Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, 47 acres of botanical bliss fronting the Pacific Ocean

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Nature Journaling

Saturday and Sunday, August 7 and 8, 2021
from 10AM to 4PM with Mary-Ellen Campbell 
at the MCBG Education Center

CLICK HERE to Register for this Workshop – Closes at 4:30PM on 8/5/21

Make the perfect nature journal and fill it! We begin by constructing our own journals with various papers made for painting, sketching or writing and sections to hold field samples. The hardcover binding allows for inserting or removing pages and will lie flat when open. In the afternoon we will learn Nature Journaling techniques that will help you improve your observational and drawing skills gaining knowledge about your subjects. The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens is the perfect setting to begin this journey. We will learn about structures of plants, observe their environments and relationships to other living things. There will be many handouts and models, layout and lettering samples, and journaling styles. On day two you will learn basic watercolor or watercolor pencil techniques and then try out your new skills around the Gardens.

Workshop Registration:

Class cost is $200 per participant and includes Gardens admission. Payment is due upon sign-up. Please note, all workshop fees are non-refundable unless the workshop has been canceled or rescheduled by the Gardens. Class size is limited! Registration for this workshop may be completed online.

About the Instructor:

Mary-Ellen Campbell is a local artist who moved from New York to Caspar six years ago after a two-year residency at the Mendocino Art Center. She is Professor Emerita from New Jersey City University where she taught for thirty-four years. She has taught workshops locally, nationally and internationally. Mary-Ellen is a world traveler using her journals to capture scenes and peoples in exotic locales. Book arts is one of her specialties and she has made most of her journals and other books while on twelve artist residencies and many trips to over seventy-five countries. She is still learning the flora and fauna of the Mendocino Coast while nature journaling, bird watching, and volunteering at the Noyo Marine Center and the Botanical Gardens.

Workshop Materials:

Journal binding: The instructor will provide materials and tools to make the journal. 


  • Pre-made sets like Koi Water Colors Field box with 24 colors, water brush and palette – Mary-Ellen has used it for years. also available at Racines, Fort Bragg
  • Another pan set is Windsor Newton Field Plus set that gives you 12 colors, water container and palette.
  • If you prefer tubes you can create a mini-kit in an Altoid metal box with pans you fill-You should have at least 3 primary colors plus white. You can create larger kits, of course. or I use plastic caps from milk containers that I’ve saved. Be creative.
  • A lightweight palette is Masters International Folding Watercolor palette for $5 which holds 20 colors that you fill from tubes

Brushes: #3,6,10 rounds watercolor brushes-I like Da Vinci travel brushes but they are pricey, a beginner set of these three full-size watercolor brushes like Windsor Newton Cotman would be around $20 from Blicks. You would buy individual brushes. You might also want to try a refillable water brush. 

Pens: Sakura Pigma Micron Graphic 3 Pen Set-waterproof, White gel pen, Pentel or Sharpie fine point marker pens

Pencils: Photo or light blue pencil, white pencil, #2 pencil, watercolor pencil set-I like Derwent 12 Watercolour, eraser

Water cup with water. Since I always carry drinking water I use that to fill a small plastic cup. You can buy some small containers at the dollar store.

Ready-made paper or sketchbook recommendations: 

  • I prefer 8.5" x 5.5” mixed media spiral-bound book so I don’t get too fussy. If you like hardbound or a larger size, use it. It’s your personal choice. I recommend Strathmore 300 series Mixed Media-the cover is soft but you can add cardboard to strengthen, Strathmore Visual Journal or you can make your own journal.
  • I’ve used small looseleaf binders and cut, punched and placed different kinds of papers inside including lined paper for text, watercolor paper and paper that takes pencil or ink 

Rag: You can use old sock on your wrist to wipe your brush


Day 1

10AM to 12PM — Start indoors to learn about binding. Go over papers for pages. Make cover, fold pages, fold accordion binding, slit page folds, insert signatures into binding, insert binding into covers.

12PM to 12:30PM — Lunch

1PM to 2PM — Finish constructing journal. Go over materials, papers, tools, types of sketchbooks, media-pencil, pen, colored pencils, watercolors, markers; other important implements: rulers, magnifier, binoculars, stencils, cheat sheets, carriers, stencils. Look at Nature Journal kits, instructor’s journals, artist pages, books.

2PM to 4PM — Presentation on what to include on a page: metadata, shapes, question marks, prompts, parts and whole, numbers of, relationships, scene, direction marks, call-outs, text. Prepare a spread with metadata.

Day 2

10AM to 12PM — Go over handouts-parts of plants, shapes of flowers. Lessons on how to begin drawings, what to observe, how to use different media. Demonstrate watercolor technique, watercolor pencil technique. Instructions for working outdoors, comfortable seat, water, sunhat.

12PM to 12:30PM — Lunch

12:30PM to 2:30PM Outdoor drawing/painting.

2:30PM to 4PM Share work and wrap-up!


Start Date: Saturday, August 7, 2021

End Date: Sunday, August 8, 2021