Monday, May 7, 2018

Visit My New Website

Looking for my latest offerings and posts about nature journaling? 
Go to my brand new website! I have a section dedicated to all my nature journaling offerings.
Click Here

Monday, February 20, 2017

Beginning a Nature Journal Online Course

Looking for my latest offerings and posts about nature journaling? 
Go to my brand new website! I have a section dedicated to all my nature journaling offerings.
Click Here

Learn the secrets of field sketching and create a beautiful illustrated nature journal.

Register HERE

Imagine using art to connect with nature

Imagine learning ways to fine tune your listening and observational skills so that you can deeply engage with the natural world. Then imagine that you have a repertoire of creative skills that allows you to quickly and easily sketch the beauty in nature, beauty that takes your breath away and fills you with a sense of calm and well being. Imagine creating a beautiful illustrated book that holds all of your experiences in nature through drawings and personal journal entries. Each page laid out with lettering, backgrounds and beautiful watercolor sketches.
That would be a book that you would treasure forever.

Now imagine making that a reality…

Learn the secrets that will help you Succeed

Nature journaling relies on sketching techniques that are quick, easy and simple. These types of sketches capture the essence of your subject and don't require photographic precision, or years of drawing instruction.
Anyone, at any level, even a beginner, can learn these simple sketching techniques and create a beautiful nature journal.
The secrets that allow you to work quickly outdoors are easy once you know them. They will provide you with the skills to document your experiences in nature season after season, and year after year.

Beginning a Nature Journal is designed to guide you step by step. You will expand and deepen your connection to nature and grow in your creative

Are there Bonuses? Yes, Of course!

Extras and Bonuses
  • Pinterest board  - Contour Line Drawing
  • Pinterest board - Nature Journals & Sketchbooks
           from famous Naturalists and Artists
  • Pinterest Board - Nature Quotes to Use
  • Materials & Supplies PDF w/ clickable links
  • Make your own Watercolor Travel Kit  PDF
  • Field Essentials Checklist PDF
  • How to Bring Wildlife to your Backyard PDF
  • Bibliography PDF
  • Color Mixing Cheat Sheets
  • Private Facebook Group
Bonus Videos
  • Washi tape
  • Blind Contour drawing
  • 3 Landscape Sketching Videos
  • And a few more

Is this course a good fit for me?

  • This course is perfect for the absolute beginner. It contains all of the foundational skills necessary, presented in clear, compact lessons. Plus, you’ll be able to ask me all your questions in the interactive classroom or during the live Q&A sessions

  • It’s also great for those with some sketching and painting experience. Maybe your skills are a little rusty, or you’ve only taken a few classes, and you want to continue learning and growing. This course allows you to expand your knowledge and skills.
  • If you’re more experienced but are overwhelmed when you work outside, and have difficulty capturing what you see quickly, then this course will offer help in those areas as well. If you’re more experienced but are overwhelmed when you work outside, and have difficulty capturing what you see quickly, then this course will offer help in those areas as well.
  • Most of all, this course was designed for those who love the natural world and want to form a connection with nature through art.

How long will I have access to the materials?

  • The entire course, including all of the modules and lessons remain your in Ruzuku forever, so you can go back and revisit the material any time.

  • All PDF documents can be downloaded to your computer.

  • After you've completed the course you can still connect with me, other students and alumni in the private Facebook group, Nature Journal Journey.

A little bit about me...

In 1984 I graduated from Caldwell College with a BFA in Painting. I worked in the corporate world for a short while in human resources. Then studied floral design and worked as a florist. When my children were young gardening was my creative outlet. In 1999 I came across the book A Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, and immediately knew that I wanted to create journals like that. Keeping a nature journal led to plein air painting and that led to creating large landscapes in the studio. I began exhibiting, and took a deep dive into the world of art. I taught, lectured, was represented by a number of galleries and gained entry into a number of prestigious art organizations. All of that was happening while I was homeschooling my three children. Then somewhere around 2009 I began to gravitate back towards working in a sketchbook, creating art for the sheer love of nature and the enjoyment it brought me. Gradually, I began letting go of art shows and galleries. For the last several years I have focused exclusively on making personal art in my journals, and nature is always my favorite and most meaningful subject. I teach sketching, and lead nature journaling retreats that weave together a deep connection to the natural world and creative expression. My children are grown now and my husband, two Shetland sheepdogs, and I live on a lovely piece of property with a thriving beaver pond and community of wildlife.

