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Rasmuson award recipient combines art, wilderness and science in her journals

If you’ve ever stopped to look at animal track in the woods or were fascinated by a unique plant, you have something in common with Kim McNett. She’s one of the three Homer artists to win a Rasmuson Foundation award this year. McNett sketches and writes about nature in her journal but she plans to add a little color to her craft.

Kim McNett has already hiked the Calvin and Coyle Nature Trail in Homer a handful of times this season. Still, she finds something new today: a red squirrel chewing a spruce cone.

She stands below the squirrel and starts rifling through bits of spruce cones chewed up by red squirrels like this one. She said this is a perfect scene to explore in her nature journal, which holds her detailed observations and scaled drawings. Her entries are inspired by questions.

"So one thing I could do is I could look at this, and I might question, does this bract have to be a certain size in order for it to have a big enough seed for the squirrel to care about?" she asked. 

If you act like an expert, McNett said you lose out.

“So if we walk down the trail I could say, ‘Oh that's a nettle, that's pushki, that's horsetail, I know all this stuff right?’” she said.  “If I walk on the path and I just am justifying to myself all the information that I've already learned or know, I'm not open to now learning something new or discovering something new.”

McNett learned how to do nature journaling through a course in college and said it changes the way she looks at nature.

“Almost always after I finished making a drawing of something, I've noticed something about it that I didn't notice before,” she said.

McNett has a formal background in science. But when it comes to art, she’s self-taught. She said she wants to carve out time to learn more about artistic techniques and that means using color. As part of her Rasmuson grant, she’s been experimenting with different forms of color and brush markers.

McNett colored her journals occasionally before but not often. Now, she is trying to learn everything she can about the subject.

I kind of realized that color is this important element to what we see and how we identify a lot of species and so on that very simple sense, if my drawings were colored, they'd be more representative of the real thing and that's always been an underlying goal,” she said.

She wants her art to spike other’s people’s curiously about nature.

I believe that if we knew more about and had a more personal connection to our wild places and our intact habitats we'd have more motivation and incentive to preserve them and to ensure that they remain on this planet indefinitely into the future,” she said.

She hopes some of her final pieces may end up at Two Sisters Bakery, which already showcases some of her art. But she’s not sure yet about a gallery opening. Just like in science, she said the biggest value in art isn’t the product but the exploration.

For those who are interested in starting a nature journal, McNett is holding a workshop on August 17 at the Wynn Nature Center.

Renee joined KBBI in 2017 as a general assignment reporter and host. Her work has appeared on such shows as Weekend Edition Saturday, The World, Marketplace and Studio 360. Renee previously interned as a reporter for KPCC in Los Angeles and as a producer for Stateside at Michigan Radio. Her work has earned her numerous press club awards. She holds an M.S. in journalism from the University of Southern California and a B.A. in women's studies from the University of Michigan.
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