When you take yourself off for a walk in nature you see and hear the flora and fauna of a place. I imagine myself as an explorer, recording what I see, drawing, writing, making colour notes. 

I draw nature, in the same way that I draw anything else, by finding ways to simplify what I am looking at. Look for the essential shapes, the essence of how a plant grows. The fennel I drew below grows like an umbellifer, hands with pom-poms on reaching for the sky. The flower heads I turned into little crosses, the seeds I captured with gestural repeated seed shapes. 

When you hold a flower in your hand you can take the time to look at the details of it, whether there is a serrated edge to the leaf, whether they grow from the base or the stem. I look for structures and reduce forms to a symbol of what they represent. 

Like a Victorian orchid collector, explore and record what's growing in the cracks of the pavement, in the park, in the glasshouse, or on an allotment. 

I find that people are drawn to my work because of its simplicity and yet when it comes to their own work they feel that it should somehow be different. Give yourself permission to draw the essentials and leave out the rest. As a textile designer by training, I think of the gestural marks as stitches..cross stitch, seed stitch, french knots. Sometimes it helps to simplify the image into this portfolio of 'stitches', or gestural marks. 

I love to forage for food when I'm on holiday. If you can't find fennel to make tea what about peppermint? Just steep in hot water. If you are foraging, make sure you have identified the plant properly!

Take yourself off for a walk. See what is behind the main streets, go to a garden, a park or the countryside. Draw nature as she finds her way between the cracks in the pavement, get close up and see the detail in a flower, a leaf, an insect. 


If you have been able to find old postcards or stamps to make a background you could draw onto these, or you could create a patchwork of papers to draw on to.

Have you been collecting whilst you are out and about? Shells, pebbles, driftwood, sea glass, receipts? I always end up with a pocketful of things after a few days away...ice cream spoons, tea bag tags. These can be used in your book or photographed to be added in when we get home (see session 9).

You could draw your collection too...

Covid update - the more I am reviewing the pages - the more sad I am becoming! I think in order not to get sad about what we can't do at the moment, we need a different mindset. We need to be playful - to be a fairy - get down low in your garden - seek out the interesting pebbles - collect the tiniest of flowers. Or collect and create for a colour mood board - collect 12 items that are blue - or pink -or green (a fruit tea bag, a leaf, an ornament, a spoon etc)

What would you bottle about the place that you're staying? Is it the sense of light? The smell of the market? Is it sounds - music, the language? How can you capture this in your sketchbook? How have you added the story of the place you're staying? For me, adding in found ephemera amongst my drawings makes my book unique and tells more of my adventure. Think how you can add some sensory elements to your book...a teabag of the tea you drank, a squirt of your holiday perfume, the lyrics of this year's summer song or some writing about a day you enjoyed.

Have you been collecting? Photograph your collection and tell us about it.

Covid update - we are living through unprecedented times. If your sketchbook can tell some of the story of lockdown - some snippets of news - from your family or world news - lists of what you're missing - plans for the future - a postcard that arrived in the post - a snip of the wool you are knitting with - capture this moment. 

Click grid images to see full size images.

Draw on top of found papers, newspapers or old stamps (use the back of the stamps to make a mini canvas) and postcards. Or create a background of squares and fill each one with a different detail of nature.


Helen Hallows


Nurturing Creativity since....

© 2009-2020 Helen Hallows

Copyright of all art works remains with the artist Helen Hallows 

Online course content, blog posts and all design and written content remains the intellectual property of Helen Hallows. Please do not reproduce without permission. All rights reserved. 



Nottingham, UK

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found leaves

colour inspiration from found leaves