When on a walk through a park or a woods, there is often a temptation to pick a wildflower or slip a beautiful rock into a pocket. But, in many places where hiking is common, rules and regulations forbid gathering wild things. Not only that, flowers that look so lovely on the prairie or in the fields quickly lose their beauty when they are taken.


When on a walk through a park or a woods, there is often a temptation to pick a wildflower or slip a beautiful rock into a pocket. But, in many places where hiking is common, rules and regulations forbid gathering wild things. Not only that, flowers that look so lovely on the prairie or in the fields quickly lose their beauty when they are taken.

But there is a way to bring the beauty of nature home without physically damaging it,  and that is to record it in a sketch or a field book.

Field sketching is an ancient practice which began long before humans could take photographs. Sketching nature was done by people of all classes. Young girls often took to the woods to sketch, as did students and explorers. Among the most well-known sketch books in American history are those of the famous explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.

These men, sent to explore the West by President Jefferson, wrote notes and made field sketches of the plants, land animals, fish, birds and other natural elements they encountered.
But the art of field sketching is not lost, and some beautiful examples of it are currently on display at the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center at Redings Mill, just south of Joplin on Highway 86.

Sketches in this display were done by Cynthia Padilla, a noted painter and sketch book artist. Her work has been exhibited in museums and art galleries throughout the nation. Her exhibition at the Wildcat Glades and Audubon Center, titled "Feather, Flower, Insect, Egg," is free and open to the public.

This sketchbook exhibition has been set up partially to promote a forthcoming seminar at the Center to be taught by Cynthia Padilla. The two-day workshop "Field Sketching: An Ozark Spring" is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, May 16 & 17. Along with the instructor, students will "ramble" over local trails, observing wildflowers, native grasses and wildlife. Padilla will give sketching instructions and demonstrate sketching techniques.

Those interested in the workshop should contact the Audubon Center at 417-782-6287 for information on fees and registration.

However, anyone interested in seeing beautiful examples of field sketching is encouraged to visit the Audubon Center, during regular business hours, and view the exhibit which will be on display until May 16.

Although the exhibit is small, it is an eyeful. Each sketch features a plant and information the artist gathered where the plant was found. Most sketches also include another interesting look at nature such as a bird or insect.

Some of the subjects included in the exhibit are a golden eye daisy, an Arizona poppy, and a Turk's cap.

Field sketching has almost become a dying art, but the beauty and simplicity of it is worth seeing and learning to do. The same techniques used in field sketching can also be used for many purposes. In days past, many sketchers decorated their letters with botanical or wildlife drawing in the margins of letters, turning an ordinary letter into a thing of beauty to be treasured for generations.

Perhaps a visit to see Padilla's sketches will start a local revival in field sketching. Her work is a good example of an artistic way to study and "bring home" some of nature's beauties. Field sketching guarantees those wildflowers will never die.