The Nature Journal Club

Journal Club photo smallNature Journaling makes you a better observer, naturalist, and artist and opens a world of beauty and discovery. Learn how to keep your own nature journal and make using it your habit through monthly workshops and fieldtrips. Each month brings a new outing and workshop to help make the practice of nature journaling a part of your life. The field trips combine nature exploration, sketching demonstrations, a potluck lunch, and time to explore create your own work. The technique workshops help you develop drawing skills to apply in the field. We also sponsor art exhibitions of club members work in local venues. Read more about us in Bay Nature!

The Nature Journal Club is a diverse community of artists and naturalists, of all levels, who meet together to connect to nature through art. Through monthly field trips, hands on technique workshops, and community events we explore the Bay Area, developing our artistic and naturalist skills and deepening our love of nature. We welcome the diverse communities of the region. The program is intergenerational and family friendly. Seniors and elders are encouraged to participate. No experience necessary. Read the article in Bay Nature.

Connect on Facebook and Join the Mailing List

You can get notifications about group outing and activities by joining my mailing list and the Meetup group. I also encourage you to join the Club’s Facebook Group to share sketches, drawings, arrange carpools, and connect with the group community. Announcements and events are also be listed in the Facebook group.

Nature Journal Workshops

Join us each month for a 1.5 hour workshop that highlights new aspects of journal keeping such as drawing flowers, making quick landscape studies, sketching birds, noticing important scientific details, or nature poetry. These classes prepare you with drawing skills you can apply on the upcoming field trip. For instance, a field trip to Hawk Hill might be preceded by a workshop on drawing hawks in flight. The technique workshops are repeated in seven wheelchair accessible locations around the bay. Workshop highlights will be videotaped and posted to YouTube so you can watch them on my YouTube channel if you were not able to join one of the classes. Be sure to check my online calendar to verify that the workshop will be held at the usual location and time in any given month.

Second Tuesday of the Month
Tiburon, Richardson Bay Audubon 10:00 AM
San Francisco, Locations in the Presidio see schedule, 12:30 PM
Foster City, Burlingame Main Library, 3:30 PM

Second Wednesday of the Month*
Lafayette, Lafayette Library and Learning Center, 11:00 AM
Oakland, Junior Center of Art and Science, 2:00 PM

Second Friday of the Month*
Saratoga, West Valley College 10:00 AM
Cupertino, SC Valley Audubon, 12:30 AM

* Workshops are held on consecutive Tuesday-Friday , starting on the 2nd Tuesday of the month. Tuesday workshops will always be on the second Tuesday. Wednesday, and Friday workshops will usually be on the second Wednesday. or Friday, but if the month begins on a Wednesday, or Friday the workshop will be held on the third Wednesday, or Friday of that month. There will occasionally be schedule changes. See the club’s schedule for details.

Monthly Journal Club Field Trips

Mark your calendars and join our field trip on the last Sunday of each month from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM (unless otherwise noted in the schedule). Trip activities include technique demonstrations, natural history interpretation, time in the outdoors, a potluck lunch, and plenty of time to draw and write. Most field trips will include easy to moderate walking. If field trips are wheelchair accessible or may require more strenuous hiking, they will be described as such in that month’s program description. See the club’s schedule for details. If rain is forecasted for the day of the field trip, the trip may be canceled or relocated to an indoor venue. Check the program description Sunday morning before leaving for updates and changes.

Not in the Bay Area? Join one of these clubs or start your own!

A Nature Journal Club is a great way to build a community around nature study. You can start your own group in your area. Feel free to use my YouTube videos to share with your group or to modify in your own lessons. Contact me and I will create a link to your group. As the program develops, I will post tips, techniques, and lessons learned. Tips to help you start your own group today.

Instructional Videos from Workshops and Field Trips

Where ever possible, we video portions of club activities. If you can not make it to one of our club events or are looking for inspiration for your own classes or club, we hope that these short videos will be of help. You can browse and view the full archive of videos on my YouTube channel.

No Cost, No Registration Required

This program free and is supported by the donations from members. A $20 donation for each event is suggested. You can further support this project with a tax-deductible donationPlease become a sponsor and support the Nature Journal Club.  Also help connect me with philanthropic individuals or organizations who can help sponsor and sustain the program. If you can not afford to help support the group with a donation, you are still part of the team! Find another way to pay it forward by doing good things in your community. Thank you for your support

No registration is required. Show up with your journal and supplies and get ready to explore and draw. View the full schedule of Journal Club events and mark your calendar.

