Intertidal drawing workshop brings coastal residents closer to nature

Homer artist Kim McNett helped Petersburg residents get up close and personal with life on the coast in mid-May, teaching them how to create a nature journal.

After spending a week in the Petersburg elementary school as part of the Artist in the Schools residency program through the Alaska State Council on the Arts, McNett stayed for the weekend to teach workshops for adults as part of the area’s Rainforest Festival. Alaska Sea Grant’s agent in Petersburg, Sunny Rice, was a Festival cofounder, and Alaska Sea Grant is a sponsor.

drawings in sketchbook
A page of sketches by Homer artist Kim McNett from her Rainforest Festival workshop. Photo by Sunny Rice/Alaska Sea Grant.

The first day of that weekend, McNett taught her technique for drawing coastal mini landscapes, or “landscapitos.” These small scenes are well-suited for a journal, and can be used to illustrate the setting or habitat for items described in detail in the journal. 

The next morning, participants got up early to catch the 7:30 a.m. low tide where the fast-flowing Wrangell Narrows meets the broader Frederick Sound. The rich intertidal area included chitons, kelp, crabs and tube worms, and the participants spent the morning exploring, photographing, and collecting small specimens to take back to a nearby shelter to sketch in their journals.

McNett used white gouache—an opaque watercolor—to help give intertidal sketches a wet look.

Sunny Rice described her experience as a participant. “Sketching makes you look at things really slowly and closely, and that makes you ask all these questions about why it grows like that, or why in that location, and pretty soon you’ve learned something completely new about this thing you’ve seen hundreds of times.”