Excerpts from Nature Camp

In the spring, I took a “Drawing in Place” class with my favorite professor, who was about to leave on a year long sabbatical. Professor Beavers embodies many of the values I prioritize, and has shaped me both academically and personally. I’ve spent more mornings than I can count in her small corner office, covered in ink while she talks me out of my own head. And, of course, she pushes my art further.

Every morning, we’d hurtle thirty minutes out into the Virginian countryside and spend the next four hours examining leaves, dirt, and the smallest nuances of the tiniest plots of land. My most meaningful shift from class was that of viewing the woods as a place of sensory deprivation — where I go to have my head go quiet — to sensory overload. Bird calls, overflowing trees, subtle changes in the river. Trying to capture it all in my sketchbook was overwhelming, but I tried.

Additionally, our sketchbooks got trashed. Battered in backpacks, slathered in dirt. At one point, I put my sketchbook down in the mud for Birdie, our professor’s dog, to run across in the hopes that it might create some meaningful marks. I love how much of the Nature Camp experience came across in the book.

Here are some of the pages that most embody the experience.

grace smith