The Course Contains Ten Modules
Module 1  Introduction
  • Lesson 1  Inspiration
  • Lesson 2  Philosophy
Module 2 Materials and Set Up
  • Lesson 1  Materials and tools
  • Lesson 2  Setting Up and Making Time
Module 3 - Learning to See, Learning to Draw
  • Lesson 1  Contour Drawing
  • Lesson 2  How to Simplify Complex Subjects
  • Lesson 3  Nature Journaling in the Field

Module 4 Line Work
  • Lesson 1  Shading with Lines
  • Lesson 2  Line Work
  • Lesson 3  The Importance of Working Quickly

Module 5 Color Mixing Skills

  • Lesson 1  Color mixing
    • Limited Color palette
    • Mixing Neutrals
    • How to Identify Non-Descript Colors
    • Mixing Natural Greens
    • Sky Colors
    • Atmospheric Perspective

Module 6 Watercolor
  • Lesson 1  Painting Techniques
    • Wash
    • Wet in Wet
    • Glazing
    • Shadows
Module 7 - Landscapes

  • Lesson 1  Choosing a Landscape
  • Lesson 2  Simplifying
    • Perspective
    • Creating Distance
    • How Light Creates Form in the Landscape
    • How to Use Mark Making to Describe and Simplify
Module 8 - Layout/Design Skills
  • Lesson 1  Borders
    • Simple
    • Decorative
  • Lesson 2  Lettering:
    • Text Blocks
    • Headlines
  • Lesson 3  Designing a Page
    • Picture Planes
    • Vignettes
    • Grids,
    • Backgrounds
    • Groupings
Module 9 - Journaling/writing
  • Lesson 1  Basic Data
  • Lesson 2  Recording your Impressions
  • Lesson 3  Descriptions and Questions

Module 10 - The Wrap Up
  • Putting it All Together

Are you ready to begin keeping a nature journal?

  • Ten Modules
  • Video Tutorials
  • LIVE Q&A with Me
  • Interactive Classroom
  • Bonus Materials
  • Bonus Videos
  • Private Facebook Group


Register HERE

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Interviewed by Lynn Seddon, author of Exploring Nature with Children

Looking for my latest offerings and posts about nature journaling? 
Go to my brand new website! I have a section dedicated to all my nature journaling offerings.
Click Here

I'm delighted that Lynn Seddon, author of Exploring Nature with Children, recently interviewed me and has the full interview on her website, Raising Little Shoots. please take a look, I think you'll enjoy it. Read it HERE

Sign up for my mailing list and receive a FREE Nature Journaling mini Class Video HERE

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Let 2017 be the Year You Begin a Nature Journal

Looking for my latest offerings and posts about nature journaling? 
Go to my brand new website! I have a section dedicated to all my nature journaling offerings.
Click Here

Let 2017 Be the Year You Begin a Nature Journal from Jan Blencowe on Vimeo

Double click the video for full screen or use the arrow icon between HD and Vimeo after you click the play button.

You can sign up for my mailing list and receive a FREE Nature Journaling Mini Class Video HERE

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A First Look at Stillman & Birn Soft Cover Sketchbooks

Looking for my latest offerings and posts about nature journaling? 
Go to my brand new website! I have a section dedicated to all my nature journaling offerings.
Click Here

DIY: Personalizing and Reinforcing a Soft Cover Sketchbook with Duct Tape from Jan Blencowe on Vimeo.

Stillman & Birn has sent me a few of their new soft cover sketchbooks to test drive. Same great paper inside (this is a Zeta, my fav) so that's already a plus.

There is no perfect sketchbook, there's only the perfect sketchbook for your priorities, preferences and projects, (and yours like mine may always be changing depending on what I'm exploring or focusing on). There's always a give and take on features, durability, paper weight, adaptability, and media friendliness.

I'll start by saying that I love the Zeta paper, smooth, heavy weight (180 lbs) and wet media friendly.

I also love working across a two page spread. I will work across a spiral if need be, because I do work in spiral books sometimes, and I will frequently work across the gutter in a hard bound sketchbook, which means I'm always looking for a sketchbook that lays really flat.

 I also scan my sketchbooks and having one that lays very flat is really necessary to get a good scan with out shadowing.

Paper weight, quality, and wet media friendly is priority #1.  Laying Flat is priority #2, and durability is priority #3. The weight of the sketchbook is also a consideration and the longer I travel around with a sketchbook in my bag or in my hand the more important that becomes. That may eventually become priority #4.

In the video I'm checking out the construction of the sketchbook to get a feel for how well it's put together and whether or not I think it will stand up to daily use out in the field.

The second part is my demo of how I reinforced the soft cover to give it more stability, and a bit of protection from water/weather.


Sign up for my mailing list and receive a FREE nature Journaling Mini Class video HERE

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Durham Fair Sketches 2016

Sketches from the Durham Fair 2016 from Jan Blencowe on Vimeo.

This video is in high def, you can enlarge it to full screen , and pause on any sketch you'd like to see close up for details etc. 

One of the sketching highlights of my year is sketching at Connecticut's largest agricultural fair. The Durham Fair turned 100 this year. There have actually been 97 fairs, a few being skipped due to war or hurricanes (not much gets in the way of New Englanders and their country fairs!) 

Fair day is always so exciting for me. It's a test of skill, focus, creativity, powers of observation.  For me, challenges are fun. 

Every year I prepare, select a sketchbook, and decide on materials and a few goals for the day.

Here's what I decided on for this year.


I went with a Handbook Journal Hot Press Fluid 100 7x10 inch spiral bound field watercolor journal. These are very hard to come by in the smooth hot press paper surface. Once again I have forgotten where I ordered it from and I searched the internet and still can't find one. The cold press ones are readily available though. In case you're searching for this, it's the one with the green cover. Blue cover is cold press paper. (and also very nice)

I like this size because it's a horizontal format, longer that it is high, which is great because most animals at the fair also fit those proportions. Cows, goats, sheep etc. will all fit nicely on a page.

