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Illustrating Nature: Right-brain Art in a Left-brain World Review by Kris Price

Irene Brady
Nature Works Press
(541) 535-5712
PO Box 469,
Talent, Oregon 97540

My daughter has taken an interest in drawing recently and I've been looking for a good book to instruct her on how to draw what she is seeing. I would love for her to be able to excel in an area that I can see that she already has a basic talent. In addition, my son has recently taken an interest in the birds in our backyard. There has never been a more appropriate time than now to add Nature Study to our days! I cannot even draw a good circle so any help I can get in this area is going to be very much appreciated.

Illustrating Nature is a fascinating book and Ms. Brady is extremely talented! Her illustrations have been published in many widespread publications - Audubon, Ranger Rick, Your Big Backyard, and Cricket just to name a few. Her books are sold in national parks around the country and published by major publishers. She has illustrated nature guides and created wildlife art for museum displays nationwide. To say that she is talented is an understatement!

The book starts off explaining how the right and left sides of our brain work and how they see things. Then she begins teaching the reader how to draw beginning with sketching basics and moving on to perspective and then line art techniques (black and white drawing). Chapters that follow illustrate how to draw plants and animals, advanced field sketching, drawing with a microscope or magnifying glass, and even some great instruction on how to design and layout your illustrations (i.e. "balance" them on the page). Ms. Brady also discusses how to critique a drawing and how important it is for an artist to be computer-literate. Several appendices explain how to keep a field sketchbook and an art portfolio and Ms. Brady also gives career tips to the budding artist.

The book is written to be used with students ages 12 and up, but Ms. Brady has used it, with modifications, with younger children (8-10). It is often very difficult for homeschooling families to add those "extra" subjects in and art is something that often gets pushed aside. By using Illustrating Nature, a family could take the book, some paper, and pencils with them outside in their own backyard (or to the nearest park) and begin sketching what they are seeing. The outdoors will provide all of the subject material that you need. The student can proceed through the book as they master each new technique.

If I were to use this with younger children, I would probably focus on the sections explaining how to draw plants and flowers and field sketching. Upon opening the book, it is a bit intimidating to see these beautifully drawn illustrations as well as pages that are jam-packed with instruction and tips. However, one must realize that this is a textbook. I would compare it to a 6-course gourmet meal; it is better if consumed in small bites and over a long period of time. There is no rushing through this book or easy steps to becoming a talented artist quickly! The best thing about this book is that nature provides all of this wonderful material to sketch. However, other benefits of trying this book are numerous: no expensive art lessons (the book only retails for $25.95), minimal art supplies needed, ability to proceed at your own pace, very detailed instructions, and lots of tips to make your drawings better. This is a very thorough guide that will produce a talented artist, but is also aimed at helping the student advance towards a career in art.

-Product review by Kris Price, Assistant to the Publishers, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2006