Nature’s canvas

Melissa Polak (Photo by Albert Law)

Melissa Polak (Photo by Albert Law)

Melissa Polak’s journal helps her connect to nature in a more meaningful way through plein air sketching.

I remember the first time I walked through Stanley Park when I moved to Vancouver, BC. I was struck by the awe-inspiring cedars, tall pines and new growth that fought for a glimpse of sunshine among the ancient trees. The mossy forest floor embracing small, ice-cold streams, carrying water to all the forest and its motley crew of residents.

Like all things that become familiar, it is easy to lose your sense of wonderment in nature. Your routine walk, the one where you used to trip over your own feet because your eyes were darting around all the fresh growth hidden underneath the tree canopy, is slowly invaded by to-do lists and thoughts of dinner.

I started bringing my journal on walks with me so I could have a moment of forced contemplation while outside. Once, on a work trip to Montreal and after a rewarding walk up Mont Royal, I really wanted to capture the beautiful cityscape in a more meaningful way than my smartphone would allow. I suddenly found myself dabbling with plein air sketching. The beauty of sketching outside is how it forces you to appreciate and notice the little details. How a tree winds and curves, the pattern of needles on a single branch, the way the light filters through the layered canopy and creates shadows.

Whether it’s in the backwoods of the BC wilderness or in my own backyard near Vancouver’s English Bay, sketching in my journal has helped me fall in love with all of my favourite nature spots all over again!

This story originally appeared in the spring 2021 issue of the Nature Conservancy of Canada Magazine. To learn more about how you can receive the magazine, click here.

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