithoptera richmondia on a Flame Tree Brachychiton acerifolius

A yellow-tailed black-cockatoo wails sadly from afar. But nearby is a flash of bright yellow as a robin surveys the party of pink lacebark flowers, the wedding spree, the Christmas cheer, seemingly cast with joy and abandon.

Telling us that life springs anew, it always does. In ways unexpected.

We just need to go out and look.

Reasons to be cheerful

I’m finding it a bit hard to be cheerful these days. Heat, smoke, prolonged drought and more fires. Frustration at the lack of action on climate change, while its effects are becoming more and more obvious. My beloved Lamington National Park is still closed, so I can’t go and lose myself in its leafy depths. But life continues, in all its beauty. When I take the time to look about, and look closely, I find many reasons to be cheerful.

What are some of the things that brighten up your day?

Beechmont Nature Journal 20th July 2019

Winter days in Beechmont have been cool, clear, still and sunny. Apart from a week of much needed rain, and the occasional windy day. I have been preoccupied with many other projects, but managed to squeeze a bit of nature journaling in too.

Here’s a page I created during the June meeting of the Woonoongoora Nature Journal Group. Seven people journaled in the lovely rainforest of Lamington National Park that day.

The next meeting (July) it was only me and Bronwyn, but we still had a great morning. It’s hard not to, when nature journaling in such a fab place, and sharing the experience with someone else who enjoys it too.

I have been making the most of the cooler weather by renovating the vegie garden. The chooks have been very interested in the digging, and so have some of the little native birds.

And now for the exciting announcement… which I feel some trepidation about too…

We’re going to be on the tele! A crew from Gardening Australia came and filmed us a few months ago, and the segment will go to air on Friday the 9th August at 7.30pm and will be repeated the following Sunday at 1.30pm. It can also be streamed from the ABC website or watched on iView after the first broadcast.

The trepidation is because I’m not at all used to being filmed, even though I am very comfortable with public speaking. But it’s great that nature journaling (and Ray’s paleobotany) will feature on Australia’s most popular lifestyle show. And it’s an honour to be part of such a wonderful show.

So until next time, I hope you have a chance to go outdoors and get a dose of nature. You know it’s good for you!

Beechmont Nature Journal, April 30th 2019

Autumn in Beechmont brings clear, calm days. Rose robins squawk softly from the trees, while yellow robins inspect the pea and bean seedlings emerging in the vegie patch. Soft rain and bright sunshine brings out the greens. The dogs are frisky now the hottest weather has gone. The forest is wet and the leeches are eager. Some of these things make it to the journal pages, others may have to wait til next time…

The sun came out for the Beechmont Market, and the dogs had a wonderful time.

I spent some pleasant mornings at Binna Burra trying to learn rainforest plants.

Free, messy, joyful, nature journaling!

I really love this little ‘Cappuccino Book’, probably because it works so well with ink and coloured pencils.

Autumn (or spring if you’re in the north) is a great time to get out into nature. Treat yourself!

Until next time – happy nature-loving. 🙂

Beechmont Nature Journal, March 17th 2019

Well this week has been a weird rollercoaster ride. But I still managed to squeeze in some nature journaling, up at the lovely Binna Burra. A mystery plant, a bird list, and a view into the forest.

All completed while being filmed for TV! Yes, you read that correctly. On Thursday, the lovely Ray and I were visited by a very hardworking film crew from the ABC TV’s Gardening Australia program. Ray talked plant fossils and I raved about nature journaling and wildlife illustration. I have no idea how the segment will turn out (but we seemed to be in safe hands), or when it will air, but I will let you know when I do, dear blog reader. 🙂

The next day, this placard and I went to Brisbane for the School Strike for Climate. I wanted to support the kids, but I think they supported me more. These kids break my heart, but they also give me immense hope.

Coloured markers on recycled coreflute – what fun!

Before the strike I recharged at The Library Cafe. A young woman wanted to know the story behind my sign. On my way across town, people smiled and gave me the thumbs up. Throughout the whole day I only got three negative responses, all from older men (one told me I was old enough to have more sense. Ha – the irony!). I’d like to think that public attitudes to climate change are shifting, for the better.

