Drawing things is an excellent way of learning their true shape and structure. I’m always amazed at the detail of the simplest forms – leaves, shells, mushrooms. When you start to notice the details of things, you start to wonder is there a name for that? Usually, yes. For instance, the margin of a leaf, its edge, can be entire, undulate, serrate, lacerate or crenate. I know this because I’ve got Julia Rothman’s gorgeous book Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts & Pieces of the Natural World (Storey Publishing, 2015.)
Part visual dictionary, part field guide and part celebration of life, it’s a pure delight to read. It restores a sense of wonder about the world that’s growing all around us. She starts with the earth itself, draws her way through the flora, fauna, weather and atmosphere of this complex planet. She says,
“There is no way to include even a small portion of the enormous world around us in a book of any size. Where does it end? There is an infinite amount to learn about, from the constellations to the core of the earth. I guess I think of this project as MY nature book. It’s the information I was interested in learning about, the things I wanted to draw and paint. While it is only a teeny scratch on the surface, it gave me a chance to become acquainted with plants, animals, trees, grasses, bugs, precipitation, land masses and bodies of water that I wanted to be able to name when I walked by.”
She visits Prospect Park in Brooklyn daily, which sparked her interest in knowing more about what she saw. She had help in her quest for names from John Niekrasz, her friend and naturalist, who helped her write and formulate ideas for it. It’s a magnificent accomplishment.
|I’d never heard of water bears. Where have they been all my life?|
Rothman had undertaken a similar project in a previous book, Farm Anatomy, where she did detailed drawings of the animals, crops and components of a farm. Understanding is at the heart of her work. I think these “anatomy” books should be in the reference library of every writer and artist. Even if you never get to use it in conversation, there’s something satisfying in know the name of something. And because I have such a poor memory, I love having a reference where I can look for the name again. The book is well organized and reads almost like a story. There is the big story of nature itself, and all the little details that make each life form unique.
In Nature Anatomy, Rothman includes lessons on how to paint a simple landscape, how to predict weather, how to make a seaweed facial, and how to make stuffed daylily buds, and many other ways to enjoy nature. The mini-essays that accompany the drawings are easily understood but provide a lot of scientific information. You learn how mountains were formed, the different types of bird feathers, the difference between a frog and a toad.
|And something lovely about sunsets|
It’s a great book to share with children of all ages, to get them to start seeing the complex beauty of the world around them. I like to take it to the art sessions I have with children and watch them gaze at the pictures then try to copy what they see. I’m sure it’s helping them look closer at all the nature that’s springing up around them. My 10 year old neighbor Noah and I found inky cap mushrooms and brought one home. We had such fun watching it degenerate into a pool of sticky, stinky black ink.
|We drew a mushroom, of course|
If you feel your sense of wonder has diminished, this book is just the medicine you need.
Julia Rothman is an illustrator whose work has appeared in numerous books, magazines and newspapers. She designs stationary and wallpaper from her studio in Brooklyn, New York. You can learn more about her by clicking here.
The book is beautifully bound by Storey Publishing.
|Nice folded cover|
Storey specializes in publishing practical information that encourages personal independence in harmony with the environment. You can learn more about their books by clicking here.