I’ve been wanting to start a perpetual journal for a while now and I finally dove in! I wanted to do a quick writeup since several friends have asked me about it.

First off, what is a perpetual journal, you ask? It’s the brainchild of Lara Call Gastinger, and in a nutshell you do a sketch (or two!) a week on a two-page spread in a journal. As the years go by your journal fills up with a record of your observations. Lara does botanicals — which is right up my alley — but I think you could fill your journal with whatever you like. (Random fact about me: I served as the president of the Austin Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas for two years.)

My first sketch of a glorious goldenrod in the neighborhood! Why is yellow so hard to photo?


Let me know if you have any questions! I’ll be posting more about the journal in the days to come and I can’t wait to see how it progresses over the years!

Categories: Gear


Bob Cochran · September 27, 2022 at 4:35 pm

Hi Lisa, this is a really interesting post, I think I should try doing the same thing — starting a perpetual journal. Some questions. What decided you to actually start the journal (as opposed to wanting to start one?) Was Lara the prime motivator? Or someone in your family? Is there a “Native Plant Society of Ohio”? If so, are you involved in that too? Enjoy the journal!

    Lisa Spangler · September 27, 2022 at 5:26 pm

    Hi Bob! You always ask the best questions! Seeing Lara’s talk during the Wild Wonder conference pushed me over the edge — I’ve been wanting to start one for years and it just seemed like the perfect time to start one. In 2017 I sketched every single day and I really miss doing that but wasn’t ready for such a big commitment — this way it’s kind of similar but low pressure!

    It looks like there’s a Midwest Native Plant Society that includes Ohio — here’s the link: https://www.midwestnativeplants.org/

      Bob Cochran · September 27, 2022 at 5:49 pm

      Hi Lisa, thank you so much for responding. Thank you so much for the compliments. I myself am a native of Massachusetts but I’ve in Maryland most of my life and have no plans to leave. I’m in the heavily urban Washington, D.C. area. So when you write of prairie preservation, pocket prairies, and native plant species, I pay attention because here in Maryland we have endangered native plant species too. At least one species of pitcher plant, for example. I would like to see those plants better protected and encouraged.

      The photo you posted above is quite interesting.for me. The background shows a flood of sunlight from your window, but the foreground is well shaded. I’m wondering how much ambient light conditions influence your drawing and painting. Both are truly superb, of course. I am imagining that when you are painting outside, you have to deal with very harsh lighting conditions. Do you try to control or filter the ambient lighting? Maybe with an umbrella? Or other strategies to get shade of various depths? Or do you just paint in any light conditions? How about inside…do you have light stands to increase your ambient light? Or do you need to shade your work area?

        Lisa Spangler · September 28, 2022 at 8:22 am

        Hi Bob! Pitcher plants are so cool! We have some in East Texas but they’re pretty rare — and smaller than what I expected!

        I love my sunny desk! I have a curtain that I pull across if the light starts making harsh shadows, but I mostly just leave it open. When I’m painting outside I just hunt for shade — especially in summer! I don’t have room to carry around a lot of gear but I’ve seen other painters do it. Just seems like too much of a hassle. I do wear a big straw hat with lots of brim and my painting area is usually shaded by it. I’ve learned to keep my palettes in the shade as well — otherwise the paints can do weird things!

Bob Cochran · October 4, 2022 at 7:17 pm

Hi Lisa, the idea of a perpetual journal now seems very timely for me. Early last month, I signed up for a local watercolor painting class, and was on a waiting list. This morning, I was notified that I’m in the class. I am most excited about this. Perhaps I can begin a journal and follow your suggestion of doing one painting a day.

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