Nature Drawing

Nature drawing inside title

Nature Drawing, A Tool for Learning
by Clare Walker Leslie
Prentice Hall Press, New York, 1987, 206 pgs.

Nature Drawing is an excellent resource book for those interested in teaching or learning how to learn about the natural world through direct observation drawing.  Clare Walker Leslie has produced a book that provides many clearly explained exercises that will help people learn from direct observation and drawing.

There are several good quotes scattered through the book that convey the benefits of drawing for learning about natural history, and also the benefits of drawing for learning improving observation skills. Nature drawing is about learning to see as much as it is about learning to draw.

Nature drawing exercises

There are four main exercises that Clair Walker Leslie promotes for improving drawing skills.

  1. Memory drawing
  2. Contour drawing
  3. Gesture drawing
  4. Detail (diagram) drawing

These four methods are explained succinctly and used several times in the book to demonstrate how drawing and observation skill can be increased with attention and practice.  The importance of promoting observation skills is scattered throughout the text and lessons. Before even mentioning the four drawing exercises, the first exercise is “Observation” – that does not involve putting pencil to paper at all, but simply looking deeply and with intention.

Scattered through the text there are several quotes from previous texts that affirm the importance of learning to draw in order to learn to see:

In order to apprehend meaning in our experience, it is essential for us to see, and drawing is the instrument of the inquiring eye that teaches us how to see. [Edward Hill, The Language of Drawing.]

I never realized I would see so much more by having to draw it. Drawing makes me learn about nature more carefully. It makes me better… And it makes me appreciate a lot more what I do see.  [Student in “Keeping a Naturalist’s Sketchbook” workshop.]

This book will be a useful resource for future teaching activities. After the introductory chapter about drawing exercises and methods there are a series of chapters that focus on techniques for observing and drawing specific natural history topics such as plants/flowers/fruits, trees/shrubs, animals, birds and landscapes.  There is also a chapter devoted to the benefits of keeping a field sketchbook.

The Prentice Hall version does not appear to be in print anymore, although used copies are available online.

More recent editions of Nature Drawing, A Tool for Learning can be purchased online at:

Also, learn more about Clare Walker Leslie at





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