View from my table at the Library Cafe, State Library of Queensland

Then the buoyant mood was darkened by the terrible news from New Zealand. The next day was one of rain and reflection. Pictures of the bright and defiant kid’s faces mingled discordantly with those of grief and consolation. But the rain pattered down, and the mist cured the mountains. Yellow robins flew stealthily about the garden, glowing softly through the grey.

Today was the Beechmont Market.

View of the BBQ, and a couple of new doggy friends, at the Beechmont market today

It seemed that people wanted to escape the gloom, with plenty of laughter, conversation, patting of dogs, eating, browsing and a fair bit of purchasing too.

Lastly, I’d like to share with you a sneak preview of another Pollinator Link illustration that I also completed last week.

Willy wagtail with bungwall fern, nardoo and wavy marshwort

Bright and beautiful things are all around us, if you know where to look. And together we can defeat the darkness.

Until next time, happy nature-loving!

Beechmont Nature Journal, March 10th 2019

After the rains, come the fungi. In the rainforest, tiny mushroom caps peep from the leaf-litter in shades of red, white, grey and brown. Others stand tall by the track, watching the booted feet tramp by. Crouch down and look closely to sketch a tiny mushroom, and you never know what else you might discover…

Back home, I watched the parrots clamber down the white beech branches and hop onto the swinging seed tray. We put seed out maybe once every two weeks, but it doesn’t take long for the local birds to find it. They seem to fly by several times a day, just to check…

This week I also discovered the beauty of cabbages 🙂

These were background studies for more Pollinator Link illustrations, all about creating wildlife-friendly gardens in greater Brisbane. I can’t show you the whole image, but I think you’ll understand how much fun I’m having creating these pictures!

Until next time, happy nature-loving!

Beechmont Nature Journal, March 3rd 2019

Woo hoo! Here we go with issue two of the Beechmont Nature Journal, featuring baby (or moulting?) birds, bell birds popping up in a surprising place, and a giant of the forest. Everyone is happy here because we have RAIN at last. And I have a new sketchbook to play with :).

It’s called The Cappuccino book, but since I’m strictly a tea girl, I call it The Tea book. The colour of the paper is sort of milky coffee or tea. I started off drawing in the garden…

Then went for a walk in Lamington National Park yesterday…

Earlier in the week I drew some plant studies…

These were for some illustrations commissioned by the wonderful Pollinator Link project, which encourages people to create wildlife-friendly gardens in the Brisbane area. Here is a sneak peek at part of an illustration. Not strictly part of the nature journal, but it might make you smile:

Until next time, happy nature-loving!

Welcome to the Beechmont Nature Journal

Welcome to the Beechmont Nature Journal. Here you’ll find real news, collected from around where I live (the northern end of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area). The content is ever-changing, and I’m learning as I go. You never know what will turn up next in this amazing place. Come along for the ride!

Do you have a question about this place? Something you’d like me to investigate? Leave a message below or in the Contact form.

Latest issue: February 24th 2019

Along the Illinbah Track, Lamington National Park

Previous issues

February 10th 2019

At the trail head, and along the Rainforest Circuit Track, Binna Burra, Lamington National Park

Along the Rainforest Circuit Track, Binna Burra, Lamington National Park

Late January – early February 2019

In the garden, Beechmont

In and around the garden, Beechmont

In the garden, Beechmont

In the garden, Beechmont

January 26th 2019

In the garden, Beechmont

January 25th 2019

In the garden, Beechmont

Letter from Beechmont, 23 February 2019

Here’s some recent nature journal entries from the garden. Enjoy!

Garden zucchini Jan 2019002small

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butterflies jan 2019001small

butterflies jan 2019002small

birds jan 2019003small

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Upcoming free nature journaling events:

Woonoongoora Nature Journal Group Sat 9th March 2019

Nature Journaling workshop – Using colour, Mudgeerabah Sat 16th March 2019

For more details see the Events page.