I also love the very smooth Fluid 100 paper. It's not an outstanding watercolor paper but a very serviceable and reasonably priced one that I enjoy using.


I decided that the fair was a good time to really give my brand new Sailor Fude de Mannen fountain pen a workout. It's always a risk taking a brand new tool you're unfamiliar with to the fair but I decided to take it anyway. I did pack several other pens just in case it was a disaster. 

My Sailor Fude came with two cartridges of  black ink that are not waterproof. I ordered the converter so I can fill it with waterproof ink but it hadn't arrived yet. However, that didn't really matter at all since I love working with water soluble inks.

I know that almost every water soluble ink is dye based and likely to fade over time. Yup, bummer. But, the ease of creating tonal ink washes one the spot with just a water brush, and the ability to soften misplaced lines and "mistakes" really takes the pressure off me when I'm working very quickly in a crowded venue where a lot of people are likely to ask to look at my sketches. It's just a little bit of protection against having sketches that go horribly wrong and feeling crappy about people looking at my work. 

I also took my Lamy Joy filled with De Atramentis Black document ink (waterproof) for writing.

Paints and Brushes

I took my 14 color set of QoR watercolors and a few brand new Pental Aquash water brushes in various sizes. 


Two cheap PaperMate mechanical pencils and a stick eraser


Mini spray bottle, paper towels, and a bunch of extra pens that I never touched. (They were there "just in case")

Field Bag

I have recently switched from my over the shoulder Eddie Bauer bag to an around the waist bag. I've  had it for a couple of weeks but my trip to the fair was the big test. I found it incredibly helpful to have the bag around my waist. My shoulder didn't get painful and I had an easier time finding my supplies because I can look down into the bad. It also has an attachment for a bottle of water, which is wonderful, except that I was so engrossed sketching that I forgot to drink until I stopped for lunch. 

This is the bag I bought. It might be a bit small for some of you but I am always trying to eliminate and bring only what I truly need. I can fit my wallet and cell phone in the bag also. This is a keeper. 


Sketching at large, crowded venues with live subjects (or complicated subjects like at the natural history museum) is challenging and I have finally worked out a process that works well for me. I start with a very brief pencil sketch. This helps me identify the absolutely essential characteristics of my subject. It often includes things like the angle of ears, the shape of the nose and mouth, the slope of the shoulders and angle of the hips. This is typically a very loose, contour line sketch, with special attention paid to the things I just mentioned. This is also an opportunity to make changes if the animal moves, turns it's head etc. It also lets me quickly choose another animal (same kind of course) if the first suddenly becomes active but another in the pen is resting quietly. Generally, I leave the pencil lines as part of the sketch and don't erase unless there's a build up of graphite that's likely to smear. 

Next, I switch to fountain pen.I am not simply tracing over my previous pencils lines, but I am looking with fresh eyes, making new observations and correcting and adjusting, which is unavoidable with moving subjects.  I may also indicate lines for shading or markings. I include the ground that's usually covered in straw, hay or wood shavings, to place them in a bit of a setting.

I bring out the water brush and watercolors next. First, I work with the ink to create some tonal washes which helps create the form and pattern of light and shadow. Then I go right in with the watercolors. Sometimes I let the watercolors touch the ink and mix, other times I allow a bit of white space to remain so the watercolors stay clean.

One of the advantages to working with water soluble ink is that it does mix with your watercolors and creates a harmonious look to a series of related sketches. 

Once the color is dropped in I use a pen with waterproof ink to make a note of the breed of animal, or the farm that's exhibiting. 


My goals for the fair this year were to give the new Sailor Fude a really good workout and to focus on quantity, creating as many sketch as I possibly could. That goal really helped me to focus, push forward and keep my sketching fast, lively and loose.

How Long Do They Take?

I got asked that question at least a dozen times at the fair. Here's how the day's sketching panned out. I was at the fair for 5 hours and 45 minutes. I took a very quick lunch break and spent a little time talking with a few of the exhibitors (rabbits and Shropshire sheep) and picking out a dozen bars of my favorite goats milk soap, I think that basically takes care of the 45 minutes. That leaves five hours of sketching. During that time I did 26 sketches, that works out to approximately 8 minutes per sketch, which seems about right to me. I think the break down would be something like 3 minutes for the pencil sketch, 2 minutes with the fountain pen, and 3 minutes for the watercolor. 


All of the pencil, ink and watercolor work was done on the spot. Later that evening I added borders, backgrounds, a little more writing and cleaned up a couple of sketches. The mini lop rabbit needed the addition of white to help get him looking really fluffy and the Brown Red Modern Game Hen's head got too dark from the ink and I used an acrylic marker to bring the color back. The backgrounds were made with Faber-Castell brush tip markers, and a Higgins India ink marker.

Hope you enjoyed hearing about my day at the fair. I encourage you to sketch at YOUR local fair this year ! 

Sign up for my mailing list and receive a FREE Mini Nature Journaling Video Class HERE