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Illustrated Nature Journaling

Take your art outside and use simple illustration techniques to capture the beauty of the natural world.
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Learn sketching and watercolor techniques for illustrated nature journaling alongside artist and instructor Gay Kraeger. Start class by loosening up with gesture sketches, blind contour drawing and watercolor washes. Next, use common household items to transform watercolors into lifelike textures for trees, clouds, waves, rocks and more. Break down landscapes further with tips for layering watercolors to develop a sense of distance. Then, discover how ink can bring eye-catching dimension and drama to your work. Move on to methods for depicting waterscapes with greater confidence and realism. Ready for your illustrations to soar? Learn to draw birds on the wing with accessible skills. Plus, you'll learn lettering techniques for more meaningful finished sketches.


Gay Kraeger



A childhood love of drawing led Gay Kraeger to major in art and graphic design at San Jose State University and to work as a production artist. Gay began keeping an illustrated journal decades ago and started teaching illustrating journaling in 1996. In 2004, she started an interpretive design firm with her neighbor. They've created more than 400 wayside panels for trails and visitor centers.

By This Expert

Keep It Simple to Start

01: Keep It Simple to Start

Meet artist Gay Kraeger and begin your journaling adventure. Gay shows how to banish those first-page jitters by creating your own loose-leaf pages. Then you'll head into the field to practice some simple sketching techniques and adding watercolor washes.

20 min
Create Landscape Elements Quickly

02: Create Landscape Elements Quickly

Get all of your critical landscape elements down on paper with Gay's speedy techniques. Common household items become handy "machines" for turning watercolors into trees, grasses, clouds, waves, rocks, rust and dirt. You'll love these realistic and lovely textures!

29 min
Capturing a Landscape

03: Capturing a Landscape

Return to the great outdoors with Gay and learn to identify background, middle ground and foreground in a landscape, then layer watercolors to recreate the feeling of distance. See how to layer transparent colors, working from the lightest values to the darkest to preserve details.

20 min
Adding Depth & Drama With Ink

04: Adding Depth & Drama With Ink

A few select strokes with black or white ink can add depth and drama to your watercolor landscapes and sketches. Gay shows how to use fine-point permanent markers to create outlines and smaller details, and how to play with wet-erase markers to add shadows to your work.

14 min
Capture Beauty & Drama of Water

05: Capture Beauty & Drama of Water

The purest white in your work is often the white of your paper. Learn a variety of ways to preserve that white as you recreate waterscapes. You can also lift out pigment later or add white with paint. Then explore surface textures, from smooth and serene to dynamic swells and waves.

28 min
Capturing Action: Drawing Birds

06: Capturing Action: Drawing Birds

Capture the fleeting movement of birds in the landscape with Gay's guidance. You'll learn some simple strategies for sketching birds on the fly, depicting their essence rather than striving for absolute accuracy. Then see how to turn your sketches into finished works.

12 min
Tie It Together With Typography

07: Tie It Together With Typography

Pull together your sketches with titles and text to mark the date and remember details of the day. Gay shares lettering techniques and design principles to give your work a balanced and unified look. Finally, add covers and binder rings so you can enjoy your nature journal for years to come!

16 min