If you are familiar with nature journaling, you have probably heard of John Muir Laws. He is an amazing field sketcher, a brilliant teacher, and a strong advocate of nature observation and preservation.
His website is one of the first ones I ran across when I began sketching and painting, and though I don’t live close enough to participate in his programs, I am active in his Facebook group where nature sketchers from all areas share artwork and observations.
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John Muir Laws, commonly known as “Jack," recently published a book, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, and I’ll admit when I first heard of it, the price made me blink and move on. However, I kept hearing rave reviews about it so I finally decided to order a copy. I am not sorry I did.
I have an entire shelf of books on nature sketching and painting, but this one could probably replace them all.
When the book arrived, I was pleasantly shocked by its massive size; it’s a good inch thick and filled with material. The contents aren’t organized by chapters but instead are grouped into sections that progress throughout the pages in a well-organized manner.
Jack begins with tips for increasing observation skills and assimilating information. The sections then continue moving forward through small-focus sketching techniques all the way up to capturing the big picture in landscapes.
Within each section is where Jack’s skills and knowledge as a teacher become apparent. Though this beautiful book is coffee table worthy, it is obvious that Laws isn’t into displaying pretty pictures solely for inspiration. Instead, page after page he gracefully tackles the challenges of observation and sketching in more than a 100 helpful step-by-step formats.
When it comes to reviews, I tend to be a bit critical though I try to temper that with a measure of grace. However, as hard as I try to embrace my hypercritical side, I can't find a thing lacking in this book. It is excellent - well organized, highly detailed, and beautiful to boot.
To say that I highly recommend this book would be an understatement.
If someone were to go through it page by page and use it as a teaching textbook, I can’t imagine how a person wouldn’t develop into an amazing artist by the end of it. In fact, I’ve made a resolution to do just that. There is so much knowledge within these 300+ pages, it is going to take me a while, but I’m excited about learning from the best.
If you are interested in connecting with and learning more from John Muir Laws, you have a lot of options!
- Jack's website is a storehouse of articles and tutorials - basically everything you'll ever need to know about nature sketching.
- Jack's YouTube channel has a ton of educational videos that will keep you busy for a very long time.
- He is also very active on his Nature Journal Club Facebook group where you will also find an amazing group of like-minded folks who are very encouraging.
- If you live on the west coast, you can also get involved in person. Classes and meet-ups are constantly happening and often posted on Facebook and on the website.
- If you are a non-west coaster, there are also several nature journal clubs that are active in other areas around the U.S. and Canada. The FB group is probably the best place to connect with leaders and members.
Hope to see you in the loop!