Best Books for Nature Journal Keeping and Drawing

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The Joy of Botanical Drawing by Wendy Hollender

I haven’t created a list of all the great books on nature journal keeping and drawing for all long time.  With this list I correct this unexplainable oversight.

I included both new, older, and out-of-print titles. The older titles are available on major book retailers and from used bookstores.

If you use the Amazon affiliate links to purchase any of these books, I receive a little money  to help pay for this website. Disclaimers

I hope you find this list useful. Let me know if you have any questions or observations in the comments below. Enjoy!

Keeping a Nature Journal, 3rd ed.
Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie

Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles Roth, 2nd.

This is the classic work which reawakened interest in nature journaling. This third edition was published in March 2021.

The first edition focused on nature journaling prompts more than how to draw natural subjects. The topics included Getting Started, Journaling Through the Seasons, Pages form Clare’s Journals, and Learning and Teaching Nature Journaling.

The third edition includes more step-by-step drawing instructions,  journaling prompts, and a new selections of pages from Clare’s nature journals.

Older titles by Clare Walker Leslie are also available. Look on her Amazon author page by scrolling over her name under the book title on the new edition’s page.

Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie on Amazon.com

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How to Teach Nature Journal by John Muir Laws.

How to Teach Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws

This book was released in early 2020 and is an excellent guide for teachers of both adult and students. Information includes Managing the Outdoor Classroom, Techniques and Activities, Observation and Nature History, and Inquiry, Investigation, and Scientific Thinking, and sections of using words, pictures, and numbers.

As a certified and still practicing teacher, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book for its’ sound education foundation.

How to Teach Nature Journaling by John Muir Laws on Amazon.com

 

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Grinnell Scientific Nature Journal by Donna L. Long.

The Grinnell Scientific Nature Journal by Donna L. Long

I wrote this book because there wasn’t any book in-print that explained this method for nature study. The late Steven Hermann wrote a previous book but it was out-of-print and the second hand copies had astronomical prices.

One of the highlights after writing this book was that Professor Hermann sent me an email calling my website pages,  an “excellent piece on keeping a field journal”. 

In this book is explain the Grinnell technique and how it can be used for citizen science or personal nature study that will be useful for scientific research in the future. I also explain how to create animal or plant ethograms, document phenology, and creating a seasonal round.

It is available through my distributor in print or downloadable pdf here.

The Grinnell Scientific Nature Journal by Donna L. Long on Lulu.com

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Handbook of Nature Study by Anna B. Comstock

Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock

Professor Comstock wrote her classic on natural history way back in 1911. And parents, teachers, and naturalists have been using it ever since then. Comstock’s book focuses on asking questions then observing the answers. The lessons are geared to being in the field. This book is useful for parents, homeschoolers, and amateur naturalists.

Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock  on Amazon.

 

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Field Notes on Science & Nature edited Michael Canfield

Field Notes on Science and Nature edited by Michael R. Canfield. Foreword by E.O. Wilson

This book focuses on how field scientists take notes to document and organize their findings. Field observers explain what methods they use and how it helps them in their studies. The examples are useful for professional and amateur naturalists. The techniques range from electronic databases to written notes using the Grinnell Method. Some of the chapter topics include: Why Sketch?, Why Keep a Field Notebook?, Letters to the Future (Using the Grinnell method), and Note-taking for Pencilphobes.  I just like this book. It’s nice to know there are so many people nature journal keeping like me.

My review on this book.

Field Notes on Science and Nature edited by Michael R. Canfield on Amazon.com

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A Practical Guide for the Amateur Naturalist by Gerald Durrell

A Practical Guide for the Amateur Naturalist by Gerald Durrell with Lee Durrell

If you watched the PBS series, The Durrells in Corfu, then you’ve met Gerald Durrell. Mr. Durrell was a famous British naturalist. This book was published in 1982. It is the first book I bought on “organized” nature study. I realized that my birdwatching, drawing butterflies, and flowers was actually a thing called being an amateur naturalist. Imagine that.

In the book, Mr. Durrell focuses on nature study in different habitats and what to do in each environment.

Gerry Durrell also wrote several books on his experience as a naturalist, zoo developer and keeper. The television show, The Durrells in Corfu,  was based on his book, My Family and Other Animals. Any of his books are great for nature lovers.

A Practical Guide for the Amateur Naturalist by Gerald Durrell   on Amazon.com

Books on Nature Drawing

I have always liked to draw. I was an Art Major in high school and have a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from Tyler School of Art. I have a weakness for art books. But I have recently “weeded” my art book collection down to my best books. Here are some of my favorite nature drawing books.

