Hello, fellow doodlewashers! I’m Tonya, and I live with my family of four on an island off the U.S. Atlantic coast (follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter!). I’m an avid sketcher and watercolor enthusiast, and I blog about my experiences at Scratchmade JournalThere has always been something about art that fascinates me. My grandmother painted with watercolors, and when I was a child, I was constantly intrigued by her work space. She noticed my curiosity and kindly let me splash around in her expensive paints.

Doodlewash and watercolor sketch by Tonya at Scratchmade Journal of Autumn in the Appalachians

For the next 40+ years, my watercolor experience never went any further than those few, childhood moments of experimentation. For too many years afterward, I always assumed that I was no artist and had no talent for drawing or painting. A little more than a year ago, I was writing in my daily journal and looked out the front window to the large pecan tree that grew in our yard at the time. It was winter, and I thought that the bare tree looked very majestic yet somewhat forlorn, and I had a huge urge to sketch it.

That sketch looked hideous, but I enjoyed the process immensely! From that point on, I constantly sketched whatever I saw outside my window or in my yard. As I focused on capturing nature within the pages of my journal, I started really seeing the amazing beauty and tiny miracles that were all around me. The blinders were off!

Doodlewash and watercolor sketch by Tonya at Scratchmade Journal of Long Needle Pine

I suppose something of my grandmother rubbed off on me, because I began adding watercolor to my sketches. At first, I enjoyed the simplicity and ease of watercolor — the setup, cleanup, and portability — but I quickly fell in love with the flexible and unpredictable nature of this medium.

Doodlewash and watercolor sketch by Tonya at Scratchmade Journal of sunset at bald head islandAs I studied how to be a better sketcher and painter, I ran across well-known artists who also enjoyed field and nature sketching. Claire Walker Leslie, John Muir Laws, Cathy Johnson, and others have greatly inspired me and taught me much. Encouraged by these masters, I began experimenting with lettering and sketching materials, color mixing and shading, perspective and more.

I’ve been art journaling now for more than a year, but I still don’t think I’m a “natural born artist,” whatever that means. Or maybe I more accurately believe that we are all natural born artists, because I know that if I can sketch and paint, anyone can!

My own experiences have taught me that art is like any skill that gets better and better the more one practices it. I’m thrilled to rediscover art again, and every free moment I get, you’ll find me with a sketchbook in hand.

Doodlewash and watercolor sketch by Tonya at Scratchmade Journal of great horned owlThough I draw constantly, I don’t own a lot of art materials. I sketch mainly with a pencil and a fine point fountain pen, and I try to keep my watercolor palette to a minimum. I prefer to sketch in the field but the weather isn’t always cooperative (and some things in nature move very fast!) so I also work from photos a lot.

Doodlewash and watercolor sketch by Tonya at Scratchmade Journal of golden silk orb weaver spiderI think what inspires me the most about nature sketching is that it is a constant discovery. Since nature is constantly changing, the world is different every time I walk outside. Plus, there is so much to learn and discover in nature that it’s certainly never boring!

My family and I are in the process of purchasing acreage in the Blue Ridge mountains, and we plan to make our permanent home there. I dream of sharing the love of nature observation, sketching, and journaling with others in the area, but for now you can connect with me at my blog and on social media.

Best wishes, and I hope to see you in the field!


Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

49 replies on “GUEST DOODLEWASH: Discovering Nature Sketching

  1. Wow, sketching for over forty years. That’s an incredible amount of time. I think it would be eye-opening experience to take a day or two and lay out each one of those sketchbooks and just gaze at the pile just to see how much a person’s perception of nature can change over time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I highly encourage recording, Laura! It is so much fun to look back through my sketchbooks and read about where I was at that point in my life. Kind of like a visual diary! I admire you for being able to draw from your imagination though. I don’t know if I could do that!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. It’s great to do with your children also! We homeschool and I actually learned about nature sketching by studying Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophies. Check out handbookofnaturestudy.com for wonderful ideas on field sketching with your children. Best wishes, and keep me posted on your attempts!🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Tonya, I absolutely love your field sketches and the commentary that frames and captures these beautiful moments. Especially love your owl sketch and your link between it and the Scripture. Lovely work, thank you for sharing, Charlie!❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a great story and I really enjoy your journal pages! I really love your style of journaling with art and writing. Will be following on Instagram! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tonya you are just awesome! Charlie’s blog is the first one I check upon waking because his posts/guest posts are a guaranteed smile in the morning. Your story and work is truly inspiring🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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