Welcome to week 2 of the guest post mini series with

Amy Parmelee!

I think y’all are really going to like seeing the nature journaling and art that sprouted from her farm stay family vacation. I loved seeing the ways she applied her journaling and painting to connecting with family and new natural environments.

I stick by my word that drawing something is the best way to really get to know it and what a great way to make a travel journal and ground yourself when away, all while getting to know new flora and fauna!

Take it away Amy! Vacation Art!!


Before my 7-year-old son was out of school for the summer, I started taking Kelly’s Draw Yourself Back to Nature e-course, which is now available as a self-paced course. Later, he joined me in watching the art technique videos and trying out the techniques. He enjoyed doing the art, and I enjoyed being able to share this quiet – Yes, quiet! – time creating art based on natural subjects.  When we decided to spend our vacation on a farm in Virginia, I knew I wanted to include art in our trip.

Since we were flying and space was tight, I didn’t have much room for a lot of supplies. Kelly has a post on how to pack a field bag , which is a great read to get ideas flowing for what you will need while traveling. I love working with colored pencils and watercolors, so I knew I had to find a way to bring them.

Here’s what I packed:

  • A 24-pack of colored pencils to share.
  • Two pieces of paper with a grid of nine squares for thumbnail drawings. I created my own grid, but Kelly has a great seven-day printable here
  • Two Sketchers watercolor sets. (My son recently convinced me he needed his own set.)
  • A couple of sharpened pencils.
  • A pencil sharpener.
  • An eraser.
  • Two paint brushes, a small flat one and a medium round one.
  • Two small plastic containers with screw-on lids for water that I found in the travel section at a big-box store.
  • Two nature journals.

Most of the items on the list fit into a small zipper pouch my son uses for school. For the nature journals themselves, I tore out a few sheets of watercolor paper and folded them in half. I then put the folded paper into a “sleeve” I made from the cardboard backing from picture frames that I had hanging around. (I knew they would be useful someday.)

I then put a binder clip on each “book” to keep it together.  Our art kits were complete, and not so bulky that I couldn’t throw the journals into my bag. I think the only things I packed that we didn’t use were the thumbnail sketch pages and the pencil sharpener.


The supplies I packed worked out well, although we almost ran out of paper. (Photo credit: All photos in the post are by Amy Parmelee)

Well, I was prepared for art, but did we actually use any of our supplies? YES!

At the end of our first full day at the farm, I sat at the table with my son, and we wrote some notes about our day in the journal, on the watercolor paper. While my writing gave an overview of the day, my son focused on his encounters with the wild rabbits on the farm and drew a picture of one.

In later entries I included a colored pencil drawing of red clover, which I did after he was in bed, while he continued to focus his next entry on specific incidents with a small sketch, this time of a goat.


For the written part of his journal, my 7-year-old included a sketch that went with his story.

During some down time early during our farm stay, I had a chance to sketch the scene from the back deck, which included trees and the river. Later on, I was able to break out the watercolors when we painted together.

I still consider it unfinished because I would like to add some outlines in pen. However, by doing this sketch early, it got my son interested in doing some art of his own.  At his request, he got out his watercolor set and created a picture of a large tree growing near the deck.


We used the view from the back deck to inspire our painting. We didn’t capture the scenes exactly, but I think we captured the feel of it.

On our last full day at the farm, he and I took a long hike through the woods in the back of the farm, while my husband went to see a historic site about an hour away. In the afternoon while I was cleaning up, I heard those dreaded words for the first time: “I’m bored.”  And that’s when the art marathon began.

We set up our art supplies on the back deck, and we both painted. He started with a river scene similar to the one I had done earlier in the week, while I used colored pencils for a black-eyed Susan I had found. Then he wanted to find his own flowers to draw, and so began a pattern. He would run out the front of the cottage to find a wildflower, then he would paint it and ask me to identify it so he could label it. Then, the cycle would begin again.


 Art filled our last afternoon between a hike and evening farm chores.

By the time the session was over, he had drawn seven flowers to my two flowers, all with colored pencils. I think he would have kept going, but his dad came back, it started raining, and it was time to collect the chicken eggs and feed the goats. It was a great afternoon spent outside capturing some of the scenery from our vacation.

flower_grid 500

As a bonus, our water cups for paints doubled as a vase for all of the flowers we picked once we were done drawing.

