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The Artistry of Nature

A chat with visiting artist Vicky Earle

photo by Ingrid Wray

Village residents were treated to a visit and a chat earlier this month with nature and science artist Vicky Earle. Resident and event organizer Ingrid Wray says that Earle is an accomplished artist, "who has a talent for inspiring love of the tiniest details in your own back garden through observation, journaling and drawing."

Turnout for the event was so great that a second nearly sold-out event is set for May 5, and another is planned for the fall.

The Watershed invited Earle to share a bit of her magic with readers:

Watershed: How did you find your way into the world of life-drawing in nature?

VE: Both being in nature and creating art has always been part of my life. I'm incredibly fortunate to have grown up in a time when kids could play and explore outside on their own. Most all kids like to draw and make art. I'm equally grateful my parents supported any art endeavour I happened to be interested in from a young age. I happened to be good at science, so I think the journey combining art, nature and science really started when the science teacher at school asked me to draw posters of things we were studying ... like earthworms!

WS: What is your favourite medium? The production of art has changed so much over the past few years. How much has the world of the computer come into your work?

VE: For botanical and nature related art, my "go to" medium is watercolour. For nature sketchbook journaling, I use a combination of ink, watercolour and pencil. I love the hands-on feel of a brush or pen in the hand and the immediacy of putting things down on paper. For medical art, I was trained in all the traditional media: pen and ink, airbrush, watercolour, pastel, but everything is of course digital now. It was a big shift when computers came on the scene, but it is actually a more forgiving way to work –especially when revisions are needed. I work with a Wacom tablet and stylus which mimics working with a pencil or brush on paper. My background in traditional techniques has had a positive influence in the way I think about and work on the computer.

WS: Being an artist is a notoriously precarious way to make a living. What's it like as a medical and scientific illustrator? Is there enough work to keep a roof over your head or are you run off your feet with commissions?

VE: I chose medical and scientific illustration as a career path because first, it combined my two passions of art and science and secondly, it seemed a more financially secure route to go. I worked for UBC for 25 years and had offices in various teaching hospitals over that time – Shaughnessy, BC Children's, Vancouver General and UBC campus. There are still a few companies, largely back East, that either specialize in medical art and animation, or have an illustration department. Nowadays however, most medical illustrators have their own freelance business. There are many areas you can specialize in, but being flexible is key. Like any freelance business, the workload tends to ebb and flow.

WS: According to your website, your work has featured in many different formats over the years, including textbooks, websites and animation. Of which project are you the most proud?

VE: My most recent book "Exploring Vancouver Naturehoods: An artist's sketchbook journal" published by Midtown Press is of course my pride and joy. There are a few others as well. For medical illustration, I'm quite proud of my contributions for the textbook series "Clinical Sports Medicine "by Brukner and Khan. We are currently in the middle of working on three volumes for 6th edition, published by McGraw Hill. For science illustration, I'm delighted to have provided botanical artwork for Green Teams Canada Educational Signage on identifying local native/invasive plants. These are used for their stewardship and restoration projects. I'm also proud of my ongoing Lower Mainland Ecosystem Mandala Project, supported by the 'Rob and Sharon Butler Artists for Conservation' grant. I'm creating mandalas showcasing the biodiversity of nature communities found within different ecosystems found throughout Metro Vancouver.  Each mandala includes endangered species and species at risk in each of those habitats and in future, will be on display at various kiosks in Metro Vancouver parks to help folks connect with our incredible, local biodiversity.

WS: Readers have noticed that that DrawInNature is an anagram of DarwinNature. Intentional in-joke (or maybe just a subconscious reference?) 

VE: Ha! completely subconscious reference. I chose the name for two reasons: to go out and 'draw in nature' and also to experience and internally "draw in" nature for personal well being.

WS: The topic of your discussion here in the village was exploring 'naturehood', and taking the time to admire nature in our own backyards. Why is this important?

VE: There are so many benefits for us – both by being out in nature and being creative. Our bodies and minds reap those benefits when we make time for either one. But when we combine the two by being creative in nature (like spending time nature journaling), it's a huge win-win.  Exploring nature in your neighbourhood – your "naturehood"– fosters a deep sense of connection to your community on many levels. Whether that naturehood is in your backyard, local park, street outside or mountaintop, our communities are more than ‘just us’ and include all of the species that reside alongside us. For example, the chickadees that nest in the alleyway, the butterflies that come in the spring and the rogue crocus flower popping through the sidewalk. Nature stories are unfolding all around us and when we pay attention, they can evoke a sense of awe, curiosity and a sense of connection, things that many folks are missing in day-to-day life. That's why I love being invited to give presentations. I'm delighted to share the benefits and things I continue to learn through my creating my book, sketchbook journaling and just being outside.

WS: Your topic also covered journaling. Is this a good direction for people who aren't practiced at drawing?

VE: Nature journaling is for anyone at any age. It combines writing, drawing, asking questions and engaging all of your senses. There are no hard and fast rules for nature journaling – if you like to write, write more. If you like to draw, draw more. It's really about connecting with the world around you more intentionally ... whatever that looks like for you. Drawing is like learning anything: a new language, playing an instrument, riding a bike. The more time you spend putting in "pencil miles", the more satisfied and easier it becomes.

Many thanks to Vicky Earle for sharing her time with us. To learn more about Earle and her work, check out her websites and, or she can be found on Instagram and twitter at @drawinnature.

To get more information on her upcoming workshop, contact

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