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"Grounded in place, the study natural history lets us discover the wondrous complexity of life held in a single plot of earth. Wildflowers, trees, useful and medicinal plants, animals, birds, insects -- even the very earth whispers an ancient tale of place. The plant community is dictated by the soil itself, aided and informed by the microcosm of water and weather, and from these feeding all that find their homes here. The first links of the food chain are forged underfoot.

"Keeping a field journal, making sketches, developing paintings, writing about our observations, taking time to stop and really see, or try to -- all this is more than a way to capture what we find beautiful or curious or riveting in nature, it is a key to a relationship. It is healing to find the transcendent in what some see as the everyday."


Johnson combines her passion for history and natural history with a special interest in the pioneering naturalists, wherever -- and whenever -- they may be found. Whether


Some of Johnson's "pioneering naturalists" display for the Lewis and Clark event she does at Fort Osage National Historic Site.

Peter Kalm’s 18th century journey to America or Maria Sibylla Merian's of a half century before, Lewis and Clark’s Expedition of Discovery in 1804 or Ann Zwinger’s exploration of her beloved desert southwest in this century and the one just past, Johnson feels we have much to learn from those who have stepped beyond the known to discover the vast gift that is nature. (See historic naturalists.)

She has written on the subject of the historic naturalists for The Artist’s Magazine, Country Living, and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute. She has also penned a number of natural history books as well as articles for magazines like Sierra, Country Life, Early American Life, Harrowsmith, and Sports Afield, and has painted literally thousands of natural history subjects.

Johnson believes in the importance of keeping a field journal to allow us to learn about the immense and intimate environment, whether at home or a thousand miles away. She has done workshops on field sketching for the Missouri Department of Conservation and the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Center in Liberty, Missouri, and recommends related resources for MLTNS and for the Missouri Department of Conservation nature centers.

Much of her art appears on the MLTNS website; she designs a membership print for them each year. The one shown below is a montage of prints done over a 25 year period.

Click on artwork for enlargements.



Journal sketch of mountains outside Salt Lake City airport, pen and ink and watercolor.


Jack-in-the-pulpit, field sketch-opaque gouache on black paper.

At left is a pencil sketch of types of tree bark, from The Naturalist's Path.



At right, pencil sketch of mushrooms found after a week of rain, from The Naturalist's Path.



The frog above was done as an illustration for one of Johnson's columns in Country Living, "The Naturalist."



Johnson does the print for the Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary every year; this is the 20th Anniversary print.

Links:
Sierra Club Books
Martha Lafite Thompson Nature Sanctuary
Missouri Department of Conservation
Roger Tory Peterson Institute
Hannah Hinchman


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