How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson

How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook by Susan Leigh Tomlinson. How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook aims to “offer instruction for keeping a detailed exploratory notebook about the natural world”.

Tomlinson did a good job. After reading this book the reader learns to keep a comprehensive nature journal. Tomlinson is a paleontologist, artist, and professor at Texas Tech University, where she teaches in an interdisciplinary degree program in nature studies.

The book has six chapters.

  1. Getting Started (preparing the field kit)
  2. Field Sketching: Basic Skills (basic drawing skills)
  3. Field Sketching: Beyond the Basics (color and line, layout, perspective)
  4. Field Drawing: Tips for the Field (techniques, types of field sketches)
  5. Field Identification: (taxonomic classification)
  6. Putting It All Together (field notes, maps, and final words)

The book is one part lesson in the basics of sketching, one part instruction in journal writing, part walk through the process of identifying something and learning about it.

Three of them on field sketching and drawing. The chapters on drawing and sketching have very good tips and techniques. Tomlinson discusses types of field sketches, basic drawing skills, tips for the field and tips to make you journal attractive. Tomlinson devotes seventy-three to field sketches. These are less of a “how to draw” type page but more of a mindset and approaches to field sketching. Tomlinson discusses types of field sketches, basic drawing skills, tips for the field and tips to make your journal attractive.

Here are some of the suggestions I have found helpful.

  • Just put enough color in a sketch and not try to color the whole image. Her examples look to illustrate this idea. Her illustrations look good.
  • Vary line intensity so the sketch doesn’t look “outline-y”
  • Filled the page – a full-page is a lively page
  • Create thumbnail sketches instead of sketching on a large blank page.

Tomlinson is a trained scientist and she provides tips on methods of identification, pronouncing scientific names, getting the most out of field guides. What Tomlinson did is fill a gap.

If you have Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Leslie and Roth or Steven G. Hermann’s The Naturalist’s Field Journal: A Manual of Instruction Based on a System Established by Joseph Grinnell, then How to Keep a Naturalist’s Notebook, fits nicely between the two.

This book is good for the naturalist who is just beginning to keep a notebook or nature journal. Or someone who has kept a notebook for ideas and fresh perspectives.

My book on using the Grinnell Scientific Nature Journal method is available through

Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

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