Nature scroll action in the rainforest!

I really like to enhance my travel with nature journaling. Be it a bushwalk, or a journey to another state or country, I always find that journaling enriches my experience and creates a unique memento.

Treasured memories from Japan

That’s why I often head out on a walk loaded down with journal, pencils and ink pens, and wonder why my pack is heavier than everyone else’s. (Oh and of course I pack plenty of snacks for on the way. That might have something to do with it too 😊).

So when I discovered the concept of ‘Strip journaling’ in the book ‘Sketchbook Explorations’ by Shelley Rhodes, I saw it as a terrific way to cut back on the luggage and increase the journaling fun.

(Ray coined the term ‘Nature scroll’ which I like much better than ‘Strip journaling’, as the latter sounds like some sort of performance art. But hey, if that inspires you – go for it!).

For this scroll I started with ink sketches, and added watercolour washes later.

The other advantage of using a narrow strip of paper for journaling is that it forces me to keep my drawings small and simple. This means I can capture many different impressions of the journey, and it suppresses the urge for perfection. Striving for perfection has a time and a place, but if I try to do it all the time, it just gets exhausting and leads to far too much self-criticism.

I took my first nature scroll for an outing in Lamington National Park and had a very fun time. Here’s the step-by-step instructions in case you’d like to try it too:

  1. Take a large piece of quality paper (I used a sheet of cold press watercolour paper) and cut it lengthways to form a long strip (mine was 77 cm by about 6.5 cm). I deliberately made the edge slightly irregular, but if you want a perfectly straight edge you could measure it out more precisely with a ruler first.
  2. Roll the scroll up and put it in a plastic cup with a lid. This is a great way to protect it from moisture, and from being squashed in you pack.
Use a plastic cup with a lid to store your scroll when hiking

3. Take out your scroll during your walk (or other journey) and add marks, sketches, words or colours.

4. You can always add to your scroll when you get home. I did the ink sketches on my walk, and added the colour washes later.

The completed nature scroll with watercolour washes added.

5. Hang your scroll on a wall (or tree!) and admire your work.

Just imagine how you could record a series of walks or journeys in this way. Or encourage a group of people to create nature scrolls on their next hike, and enjoy seeing the different response everyone has to the same trail. And the journey needn’t be a long one. Just a lap of a garden, or short stroll through your favourite park could provide plenty of inspiration to fill a scroll. The secret is to go slowly, and take the time to look closely.

And that doesn’t mean you need to restrict yourself to close-ups, either. Try to mix up close-ups, landscape views, even little maps, questions, lists of things you’ve seen, a circle of descriptive words, maybe part of a conversation you had on your journey… the potential variations are endless.

I can see the ‘nature scroll’ approach has many benefits and applications. I hope you can take one on your next nature adventure soon.