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Inspired by Nature: How to bring nature into your art

Updated: Apr 2

I love nature and it inspires everything I do, this post is a chat about how I bring nature into my art, and how you can bring nature into your own work.


It may be obvious by now that I love nature. It fuels my art and it keeps me sane. The sound of birds makes me smile inanely. There is something about it that is so totally magical.

I'm always aiming to capture a little bit of that magic and put it in my art, and on top of that, I'm looking to preserve it by making Howell Illustration as sustainable as possible.

A digital painting from The Bird Book by Nicola Howell Hawley
A digital painting from The Bird Book by Nicola Howell Hawley


It may be stating the obvious, but if you want nature to inspire you, then get out into it. Make time to breathe it in. How many of us can say that we do that regularly in today's busy world? How many of us can say that we've left our phone behind and gone out for a walk just because?


One of my biggest influences in recent years have been the books I've read about nature. From Lucy Jones' Losing Eden and Matrescence to Peter Wohlleben's The Hidden Life of Trees, reading about it will open you up to its wonder, and the possibilities of your work.

But even if reading isn't for you, then maybe there are podcasts out there? Or YouTube channels where you can learn more about nature. If you have any recommendations, do drop them in the comments below!


Have you ever noticed the beautiful colour of rain soaked lichen on a branch as it's contrasted against the dark of the mud beneath it? It's bright, like jewels.

Make time to notice the small things, be present as you walk or sit in your garden, or play with your kids in the forest. Find the things that bring you joy, or that surprise you, and record them. You'll find inspiration there, whether it's colour, or the absence of it, the delicacy of nature's lines, it's balance, whatever element you decide to focus on, find a way to represent it.

a pen and ink drawing of dotwork leaves by Nicola Howell Hawley of Howell Illustration
A drawing of autumn leaves by Nicola Howell Hawley


Controversially, I don't keep a sketch book, and I'm only now realising that I don't necessarily have to. There is a lot of pressure on an artist to keep a sketch book, and I have absolutely no doubt that it can help some people a lot. But I have never taken well to it. It is just, not for me. I have to force myself to do it.

So, the way I work is to take photographs, I gather images on Pinterest (and you can follow me @howellillustration), I sketch rough ideas on my ipad and then delete them or go over them with neater, more fully realised ideas on different layers.

But, my point is, all my life I have heard that I must keep a sketch book, and I still hear it, even from people I admire and follow and it makes me feel like some part of me is lacking, that I am not an artist.

So I am here to tell you: do whatever the hell you want. Keep a sketchbook, don't keep a sketchbook, buy an iPad, keep all your inspiration on Pinterest, scribble on bits of paper, or better yet, go out and experience it without recording it and keep that memory and wonder in your head.

A pen and ink drawing with gouache paint of fungus on a branch by Nicola Howell Hawley
A drawing of fungus and lichen on a fallen branch by Nicola Howell Hawley

So, to bring nature into your work, ensure you make time to be in it, to appreciate it, to breathe it in. Notice the small things, read about it, and record your experiences however you want!

As always, thanks for reading!


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