While I’ve always had art supplies available since my son was quite small, making a real effort to incorporate nature-themed art more often into our lives is new to us.

Here are a few things I took from our vacation experience.

  • A few well-selected supplies are all you need. Think about how much paper you might need and might want to cart around. We almost ran out, and I took four full-size sheets folded in half for each of us.
  • Make sure your schedule is flexible enough to include art. After our farm stay, we spent a few days with family in Washington, D.C. Our schedule was so full, we didn’t have time to stop for art.
  • Consider getting your child quality art supplies if he or she is capable of taking care of them reasonably well. My son could tell the difference between the colored pencils he usually uses and the nice set I bought for the art class. When we returned home, he was willing to help pay for his own set of quality colored pencils.
  • Keep comments and instructions to a minimum when your child is creating. When your child seeks praise for the work, comment on the colors used or another aspect of the art. Try not to deem the piece simply “good” or “great.” Since some of our art supplies were new, I would offer tips sporadically on how to mix watercolors or blend the colored pencils. Sometimes I would direct him to look at a specific feature: How many petals does the flower have? What shape does the flower look like? If your child doesn’t seem receptive, however, let it go and try again later.
  • I think the most important takeaway for me was that to get your child interested in nature-themed art, you have to model it. Let your child see what you have created, and, chances are, he or she will want to do art, too. [Very Montessori Amy!]


Spotted Wintergreen

My son said this about our vacation nature journals:

“I liked making art on vacation because it was fun. I liked writing about the farm because I made a book out of it. I felt good about finishing my journal. I learned that water doesn’t have to be blue.

I learned that what you draw doesn’t have to look exactly like what you saw. I learned that journals are fun, and I want to make another one. When you’re drawing nature, usually you’re facing the real thing, and it usually makes your drawings better.

Creating a nature journal while on vacation helps you and your child to each create a keepsake of your trip and to pay more attention to nature. Even when we were rushing around D.C., my son would point out patches of nature.  We didn’t have time to even sketch then, but when you return home, you can look at photos from your trip and capture those images in watercolor or colored pencil.

Plus, nature journaling, whether on vacation or at home, can fight off those words of “I’m bored.”

What are your favorite art supplies to take on the go?

Share in the comments below!

Share your nature journal pics on Instagram #wingswormsandwonder

Seeds to Sprout:

Check out the self paced version of Draw Yourself Back to Nature Amy spoke of for ideas, tips, and techniques for nature journaling at home and away! Children and seniors are always welcome to take the course with you for free!

Think maybe a little more painting instruction would help you gain the confidence to start that nature journal you’ve always wanted? Well then the Draw Yourself Back to Nature and Connecting with Color Bundle just might be what you want! Check it out here!

At home or away, having a field bag packed is just the thing so you will be ready to journal at the first sight of a rainbow! Check out my post Amy mentioned on how to pack a field bag.

Want a special field bag of your own? I have sewn some! Check them out here and I can custom make them too!

FREE VIDEOS launching this Wednesday and Thursday on my You Tube Channel!! Be sure to follow so you don’t miss any of my upcoming free summer nature journaling videos! This series, Nature Journaling Tools, is all about nature journaling art supplies from what weight and press paper to use for what to what are all those types of brushes and why are they so expensive, to why shop at an art supply store over a big craft store, and more!! Check out videos 3 and 4 this week!!

I’m on Periscope now, are you? I decided to just jump into it and I’m going to try to go live for a few minutes each Thursday. That’s the plan this month anyway, we’ll see how it goes and I’ll keep you posted. Join me and ask any garden, art, journaling, or whatever questions you want in live time!! Be sure to follow me on Twitter to get the Periscope live stream announcement and join me live in my garden for short talks on plants, gardening, garden bugs and whatever else the garden throws at us that week!

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  1. What a fun blog Amy and Kelly! The farm stay and chores, back deck drawing and painting, and being attentive to the day is all inspiring! Will find time to sit on my own back deck today and draw….thanks!

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