GUEST DOODLEWASH: Discovering Nature Sketching

Doodlewash and watercolor sketch by Tonya at Scratchmade Journal of gulf fritillary passion butterfly

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!


Recommended5 recommendationsPublished in Featured Artists
  1. Susan Feniak 7 years ago

    Beautifully done Tonya! I am following you on Instagram now. Thank you for sharing Tonya’s art Charlie.

  2. brushparkwatercolors 7 years ago

    This is fantastic and beautiful – a wonderful kind of journal. Thanks for sharing!!! 🙂

  3. Art by Daniel Alfonso 7 years ago

    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.

    • Author

      That would be such a wonderful experience! So pleased you liked Tonya’s feature, Daniel! 😃

    • Actually I quit sketching for 40 years. I only wish I had been sketching that long! But I am so glad you liked the feature, and your blog is fantastic. I’ve bookmarked it to go back and thoroughly read so I can learn even more. Thanks, Daniel!

  4. artandmoondreams 7 years ago

    Gorgeous watercolor sketching and journal entries, absolutely love the graceful and creative lettering. Great feature post, inspiring and a delight to see. Thank you for sharing the beauty of nature.

    • Author

      I agree… the lettering is fantastic! So glad you liked Tonya’s feature, Haunani! 😃

    • I took a peek at your work, and what a compliment coming from someone as talented as you. Thank you for your taking the time to comment!

      • artandmoondreams 7 years ago

        You are most kind, and most welcome. I look forward to visiting your site again.

  5. Judith 7 years ago

    Beautiful and inspiring!

  6. Sharon Mann 7 years ago

    Tonya, your journal is remarkable. Each page is a delight. Thank you Chatlie.

  7. Laura (PA Pict) 7 years ago

    What an inspirational post! The paintings are beautiful and they make me want to record the things I see too. I tend to work from my imagination so that would be an interesting challenge for me to undertake.

    • 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!

      • Laura (PA Pict) 7 years ago

        Thanks. I might get a watercolour pad I can devote to that and try to find the time say once a week to do some field sketching.

    • 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 for wonderful ideas on field sketching with your children. Best wishes, and keep me posted on your attempts! 🙂

      • Laura (PA Pict) 7 years ago

        Thanks, Tonya. I might encourage my kids to do just that though, rather like me, they are more drawers than painters.

  8. MAGNY TJELTA 7 years ago

    Lovely work and I love the handwriting

    • Thank you, Magny. I promise you that my handwriting is usually quite horrible, so your comment just made my day! 😉

  9. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 7 years ago

    Tonya, your art is expressive and I like the comments you add, espec8ally as they are also lovely to see.

    • Thank you so much, Sharon. I always feel a little vulnerable putting my thoughts on the pages of my sketchbook, so I’m glad you enjoyed my observations!

  10. Jodi 7 years ago

    Oh Tonya – your art is beautiful – I love it! Look forward to following 🙂

  11. anniedrawsthings 7 years ago

    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! <3

  12. memadtwo 7 years ago

    These are amazing…the best of what I think of in a nature journal. Thanks for sharing! (K)

  13. ybromfield 7 years ago

    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!

  14. Rowena 7 years ago

    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 🙂

    • Wow thanks Rowena! I’m so glad you found my story and sketches inspiring. That’s the entire reason I began the blog. If I can sketch, anyone certainly can!

  15. Cathe 7 years ago

    Love your work Tonya! I’ve been looking at your blog, so inspiring. Love your calligraphy too!

  16. shauna lee lange 7 years ago

    this entry made my day, sir.

  17. […] Guest Artist- Tonya, her blog is Scratchmade Journal. She features watercolor, sketching, and lettering and her blog […]

  18. Sandra Strait 5 years ago

    Tonya, your sketchbooks must be amazing to look through, full of great stories, great sketches and wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing them with us.

    • Tonya 5 years ago

      Thank you, Sandra! Like everyone else, my sketchbooks are lovely on some days and not so lovely on other days. But I’m happy to be living and creating! 🙂 I appreciate your comment. It means a lot coming from an artist like you that I totally admire. Happy painting!

  19. Teri Casper 5 years ago

    I do follow you on Instagram so it’s great to read more about you.

    • Tonya 5 years ago

      Thanks, Teri! I have an “about” page at my website so you can see a bit more about me, but I’m actually really boring in person. 🙂 I do love to connect with other artist and readers, so feel free to leave comments at my website also. I appreciate your kind words!

  20. […] you’d like to learn more about Tonya, you can read her artist feature here on Doodlewash or visit her blog over at […]

  21. […] Then I found the perfect mixing chart for this palette.  Tonya of Scratchmade Journal shares about a few different sized charts on her blog with instruction on creating a watercolor mixing chart.  She offers a free blank printable version of this chart, so that you can print your own on watercolor paper.  Super helpful!  So, I made my first ever mixing chart to have it for sharing in the workshop. Thank you Tonya! You can find her Doodlewash guest artist feature here. […]

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