Art Shows and Exhibitions of Group Work

Nature Journal Club members are invited to participate in periodic public shows of their work. These shows can help demonstrate individual improvement and the beauty and diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area. If you know a venue that would be appropriate to feature the work of our group, please contact me with details.

Expectations and what to bring

The Nature Journal Club is a supportive community. Participants are expected to treat each other with respect and create a safe place for people to push their boundaries, draw, and write without criticism or fear. Please do what you can to engender this feeling in the group. I encourage all participants to share their tricks and techniques with each other. It is fun to teach and to learn from one another. I encourage you to make journaling and participating in club events part your regular routine. If you have not drawn in a long time, it can be scary to start again. Once you do, you will discover that this new skill develops quickly. Throw yourself into it and be fearless. You can do this. The most important thing is to get yourself to draw a lot. Club events and outings help but it is even better if you can get yourself to draw even more often. Leave your inner critic behind and go for it. If you feel comfortable doing so, bring your latest sketches or poems to share with others. Please also share your artwork, techniques and ideas in the club’s Facebook group. We can all learn a lot from seeing the work of other artists and naturalists. Most importantly, have fun with it- this is a joyous experience.

You do not need a lot of expensive materials to get started. At the most basic level, a field journal and a pencil is all you need. If you want to go further, I have prepared a suggested equipment list. You do not need everything on this list. Keep your kit light and accessible.

Each field trip is also a potluck lunch. Bring a spoon, bowl, and something delicious to share. We often stray far from our vehicles so make sure you have everything packed and portable.

For Parents

Nature journaling and exploration are great activities for families and children. I encourage you to make journaling and participation in group activities a regular practice for your family. Workshops and demonstrations will be engaging  and fun but targeted to adults. Mature children who have demonstrated an interest in nature sketching add a lot to the group. Please evaluate and monitor your children’s interest and energy to help them get the most from the experience and to ensure that their contribution enhances the experience for everyone. You may find it helpful to have a family discussion about behavior expectations and participation before an event.


29 thoughts on “The Nature Journal Club

  1. Leslie Ferguson says:

    I would be happy to help set up at field trip for viewing salmon in west marin. We discussed this at your workshop Saturday. The only concern, as I am sure you know, is that it can be difficult when you have a preset date, to coincide with the timing of the salmon run and visibility in the creek ( it can’t be too turbid immediately after or during a rain event). My contact info is attached ( I use Beth’s email).

    thanks for a wonderful class this Saturday at Arrowhead marsh. Your perspective is so refreshing- I really enjoyed the class and feel enriched.

  2. Sasha says:

    How about a field trip to San Pedro Valley in Pacifica? There are some really neat display stuffed animals in the visitors center and its a good place to see bobcats hunting in the picnic area meadow.

  3. Amal says:

    We had our first class today. It was so great! Even though I could only stay 45min (small children with me) I learned so much! I have been nature journaling with my daughter for about a year- as well as drawing about a year and can make pictures come together but lack any technique so often something will look “off”. Possibly the eye location or the shapes. I learned some techniques today and when I got home I practiced sketching some ducks and they came out so much more balanced then ever before. I am so grateful for this offering.Thank you John and thank you for allowing me to bring my children. I am really looking forward to learning more. I also really appreciated what you said about not focusing on creating a pretty picture but to play with it and enjoy the colors and read more about that in the intro to your bird book. I have definitely had that pretty picture destination at the forefront of my mind often and I am grateful for this new understanding and approach. I will definitely focus on creating that space and approach for my children. Simple philosophy that makes a world of difference.
    Thank you so much.

  4. Amal says:

    I just re-read the entire page and I misunderstood the structure. So now i understand the second tuesday is the class (indoor) and the last sunday is the outing in nature. I would still love to try this if it is ok. I would be sensitive to making sure we didn’t disturb anyone and if it was too long for my 3 year old (the indoor class) then could we just quietly leave early?

