• Community
July 2, 2024

In the Forest and in the Snow

SheJumps volunteer Holland Howe led a sketchgroup in Utah and workshop instructor Robin Lee Carlson collaborated with a local organization and library to share nature journaling on Orcas Island, WA.

By The Art Toolkit Team

Two artists in warm black clothes sit on a field of snow, painting in sketchbooks, with an evergreen tree in the background.

Plein Air in a Snowfield

“You never know what you’re going to get in Utah in May,” Holland shared with us. While she hoped the lake would provide an excellent foreground for her group of new sketchers and hikers’ plein air painting session, they were instead greeted with vast snow fields. All the women had adventurous attitudes nonetheless as they trampled in a snowfield by Solitude Mountain in Utah.

Holland Howe is a volunteer with SheJumps and reached out to us earlier this year to get some supplies for a hike and draw event, and followed up with some reflections on the experience! The group headed out to the lake and started their plein air session by sketching subjects and learning the difference between a quick rough sketch and detailed drawing techniques. As they were sketching, the group got to experience the realities of plein air watercolor painting in real-time as the blue sky ahead filled with clouds that started releasing large snowflakes.

The group moved to sketch a landscape scene, adding blocks of color to create shadows and trees. It was an excellent afternoon painting in the snow, if the pictures are anything to go by!

Thank you, Holland, for reaching out to us and sharing such a lovely experience with us!

About SheJumps

SheJumps was founded in 2007 on the premise that “if she can do it, so can I.” The organization supports women* and girls* who either have never participated in outdoor activities or are active members of the outdoor community looking to give back and share their passion. Whether skiing or climbing, SheJumps celebrates the accomplishments of women, from beginners to pro athletes, and provides them with a support system where they can feel confident taking jumps (risks) and trying something new.

*SheJumps is an inclusive organization. We welcome all women and girls (transgender and cisgender) as well as non-binary people who identify with the women’s community.

Nature Journaling on Orcas Island

In June, thirty people gathered next to Cascade Lake in Moran State Park on Orcas Island, Washington State. They stood beneath the cedars in the dappled evening sunlight, having come together to deepen their connection to nature in a workshop led by Robin Lee Carlson and hosted by the Orcas Island Library and Friends of the San Juans.

Participants were greeted with a land acknowledgement given by Friends of the San Juans and a moving description of the importance of connecting with nature as the motivation for protecting natural places. The Orcas Island library provided each sketcher with a sketchbook and colored pencils, and participants were able to check out Art Toolkit demo watercolor kits to experiment with painting during the workshop, too!

Robin started the workshop with a tour through some of her sketchbooks and an explanation of how she uses field sketching to ground her in a place and come to know it more deeply. She demonstrated techniques for quickly capturing different aspects of the landscape, from a close-up of a flower to the distant contours of a forested hillside. Afterward, participants spread out in the green meadow alongside a musically flowing creek to draw in their own sketchbooks, sharing notes and thoughts and inspiration.

As the session came to a close, sketchers stood in a circle to show their sketchbooks and talk about their experience. There were many expressions of enthusiasm about having drawing and field observation presented in such a warm and welcoming manner, with lots of useful tips and ideas.

About the Instructor

Robin Lee Carlson is an author and natural science illustrator, building careful observations of the natural world into deeper commentary on ecology and climate change. Her work centers on field sketching eco-reportage, living documentation of the ever-accelerating transformation of ecosystems by human activity. Her first book, The Cold Canyon Fire Journals, was published in 2022 by Heyday and her work has also appeared in The Common, the literary journal of Amherst College, and in Arnoldia, the magazine of the Harvard University Arboretum. She teaches workshops that combine drawing, painting, and natural history to a broad audience online and up and down the Pacific Coast.

An artist sites on a rock, dipping a paintbrush in a Pocket Palette.

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