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Watercolor Pencil 101 Tutorial Video and Printable

Watercolor pencils are my favorite art supply and I use them regularly in my nature journal. Over the years I have learned a few techniques for using watercolor pencils in a variety of ways…each with its own effects and advantages.

I will share them here but for a more detailed look at how to do each technique, watch the handy video below: Watercolor Pencils 101 Tutorial.

Color and then brush with a wet brush:
Use your watercolor pencil to fill in a space, then add water.You can use your pencils to blend and layer color before or after adding water. I especially like to use this technique in my nature journal because I can do my sketching in the field and then add the water later…even much later at home.

Dip the watercolor pencil in water first:
Dip the tip of your pencil in water and then use it to fill in your sketch.This is a nice technique for sketching in the field since you don’t need to take along any paint brushes. You don’t even need to carry water with you if you have a source in the field like a lake or stream.

Wet the paper first:
Try wetting your paper first and then adding your watercolor pencil. This works well for filling in larger areas of your sketch like the sky. Just remember that if you are working directly in your nature journal that this technique may warp your paper when it dries.

Use a wet brush on the pencil tip:
Use the tip of your watercolor pencil like a paint palette by brushing it with a wet paint brush.

Wet brush on broken watercolor pencil pigment:
Collect all those broken tips and use as a sort of paint palette by stroking with a wet paint brush. Use this technique if you break off a tip when sketching in the field and you don’t have a pencil sharpener to make another point on your watercolor pencil.

Watercolor Pencils 101 Tutorial Printable – Give it a try with your children! Remember that watercoloring on printer paper is different than using watercolor paper. Try both and have fun!
I use a mixed media paper sketchbook for my nature journal and watercolors do make the pages a little wavy. I don’t mind the results but you may wish to work on watercolor paper and then adhere it into your nature journal

You can watch more of my YouTube videos on my YouTube Channel

Nature Journal Cover Watercolor Pages @handbookofnaturestudy

I used a mixed media journal so when I use watercolors directly on the pages they end up a little wavy. This doesn’t bother me because I love the character it gives my journal.

You may be interested in adding art and music appreciation into your week using my plans from Harmony Fine Arts. I invite you click over and see all the things available from grades 1-12.

How to Get Started with Harmony Fine Arts


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Don’t Make the Mistake in Thinking You Aren’t Interested in Moss or Lichen

Have you started off this month thinking that you can’t face a month long study of mushrooms, moss, and lichen? Did you print the newsletter and look at the grids and wonder how your could possibly find anything interesting to occupy you for this month’s grid study? I don’t think you are alone…in fact, a number of years ago I might have felt the same way too.

Honestly, this month and next month are the months that I have sort of dreaded preparing for the monthly challenges. Both this month’s topic and next month’s topic of reptiles and amphibians are not easy ones for many of us girl types.

But, I would like to encourage you with yesterday’s family walk to the river where we found an abundance of moss and lichen to get our interest and our powers of observation going. Once we started looking for moss and lichen, we saw it everywhere!

The shapes, patterns, colors, and textures were all so different and interesting. There was moss on rocks and tree bark and lichen on riches in varying colors. It made our hike to the river and back a delight.

My best advice is to give it a try by printing out the Mushroom, Lichen, and Moss Grid and bookmark. Share it with your children and then follow along each Friday with the suggested study, preparation, and then activities. I almost guarantee that you will learn something interesting.

Who knows? You may even end up enjoying this month’s study and become fascinated with this topic like I have over the years.

Here is a list of the twelve topics that we are covering this year on the Handbook of Nature Study.

  • September 2012 Insects
  • October 2012 Trees
  • November 2012 Mammals
  • December 2012 Weather
  • January 2013 – Rocks and Minerals
  • February 2013 – Birds (Great Backyard Bird Count)
  • March 2013 – Moss-Lichen-Mushrooms
  • April 2013 – Reptiles-Amphibians
  • May 2013 – Garden Flowers-Crops
  • June 2013 – Wildflowers-Weeds
  • July 2013 – Fish (Ponds)
  • August 2013 – The Sky and Stars

Handbook of Nature Study March Newsletter Cover Button

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Florida Nature Study – Exploring a New Habitat

Spending part of my time in Florida immersed in nature study was a highlight of my recent traveling adventure. I prepared ahead of time by purchasing a wonderful book focusing on the Florida Gulf Coast. Wow! There was a lot to be excited about! My trip was specifically to Sanibel and Captiva Islands and then a few days in Naples, Florida. Getting the opportunity to explore a new to me habitat is thrilling!

