From Forest to Page

I draw as often as I can, and almost always draw things I’ve found on my walks in Nature.

A pen drawing of honey mushrooms found on a hike in the woods with my daughter.

I embrace the progressive abstraction as I transfer real mushrooms and other small objects discovered in the course of my hiking to the page. Pens, pencils, and markers help me condense and personalize the often unassuming, ephemeral focus of my fascination.

A photograph f beautiful yellow honey mushrooms at the base of a tree.

Photography forms a true intermediate step, as I use the images I collect as reference material for my drawing. These images are not purely instrumental, though. I enjoy composing an effective image with my camera, especially when the subject matter eludes the notice of most passers by.

Abstraction never fully captures the wonder of the discovery of a strange and beautiful mushroom in the cool, quiet woods, though. My artwork is very much a copy of a copy. Yet I, and I alone, can remember where that mushroom I draw was found, under what sort of tree, on what sort of day. Perhaps I remember something funny my daughter did on our hike. The artwork serves as a kind of reinforcement of memory, and hopefully a way to celebrate the lived experience of these moments with my little girl and the rewards of a deep and deliberate relationship with Nature.


If you’d like to see how a color illustration of the same honey mushrooms was created, I took a few pictures of the process when I drew them a few weeks ago.

Using Sakura pens and Copic markers, I draw the same mushrooms in color.

Rough shapes are outlined in black technical pen. I do this shape blocking with pencil first, then erase the pencil once the shapes are darkened. Then I used four colors of Copic brush markers to create a color gradient.

Adding texture with pen.

Here I’ve used hatching to create areas of light & shadow. The shadows do not mirror the color values. Different kinds of hatching create different textures, from the scored skein-like outer layer of the stalk to the rough, pitted surface of the caps.

Using darker pen lines to bring out the shapes of the mushrooms.

Heavier lines around the individual shapes help them pop visually. They can also hide some (but not all!) of my sloppy coloring.

Final image of the honey mushrooms.

A bit of white pen on the stalks differentiates them from the caps and lightens their overall value.

It’s a pretty simple & straightforward process, and I enjoy the challenge of the limitations of this kind of illustration. I particularly enjoy trying to establish volumes and texture, and trying to balance the two.


Simple pen drawing of a pair of tiny bolete mushrooms.

Sometimes my drawings are more successful than others, but one of the joys of approaching my artwork as a true amateur is the lack of self-consciousness such an attitude entails. I’m trying to do my best, but I recognize and hope that many lessons and much improvement lies ahead of me.

If you’d like to see a more in-depth treatment of one of my drawings, I put together a little tutorial here.

Let me know what you think about these drawings or ideas, or (better yet), share your own reflections in the Comment section below. Thanks for reading*!

Pen drawing of an acorn.


* Especially if you’re here for the minis!

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