Wildlife Illustration: Into the Wild

Jack Laws, manager of field studies at the Academy, combines art and nature to turn people on to science.

In a valley ringed by the jagged, snowcapped Salmon Mountains in California's Trinity Alps National Wilderness, naturalist and artist Jack Laws leads a group of nature lovers into a sweeping meadow filled with sedges, rushes, and brilliant wildflowers. He encourages his followers to relax, take in the beauty of the natural surroundings, and then draw and write about what they see.

Journal page:  Jack Laws' illustration of a vernal pool
Journal page: Jack Laws' illustration of a vernal pool area at Big Flat.
local carnivorous plant
Mona Bourell focuses on the curious flowers of a local carnivorous plant, Darlingtonia californica.
Photo: Jack Laws

Laws takes field journaling groups to various locations usually around the Bay Area the last Sunday of each month. For more information, email him at: jlaws@calacademy.org

Journal page by Jack Laws Participants sketching lilies and orchids
Journal page by Jack Laws.

Participants sketching lilies and orchids by a creek.
Photo: Joe Kinyon

Journal page by Boni Cruz
Journal page by Boni Cruz
Journal page by Anna Sayer
Journal page by Anna Sayer.
Journal page by Anna Sayer
Journal page by Anna Sayer.

 

Academy property in Trinity Alps
Used for both education and research, the Academy property in the Trinity Alps was generously donated by Gilbert and Helen Gates. Jack illustrates a vernal pool area at Big Flat.
Photo: Anna Sayer

For the past two years, Laws has led people to wild places to connect them to nature and introduce them to science journaling, describing species in the field with both words and drawings. After briefing participants on the natural history and ecology of an area, Laws teaches drawing strategies such as how to simplify shapes of a wildflower or how to quickly sketch a nearby pileated woodpecker before it flies off.

Here, on 40 acres of land in Klamath National Forest, finding study subjects is easy. Lilies, orchids, and insect-eating pitcher plants pepper the neighboring valleys, while coyotes and black-tailed deer wonder into the meadow from the bordering mixed conifer forests.

Joseph Kinyon sketching Journal page by Joseph Kinyon
Joseph Kinyon sketches the Sierra Crane Orchid that shared the seep with California Pitcher Plants.
Photo: Jack Laws
Anna Sayer sketching
Anna Sayer sketching Downingia yina.
Photo: Joe Kinyon
Journal page by Anna Sayer
Journal page by Anna Sayer.
Journal page by Anna Sayer
Journal page by Anna Sayer.