Since my time was limited but I did have a sweet ride in my friend Tricia’s sponsored car from Kia Optima Hybrid, I wanted to have a general plan for our time outdoors. I narrowed it down to a couple of possibilities and we decided that we would visit Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. We started off in the nature center browsing the exhibits and then I asked at the information desk what they suggested we do to make the best use of our two hours that we had available.

They handed us a map and directed us to take the wildlife drive that wound its way through the refuge and would take about an hour and a half. They also suggested that we drive over to the Bailey Tract and look for gators there.

Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

We followed their advice and thoroughly enjoyed our time driving along the one lane road through Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. There were many birds right by the side of the road so we could stop and observe or take photos as much as we wanted. What made it really nice was the fact that the Kia Optima Hybrid is super quiet while running on the battery. We did not scare away the wildlife turning the car on and off….it was awesome.

We saw a mama raccoon and her *four* babies as they walked along the road and then across right in front of us. The whole drive was full of wonderful discoveries like the Roseate Spoonbill and the Anhinga who was sunning himself. What a great time we had and so many memories were made in a short period of time! I was so glad I had taken the time to prepare a little before leaving home.

Alligator and other Reptiles at Bailey Tract

Tricia and I were hoping to see a Florida gator on this trip and we were not disappointed. Along the way we also were treated to many butterflies and a few lizards. I can’t tell you how much fun we had hiking out to look for the alligators. We found one lying in the sun, half in the water and with one eye open. Another item to check off my life list!

South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island

Sanibel and Captiva Islands are known for their fantastic shell beaches. As a native California girl, I have spent my fair share of time at the beach looking for shells, but shelling on these Florida islands is much easier and more rewarding. Tricia and I spent one afternoon walking in the sand, wading in the water, and collecting a few beautiful shells in the Florida sunshine.

Our view from our hotel room was out onto the marina and we saw dolphins a couple of times over the weekend. Two times I saw osprey with fish in their talons flying over the marina. There were nesting platforms along the back side of the beach and one morning I saw some osprey on the their nest. What a great sight!

The Beach at Captiva Island and an Osprey Nest

There were shore birds, skimmers, gulls, sand pipers, pelicans, and plovers. It was a bird fest for this nature loving gal.

Pine Flatwoods at Corkscrew Swamp

Tricia left for home and I met another longtime friend at the second location I was able to explore. I stayed in Naples, Florida and was able to visit Corkscrew Swamp Sactuary. There are miles of boardwalks to investigate as they make their way through a variety of habitats. Slash pine and baldcypress were the main trees but there were some palms and saw palmetto too. The sound of birds singing and the cries of Red-shouldered hawks overhead were the soundtrack for the morning. We also learned to identify the Gray catbird by its call.

Epiphytes or Air Plants

We hiked the complete trail loop and took our time as we stopped to use binoculars and video to try to identify the various birds. There were naturalists out on the trail as well and they were super helpful in giving us information and help when we couldn’t identify a bird. This place was awesome and another place I highly recommend if you ever visit the gulf coast of Florida.

I was overwhelmed by all the things to take in…from the overall impression of the new to me habitat to the calls of some really big birds like the Great Blue Heron and the Anhinga. We saw more gators, squirrels, and more new birds to add to my life list like the Great crested flycatcher, the Pileated woodpecker, and the Carolina wren…all very exciting! I was able to use my iPhone to identify or confirm our sightings and then use the notes section on the phone to keep track of their names. Sometimes technology has its place in nature study and this was one time I was super glad to have it along.

Anhinga and Great Egret

One last stop on my whirlwind nature study adventure…the mangroves at Clam Pass Beach Park. My friend who lives in Naples was able to fit that into our day right at sunset. We walked part of the trail and then rode the shuttle the rest of the way…finding the sun just starting to set and people gathering to try to observe the infamous “green flash” at sunset. We soaked in the mangroves and I saw my first ever Blue jay (we have Scrub jays and Steller’s jays here in California).

Bald Cypress at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary Florida

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to include some nature study and hiking into my trip to Florida. What a rich experience I had between the wildlife refuge, the beach time, and the time spent wandering the Florida swamps and mangroves.

I have already recorded my time in my nature journal….I did a quick sketch of the view from our window while in Florida and then finished it up at home with watercolors and details from my notes. I have the memories all tucked away in my heart and in a few good photos.

Would like to see some of Tricia’s Florida nature study images? Pop over to read her entry on her blog: Hodgepodge. While you are over there…check out her review of the Kia Optima Hybrid!

Kia Optima Hybrid Review