5 Nature Sketchbook Layout Ideas

One of my goals in 2023 is to create more nature sketchbook studies, and perhaps start my own "Country Diary" since I am moving to a 10 acre piece of land this spring. I hope to share more of the pages out of my sketchbook with you as well. There is so much inspiration to be found online and I love try out new layouts and ideas for capturing the natural world.

1. Botanical illustration with dissection

A botanical illustration usually includes a image of the plant in it's entirety, a zoomed in portion of the plant, a dissection of the plant, and sometimes a zoomed out area of the plant, showing how it grows in it's habit. 

2. A Nature Snapshot

This is what I call a page that you would paint which summarizes the plants and animals that you see on a nature walk or any type of outdoor excursion. That could be a visit to a park, an afternoon spent in your back yard, a visit to the beach, or even an walk around your neighborhood.


3. An Illustrated Map

This is one of my favorite sketchbook layouts and I hope to do many more of them! This involves creating a map of a certain area. You could apply this to any of the areas mentioned above in the nature snapshot layout. The basic idea is that you draw the general shape of the path you take and if that is around something like a body of water that is good to include too. Then you can include landmarks that you find along the path, or certain plants or animals you see along the way. I also like to name the areas that I visit as the scenery changes.  For example when I visit the marsh there is a part of the path that is surrounded by carpets of periwinkles in the spring, I call this area "Periwinkle Grove". On the map below I drew the general shape of the path and the marsh and then added in the animals and birds that I've seen along the way and the general area that I saw them in.


4. A Regional Collection

This is another favorite layout of mine. A regional collection involves creating a collection of plants (or animals or birds) that are all found in one type of area or region. This could be large scale, like a page of common plants that are found in your province or state. Or it could be a little more specific, like a collection of plants found in a certain type of terrain or habitat. Examples of this would be plants of the mountains, seaside, grasslands, marsh, woodland, dessert etc. There are many plant and animal ID books that are completely dedicated to specific areas like the once just mentioned. You can use these books as a great source of inspiration and jumping off points for creating your collections.

5. A Wildflower Tangle

A wildflower tangle is a great way to set yourself free from getting things perfect and also capture the essence and beauty of a certain patch of meadow or any other type of small area. I start this type of layout by finding a wildflower I want to paint and then including any other flowers, grasses or branches that are surrounding it. In nature things are not usually tidy or orderly, and instead they are wild and tangled together. You don't have to paint everything exactly the way you see it. Just weave a part of each source on inspiration together to create a lovely tangle across your page.

On the page above I started with the periwinkle on the bottom right corner and then added in the grass, the rose, the buttercup, the vetch and then filled on all the empty spot with more grass. Wild grass can be very helpful for tying these sorts of layouts together.

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  • I received Janet Marsh’s Nature Diary as gift many years ago. You have inspired me to pull it out & get creative again. Spring is such a perfect time for this isn’t it?! Thank you so much for all you do ❤️

    Karen Papalia
  • Thanks Dianne, I am glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Thanks for these 5 ideas, Laura. I have to try them out. Good luck with your move!


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