Have you taken your art outdoors lately? Whether in a man-made or natural setting, halfway around the globe or in your own backyard, creating en plein air can result in wonderful artwork inspired by the world around you. Artist Jacqueline Newbold is often inspired by nature for her mixed-media watercolor creations. In this article from our July/August 2014 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine, Jacqueline shares her easy, stress-free technique for drawing and painting colorful flora and fauna.
A Watercolor Naturalist’s Journal: The Colorful World of Flora and Fauna, by Jacqueline Newbold
Summer sunshine and blue skies bring out tiny creatures—ladybugs, dragonflies, frogs, and more. Flowers, birds, and animals are out in full force, too. Take a closer look at the wonderful world of flora and fauna surrounding you, and you may be surprised at their color-filled lives.
My interest in flora and fauna started in college when I was majoring in botany. Along with my plant studies, I took an entomology course (the study of insects) to help me get over my fear of little creepy, crawling bugs. What I discovered, with the help of a magnifying glass, was a fascinating world of insects cloaked in the most amazing array of colorful combinations. Bold stripes of black and gold, coats of gorgeous metallic turquoise and copper, delightful polka dots, and shimmering translucent fairy-like wings were just a few of the wonderful hues and patterns I found. Discovering this amazing tiny world of color did get me over my fear of insects, and it continues to give me inspiration and great subject matter for my watercolor journals.
When I first began adding flora and fauna to my journals, I was intimidated by the drawing process and trying to accurately depict these things. Over time I came up with an easy, stress-free technique. I convert flora and fauna into a series of connected ovals, circles, ellipses, and rectangular shapes, and then fine-tune the shapes as needed. It is much more manageable to think of them in this way. Now I enjoy drawing, painting, and adding my field observations of these delightful creatures to my journals.
I encourage you to step outside, slow down, and begin to notice details about this beautiful world we live in. Pay attention to colors, shapes, and textures, and record your findings in your field journal. Using this drawing technique of simplifying shapes, you can easily draw the world of flora and fauna surrounding you. Don’t be intimidated. Enjoy the process. Whether observing wildlife from your backyard or a tropical jungle, starting a watercolor naturalist’s field journal is a fun summer project!
- Watercolor journal
- Watercolor paint (I used French Vermilion by Sennelier.)
- Water mister
- Twinkling H2Os™ by ColourArte (I used Ginger Peach, Key Lime, and Pretty Peridot.)
- Pens (I used a black Sakura Glaze® 3-D Glossy Ink pen and a white gel pen.)
Draw and paint a frog
NOTE: I chose to draw a frog, but this technique will work with other animals, insects, and flowers as well.
1. Draw a frog in your watercolor journal with a pencil, simplifying its body parts using ovals and circles. (FIGURE 1)
2. Erase the lines that overlap or don’t make sense. Tweak and connect the lines as necessary to complete the shape. (FIGURE 1) Paint the whole frog with red watercolor, except for the eyes. Let dry. (FIGURE 2)
3. Paint the frog’s body and front legs with a coat of Ginger Peach Twinkling H2Os. Let dry. (FIGURE 3)
NOTE: Twinkling H2Os are a great way to add iridescent metallic colors. Make sure to mist the paints with water 10–15 minutes before you use them.
4. Paint the eyes using a combination of the 2 green Twinkling H2Os, keeping the lighter green at the top of the eye. Let dry. (FIGURE 4)
5. Use the black pen to draw in the spots and the eyes. Create a glint of light in the eye with the white gel pen. Outline the frog. (FIGURE 5)
6. Add your field notes to the page. (FIGURE 5)
Try this technique for larger animals
While camping on an island in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico, I encountered ring-tailed cats. I had never heard of a ring-tailed cat until one of these adorable little nocturnal animals snuck into my tent one night and tore open my bag of chocolate-covered almonds. He chewed the chocolate off all the almonds leaving a mess of almond bits everywhere and, during his escape, chocolate footprints all over my neon-orange duffle bag. In order for me to depict this cute rascal in my journal, I drew him using my technique of breaking him down into simple ovals and circles for his head, ears, body, and tail. Since a ring-tailed cat has slightly pointed ears, all I had to do was tweak the ear ovals to make them more pointed.
• The subject of flora and fauna is vast, so you may want to concentrate on just one type, such as birds or wildflowers. Figure out what interests you the most and start there.
• Wildlife can be difficult to photograph, so consider using field guidebooks as a resource for your drawings.
• Part of the charm of a naturalist’s journal is adding handwritten field notes to the page. Document your observations of your surrounding world.
Jacqueline Newbold shares her passion for watercolor painting by teaching in her Bend, Oregon private studio. She also conducts watercolor workshops in France and Italy. Her paintings and mixed-media art journals have been featured in magazines such as Cloth Paper Scissors, Studios, Somerset Studio’s Art Journaling, as well as The Cloth Paper Scissors Book: Techniques and Inspiration for Creating Mixed-Media Art from Interweave, and Splash 17: Inspiring Subjects from North Light Books. Visit her website at newboldart.com.