Today, as part of the year-long nature journaling series I am running here on Raising Little Shoots, I am very pleased to share an interview with Tonya from Scratchmade Journal. A home educating mother and keen naturalist, Tonya is an inspiration to many in the field of nature journal keeping. Without further ado, on to the interview!
Hello Tonya, I am delighted to have you here on Raising Little Shoots! Please could you tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been married for more than 20 years and am a work-from-home and homeschooling mama to two children, ages 13 and 15. I love to be outdoors in any fashion– sketching, exploring, traveling, gardening, hiking, etc — as long as it doesn’t require coordination or running. (ha!) We are currently building a homestead on 7 acres in the rural Appalachian mountains in the eastern U.S.
When did you first begin to keep your nature journal and what got you started?
I raised my children on many of Charlotte Mason’s educational principles, so nature journaling is not a new idea to me. But as our children grew older, they didn’t maintain the passion that I had for nature study and journaling. Though we didn’t stop doing these activities altogether, I allowed them to focus on their own artistic passions, but I really missed that time in outdoor study.
Two years ago, my family and I went through a very difficult period. One day, I just started doodling the trees and small things that I could see from my window. Doing this made me want to discover and journal more about the natural world around me, and I found that the wonder and beauty of nature stilled my soul and kept my mind focused on the grander picture. I found peace and joy again through nature journaling, and it greatly helped me through that challenging season of my life.
Have your journals evolved from when you first began to keep them?
Oh my, yes! Especially in regard to sketching materials. When I first began, I tried a little bit of everything — markers, brush pens, colored pencils, etc. I soon discovered that I loved the surprise and flow (and yes, also the mess) of watercolor. In my mind, the unexpected delights of watercolor seem to mirror those found in nature, so I’ve stuck with it.
Please could you share with us your favourite journaling supplies?
I journal almost solely in pen and watercolor. I will say that, when it come to artist materials, I’ve learned that you usually get what you pay for. It was so hard to shell out for my first artist-grade watercolor set and papers, but I’ve never regretted it! You can peek into my everyday sketching kit here
. I carry this with me everywhere!
Would you share some of your favourite pages with us, and let us know what you like about them?
I journal about a lot of various things in nature, and I study a wide variety of subjects, but the pages I love the most are the ones that document an experience that we shared together as a family. For example, the Great Horned Owl that we were able to view for a half hour was the treat of a lifetime, and seeing the wonder of it on the faces of my children and husband… priceless!
I also like to journal our travels and places we visit. Of course, botanical and natural history museums are always high on our list. I love to document these types of things in our lives. My nature journal has basically become our family scrapbook
I’m also a bit of a birding and mycology nut, so my sketchbooks are full of birds and mushrooms. Weird combo, I know!
What would you say you have been the greatest benefits to keeping your journals?
In the midst of a busy family life and the constant demands placed on wives and mothers — don’t get me wrong, JOYFUL demands, but demands nonetheless — journaling allows me a quiet place to rest and recenter my heart and my thoughts. It’s my way of keeping the busy-ness of life from crowding out the wonder, and since I am a Christian, it also allows me personal time for reflection, prayer, and worship. Nature journaling constantly shows me that, though I am small and insignificant, we are all part of a huge, wondrous, grand work of creation!
What advice would you give to fellow nature journals?
If this is something you deeply desire to learn and do, just do it. You don’t need space, training, classes, or fancy equipment. I’ve never taken a watercolor or nature journaling class. I barely even have time to read tutorials or watch how-to videos. And I have a tiny table set up in my tiny living room.
You definitely don’t need “talent.” Nature journaling is about observation and experience, and drawing and painting are simply skills to be developed. The real key is… do you have passion? If you have a real desire to do any type of art (or learn anything, really) then you will succeed. On the other hand, if you are loaded with “talent” but no passion, then this is not the form of creativity for you. No big deal; just find something else that gets your juices flowing!
Where can we find you on the internet?