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Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws

Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws

This big book is chock-full of step-by-step diagrams to draw common backyard animals, native wildflowers, trees, and landscapes. There are also journaling helps on making a map, diagramming birdsong, keep lists, and estimating numbers.

Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws on Amazon.com.

 

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The Laws Guide to Drawing BIrds by John Muir Laws

Laws Guide to Drawing Birds by John Muir Laws

This Laws guide is just on drawing birds, silhouettes, feet, wings, and much more. Since the publication of this book, John Laws has modified the methods he uses to draw birds, but this book is still useful for drawing practice.

See John’s Youtube video on his new bird drawing techniques.

Laws Guide to Drawing Birds by John Muir Laws  on Amazon.com

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THe Joy of Botanical Drawing by Wendy Hollender

The Joy of Botanical Drawing: A Step-by-Step Guide to Drawing and Painting Flowers, Leaves, Fruit, and More  by Wendy Hollender

If you like using colored pencils and watercolors to portray flowers and plants, this book has many techniques that may be useful to you. Some of the techniques covered include: adding color to form, focus on leaves, perspective and measuring, overlaps, bite-size botanical compositions, and more. I’ve practiced drawing leaves and find the exercises helpful and easy to follow.

The Joy of Botanical Drawing by Wendy Hollender  on Amazon.com.

 

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Understanding the Flowering Plants by Anne L. D. Bebbington

Understanding the Flowering Plants: A practical guide for botanical illustrators by Anne L. D. Bebbington

This book is for amateur botanists and botanical artists like myself. What I like about this book is when I get stuck trying to draw something, I can see photographs and explanations of a how a plant part works. The book has many illustrations, photographs, and diagrams. The diagrams are a great help in figuring out how to draw a plant part.

Understanding the Flowering Plants: A practical guide for botanical illustrators by Anne L. D. Bebbington on Amazon.com

 

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The Botanical Art Files: Composition by Rita Parkinson

Composition: The Design Guide for Botanical Arts (Botanical Art Files) by Rita Parkinson

Narratives: The Guide to Sources, Subjects, and Styles for Botanical Artists (Botanical Art Files) by Rita Parkinson

These two books focus on botanical drawing and illustration technical skills. These topics are not often covered. If you are serious about improving your plant illustration, these books are very useful.

Composition: The Design Guide for Botanical Arts (Botanical Art Files) by Rita Parkinson on Amazon.com

Narratives: The Guide to Sources, Subjects, and Styles for Botanical Artists (Botanical Art Files) by Rita Parkinson on Amazon.com

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Drawing Birds by John Busby

 

Drawing Birds by John Busby

I just like looking at the incredibly simple but masterful drawings. John Busby’s skill is to portray the ‘essence’ of a bird with just a few lines.

Drawing Birds by John Busby on Amazon.com

 

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Drawing Wildlife by J. C. Amberlyn

Drawing Wildlife by J. C. Amberlyn

I like this book because the animal subjects are all North American animals. This is unusual among animal drawing books. You don’t often see instructions on drawing wolverines, bobcats, weasels, skunks, caribou and more. The drawing guidance also covers backyard mammals such as skunks, squirrels, deer, raccoons, and more.

Drawing Wildlife by J. C. Amberlyn  on Amazon.com

 

 

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Illustrating Nature by Irene Brady

Illustrating Nature: Right-brain Art in a Left-brain World by Irene Brady

This book is for both beginners and professionals who want to polish their nature illustration skills. Irene Brady illustrated museum publications and is a professional illustrator. Ms. Brady’s book covers design and layout, drawing with microscope and magnifying glass, advanced field sketching techniques. Ms. Brady has downloadable drawing workshop ebooks on her website http://www.natureworkspress.com/WorkshopWorkbooks.html

Illustrating Nature: RIght-brain Art in a Left-brain World by Irene Brady on Amazon.com

See Also

Winter Nature Journal Prompts

Autumn Nature Journal Prompts

Summer Nature Journal Prompts

Spring Nature Journal Prompts

2 comments

  1. Donna, you are such a treasure! Not least because you connect us to what others treasure. I started making a nature journal about 30 years ago, modeling it on what I had learned from others. I later learned that my great grandmother not only left behind her own journals, starting from age 10 (in the1850s), but that she kept alive the nature observations of the women who came before her, going back to her own grandmother. (These thoughts were recorded in an essay she wrote called The Daughters of Eve.) I think my own nature journal has kept me alive. Through my work with Wissahickon Restoration Volunteers, observational notes about nature take on a different form, as “data.” But the spirit and the concern for those who come after us is the same.

    • Wow Steve. To have you grandmother’s journals – what a treasure. My journals have kept me sane, without any doubt. Thanks for your comments.

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