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Watercolors have long felt out of reach for me. I am not a natural artist, but I learned to sketch and draw while doing my landscape degree and dabbled in nature journaling, even going so far as to take a watercolor sketching class. Despite my lack of success with watercolors, I am still drawn to them.

Recently, I began sketching in a journal with a black brush pen and had so much fun using it that I started to sketch nudibranchs. It wasn’t long until the allure of watercolors returned to me as I looked at the nudibranchs I had sketched. Nudis are so colorful it seemed wrong to leave them as simple black and white illustrations, so I dusted off my watercolor set and my partially filled nature journal and set to work.

My first attempt at watercoloring a nudibranch was surprisingly decent and I was encouraged to do more. I found that drawing and then coloring the nudibranchs was a soothing activity, especially while sitting outside in the spring sunshine and listening to the birds. It’s also a good mindfulness practice as I focus my attention on the nudibranch. One of the benefits of taking the time to draw an organism, whether it’s a nudibranch, plant or slime mold, is it allows me to really study it in a way that simply looking at it doesn’t do.

Below is a gallery of some of the nudibranchs I’ve drawn over the last month. Some were more successful than others, but all teach me something, either about how to use the pen and watercolors, or about the nudibranchs.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction. Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.

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