How to Create a Botanical Journal

Deepen your connection to the natural world around you by sketching the seasons. Botanical illustrator Sarah Jane Humphrey shows us how.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken comfort in the constant presence of nature, as we watch spring come to life in Cornwall. For many of us, we’ve been able to notice the arrival of this new season like never before. One way you can connect creatively with nature, is by creating observational drawings of the flowers and plants growing near your home.

Sarah Jane Humphrey is a botanical illustrator and owner of the Botanical Atelier, a boutique gallery and art shop in Falmouth. She believes that appreciating the outdoors and taking time to admire the flourishing hedgerows brings many benefits. Sarah Jane says, “I like to fill pages of my sketchbooks, journaling the plants around me, making notes about the flowers or foliage, the environment where they grow and the time of year. Keeping a botanical journal helps me relax into a wonderful mind-space. This has been one of my most popular workshops too, with some wonderful illustrations and observations made over the years.”

If you’d like to give botanical journaling a go yourself, read Sarah Jane’s advice below.

You will need

  • A sketchbook
  • Pencil or pen
  • Watercolour paints
  • A fine paintbrush

How to get started

Choose a nice sketchbook to work from, if you don’t have one to hand a simple sheet of paper will do.

Find a subject to draw. I have been taking lots of walks recently around the Cornish coastline, where I live in Falmouth. I love this time of year when all the wildflowers are beginning to bloom and there is inspiration all around. I have chosen to focus on a simple sprig of Cow Parsley for this blog post, although you can choose as many plants as you like to fill your pages.

Making small observational drawings of the Cow Parsley, I have looked at the tiny details, for example a close up of a single flower or a seed capsule. Noting as much extra information as I can, this is a great way to record the details that could easily be overlooked from a drawing alone.

Finally, after making lots of smaller observations, I have finished with a full illustration of a whole stem of the Cow Parsley. This brings together all aspects of the previous observations.

If you want to add more depth to your journal, consider using watercolours. This will bring your journal to life, capturing the colour of your illustrations.

Other ideas

You could add a date or grid reference to your journal entries, as a visual diary to refer back to in the future.

Some people like to illustrate perpetual journals, which are records that span several years, recording the plants growing in their gardens or allotments.

Try illustrating using different mediums. For example, you could use coloured pencils or work solely in pen.

Every week, over on Sarah Jane’s Instagram and Facebook pages, you can discover lots more drawing tasks to try.

And for more inspiration and art materials head over to the Botanical Atelier website, where you can shop online and have art supplies delivered to your door.

We’d love to see your botanical drawings! Show us what you create on Facebook or Instagram using #SeasaltArtsClub.