  5. Amal says:

    I would love to join the nature club. I posted on another page that I homeschool my children and both love every aspect of the natural world from insects to mammals as well as plants. My 3 1/2 year old can already identify raptors and tell the difference between them. My 7 year old daughter loves nature journaling and I would love to get better at my own so I can offer her more guidance. Would it be ok if I came with my children? I wouldn’t expect them to focus on the class per se but they love being out in nature and it would be a wonderful opportunity for me as I am always with them and don’t have the opportunity to attend a class often.

    • Dear Amal,
      We would love to have you and your daughter as a part of our group. Please bring your children. This is a family friendly program. The classes are indoors and you learn the techniques to help you draw. Then we put it to use on the field trips. I teach in a fun and engaging way that I think your 7 year old will enjoy. Feel free to bring her to the workshops and see if she likes it. Please introduce yourself to me so I can welcome you. Let me know if there is anything I can do to support you and your family in nature study.
      PS it is so cool that your 3.5 year old can ID raptors. Welcome!

      • Amal says:

        Thank you so much for your replies! Now that I understand the layout I just have a few questions just to make sure we wouldn’t disturb anyone. How long is the indoor part of the class. My son is good at sitting on my lap and waiting for a bit but I just want to be careful to make sure we wouldn’t disturb. Also, is it ok if I just watch the demonstration while indoors (so as to keep my kids mellow) and then try them out when we are outdoors?
        This would be an experiment the first time and if it works with them I would be delighted and if not then I could wait a bit and try again when they are a bit older. I am so excited that you offer so much to the community and I expect that at some time we will be avid followers of your classes and educational offerings. Thank you!
        (My son has a cold currently so this coming Tuesday will depend on if he has recovered)

        • Amal says:

          One more thing- my daughter has some language processing issues (it is the opposite side of the coin of dyslexia- just applies more to spoken language). She is now doing excellent with her language because we homeschool and she is in a language rich environment always, but she is less responsive to lecture / demos than other kids as she can feel nervous with a whole bunch of new language from a new person and shyness is a part of it as well, but art, and specifically nature art is her primary mode of expression and is so special to us. So in the class she might not seem to be responsive but she is unbelievably intelligent and all the info always gets in and she demonstrates it later on her own or with me alone. 🙂

  6. Lessa G says:

    We are so happy about the Nature Journal Club because it gets us outdoors, exploring the Bay Area, seeing more deeply, having fun, building a bit of community, and deepening our understanding and appreciation of where we live. These are all things we’ve have had on our “to do” list for years, but now we’re actually doing — and it feels great! Thank you, Jack, for all the expertise, good energy, and good will you bring to leading this project. Our family and everyone in this community will be benefiting for years to come.

    Eva, Paul, and Pax

  7. Alyssa Byrd says:

    Thanks Jack Laws for sharing your gift within the community! After two classes with you already (at CCSF), it is with eager anticipation that I plan the next!

  8. Alison Kent says:

    Fantastic, Jack — hope you’re able to get up to the North Bay or Delta sometime! Fantastic viewing of sandhill cranes on Sunday evening against a pink-purple sky, Mt. Diablo to the west…

    • JohnMuirLaws says:

      That is a great idea for a field trip. Do you have some specific favorite locations? What time of year do you think is best at these sites? Anyone else have great suggestions for field trip locations? Let me know the where and when!

      • Alison Kent says:

        The Isenberg Sandhill Crane Sanctuary near Lodi — evening fly-in is magical. Any day when the cranes are here, they arrive in November and stay through February. A great spot for a small group, there’s an elevated section with a bench at the preserve. It would be good to get there around 3-4 pm and an hour or two is plenty. If the cranes aren’t right at the preserve, they’re in corn stubble all around there.

        Several Delta locations, but the Cosumnes River Preserve would be fabulous — all kinds of possibilities for field trips there! The last undammed river in California — there’s a visitor center for info and bathroom breaks. Lots of waterfowl but lots else too.

  9. JohnMuirLaws says:

    I see the club as something that will grow and change with the energy we bring to it. What would you like to see this group become? What should we create together?

    • JohnMuirLaws says:

      We are thinking along the same lines. I am in negotiations with the Oakland Museum right now- that pending location in Alameda is there! We should know very soon. I can’t wait for the Museum to reopen the natural history hall this year.

      • JohnMuirLaws says:

        There is no admission. The Oakland Museum is letting us use the space for free. I love them! I want to encourage everyone to get a OM membership. That way you can explore the museum at will after class.

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