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Try it! - Drawing on Nature

HikerWildlife has been an inspiration for art work of varying kinds throughout human history. Animal drawings discovered in French caves date back approximately 30,000 years. Petroglyphs of wildlife in the Southwestern United States provide evidence of the Indianís direct connection with wildlife. Skills for observation of wildlife are important to both the poet and the scientist.

Artwork and drawing based on wildlife not only encourages creative skills but also an appreciation of nature. Although most of us wonít be Michelangelo on the first try, with practice we can aspire to be the next John James Audubon.

To begin your artistic adventure, follow these instructions.

  1. This activity is best done in an outdoor setting and requires you to be able to observe nature. Nature includes birds, frogs, insects, flowers, and thousands of other living things
  2. Take a pad of drawing paper and your favorite drawing tool (pencil, charcoal, crayons, markers, paint) and find a quiet spot.
  3. Find your subject (an ant crawling on a twig, a colorful wildflower, or maybe a deer in a meadow).
  4. Watch your subject as closely as you can. Look at its color, form and body shape as if it were an outline against the sky
  5. Close your eyes and try to reconstruct the subject in your mind. See its color, body shape, etc. again in your mind. Remember Ė this time your eyes are closed.
  6. Now open your eyes and pick up your pencil and try to draw the body shape of your subject. Draw the outline of the subject, as you would see it as if it were surrounded by sky. Sometimes it helps not to look at the paper when you are drawing the outline.
  7. Now that you have the body outlined, concentrate more on filling in some of the body parts than on filling in details.
  8. Now fill in some of the detail of your surroundings. First close your eyes to see the shape clearly before you outline it on your paper. You might outline the limb of a tree for a bird or the horizon line for an ant.
  9. Now you can fill in as many details as you like.

Gather the entire familyís drawings and make a collage to post in your room. If you enjoyed this activity, you can start journaling by building on this activity. To develop a journal, return to the same spot every month and record your observations in a notebook with your illustrations.

To see examples of wildlife journaling, check out books by naturalists and explorers such as Aldo Leopold and Lewis and Clark.

This activity was adapted with permission from Project WILD 82001 Council for Environmental Education). Teachers and youth group leaders may obtain a Project WILD guide by attending a workshop. For more information, contact Elizabeth Gallaher, Project WILD Coordinator, at 304-558-2771.

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