photo credit: The Muir Project
I am so happy to let you know that today we have a special guest on Raising Little Shoots! It is my very great honour to introduce Kolby Kirk: Nature Journaler and hiking enthusiast from Oregon USA. Kolby creates the most amazing nature journals; visually stunning and jam-packed with information of the hikes he takes, Kolby’s journals really are a treat for the nature lover.
~ Hello Kolby, I am delighted to have you here on Raising Little Shoots! Please could you tell us a little about yourself.
Thank you, Lynn. I’m happy to be here. If there’s anything to know about me, it’s that I am curious about so many things. I am a life-long learner where most of my inspiration comes from nature & science. Most people know me as an illustrator, a hiker, and a journaler. I worked on the documentary Mile…Mile & A Half as the title card artist. I’m madly in love with nature and the outdoors, which had lead me down thousands of miles of trails in the last few years. While I’m out there, I like to jot down notes and sketches in a journal. I’m currently working on a book about the journals I kept during my 1,700-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in 2011, which will be published by Heyday Books.
~ When did you first begin to keep your nature/hiking journals, and what got you started?
My first serious dive into a journal was in 2001 when I spent 11 weeks solo backpacking through Europe. I returned home after 77 days with a few journals filled with writing and sketches of a profound journey that changed me forever. Ever since then, I’ve kept a journal on most major trips or outdoor-related projects. I haven’t hiked without a journal in seven years and would feel naked without it. Just having a journal in my pocket has me thinking about what to write in it, which helps me try to translate what I’m seeing and doing on the trail into words.
~ Have your journals evolved from when you fist began to keep them?
Certain aspects have slowly changed over time, either intentionally or otherwise. For instance, when I try a new journal with different dimensions than my previous book, I experiment with columns, sketch/copy placement, and other layout ideas. Some days I like putting thought into the design of a page just as I would on what I want to write/draw on the page. Other times, I’ll just write or draw without thinking much about page placement. Experimentation and freedom are reasons why I enjoy journaling so much. The sky’s the limit!
~ Please could you share with us your favourite journaling supplies?
My kit is usually pretty simple. It consists of a journal, a ball-point pen, mechanical pencil, a General’s Tri-Tip eraser (or a piece of one), a small brush or two and some watercolor paints. To save on weight and space, I’ve had a lot of fun designing a small watercolor palette that fits in the palm of my hand.
~ Would you share some of your favourite pages with us, and let us know what you like about them?
I had an epiphany when making this page: In 2001, while I sketched the Temple of Apollo in Pompeii, Italy, I heard groups of guided tourists shuffle in and out of the temple. Each group spent just long enough for their guide to share a little about the temple before shuffling off to the next area. This happened 3-4 times. You can learn a lot about tours in a short amount of time, but will these groups remember the finer details of the place? I discovered when making this page that taking time to concentrate on my senses (sight, smell, sound, etc.) and write/sketch them helps tremendously in moving the moment into my long-term memory. Even today, I can feel that warm Italian sun when I look at this page.
I love to draw maps and floorplans of rooms/houses I’m staying on my travels. It not only helps me study my surroundings, either the geography of the area or the details of the room/building I’m in, but it also reminds me of my literal, geographical location on Earth. My fascination of maps lead to exploring the planet, so for me, drawing a map connects my travels with a point on a map and a place on the planet.
I filled over 650 pages of journals while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2011. It sounds like a lot, but it only covered a fraction of the 5-month journey, so when I returned home, I began a new journal to fill with the remembrances of the journey that were not written down. On these pages, I recall my nightly campsites along the trail.
Here is one of my most recent pages from a sketchbook I carry around on all of my adventures this year. (Hand Book Artist Journal – 5-1/2″ x 5-1/2″) This page was created on a weekend trip to the redwoods of Northern California with my fiancee. It’s a spiritual experience visiting the redwoods and I tried to take time to document it. I added notes to the map that evening from my tent and I sketched, inked, then painted the tree while sitting in our campsite, cooking dinner on our camp stoves.
~ What would you say you have been the greatest benefits to keeping your journals?
The act of keeping a journal has helped me learn so much about how little I know about the natural world. The more I spend outside, the more I see, and the more I see, the more I realize I know very little about it. It’s fascinating to witness nature from the tallest redwoods to the smallest fungus, and fun to write or draw whatever it might be to try to identify. When I get home, I use my sketches and a library of guidebooks to identify it. The next time I see it on a hike, I have a better understanding of what it is and what role it plays in the environment.
~ What advice would you give to fellow nature journalers?
Don’t let the fear of a blank page stop you from being creative. Practice writing or drawing something – anything – in your journal every hour while on a nature outing. Because taking the time to write is a muscle you can strengthen over time until the act becomes a natural part of your outdoor lifestyle.
What great advice Kolby; thank you so very much for taking the time to share your journals with us. They are so very inspiring and are works of art in their own right.
If you wish to follow Kolby and his journals, you can find him here:
You can find out more about Kolby’s upcoming book on his website.