Incorporating Drawing into Natural History & Science

Nature header_wordpress

For years, I have indulged in the overlap between art and science, both personally and professionally, through the simple act of drawing.

2013_bison summer sketches (15)_aspen shadows_cleanOne of my favorite parts of this work is sharing it with others.  That’s why I’ve developed an intro guide that explains some of the basic principles and exercises I share in my classes and workshops.

While the materials in this guide focus on science and nature, the sketching exercises and basic principles are equally useful if you want to sketch your garden, coffee cup, or next trip.

Download the advance copy of the guide and give it a try ($11.95/download). And better yet, keep reading to learn a bit more about how science and art have teamed up throughout the ages.

FREE downloads are available only until September 2014!
Download the advance copy ($11.95/download).

What’s with the science + art combo?

Actually, the history of art and science are closely intertwined.

Prior to the advent of cameras, scientific inquiry required drawing.  

Think of the drawings and paintings of Leonardo da Beetle & Kinnickinnick_cropVinciMaria Sybilla MerianJohn James Audubon, or the maps drawn by Samuel Champlain and the Lewis & Clark expedition. Additionally, most people with an interest in the natural world were trained to make basic drawings of what they observed.  Their illustrated journals and drawings persist as tangible records of discoveries, adventures and personal experiences.

This ability has lapsed as a public tradition, but it persists in some ways 

as a profession (scientific illustration) and as an avocation for many naturalists and enthusiasts of the natural world.  Certainly, professionals like Cathy JohnsonVal WebbClare Walker Leslie, and David Allen Sibley make it look easy.

Limber pineAnd yet, drawing is not a domain exclusive to the pros.  Without much training, it is still possible to render what you see in a way that informs and delights you.

Even in the digital age, hand-rendered reflections of the natural world still possess the power to transfix us, and make us long for the ability to do something like it.  Furthermore, researchers such as Felice Frankel and her colleagues have demonstrated that drawing (even without training) can help clarify what you know, assist instructors in assessing student knowledge, and refine public communication efforts by identifying key concepts.


Contact me (Bethann) to plan a facilitated art+science experience for your students, organization or conference.*

Want to give sketching a try?

Click here to download

This guide provides an introduction to field sketching/journaling and three foundational drawing techniques (bonus, there’s actually 5!) ideal for nature-based sketching.

Don’t worry if you are not trying to make “fine art.”  Without much training, it is still possible to render what you see in a way that informs and delights you.

If you try these sketching exercises, be sure to let me know how it goes.  I’d love to hear your questions and suggestions, and of course, I’d like to see your sketches.

Marché de Vieux-Porte (10.13.2012)_marche point com rs


*Yes, I illustrate for a wide range of clients, and I love it.  At the same time, I really get a kick out of sharing the fun with others.   

Check my calendar for upcoming workshops, and know that I’m always looking for more opportunities.

My drawing workshops are appropriate for:

  • Scientists, professors, university students and nonprofits conducting research.
  • Teachers, students, and nonprofits interested in incorporating sketching into classroom and conservation education (think Art+STEM = STEAM).
  • Individuals and groups who want to start, or enhance, their nature sketching/field journal practice.

We can focus on teaching you to facilitate sketching in your classroom, use drawings as a student assessment tool, or concentrate on teaching you or someone else how to draw.

Want to know a bit more? See my Guide to Sketching & Field Journal Basics ($11.95/download) for details about how drawing can enhance your research, communication, learning, and teaching/assessment efforts.

I have taught sketching and field journaling for nearly a decade.

I’ve taught teachers and professors, k12 and university students, and even “senior university” students. I’ve worked with organizations like the Boone & Crockett Club, the Watershed Education Network, the University of Montana’s Wilderness Institute, and even the U.S. Consulate in Quebec City. See what folks think of my workshops and classes.

Contact me today to plan a drawing lesson or workshop for yourself, staff or research colleagues, or your students.

2 thoughts on “Incorporating Drawing into Natural History & Science

  1. I used your facilitated nature drawing exercises with two groups I taught this weekend at Harvard Forest, and even though I’m not an artist, they thought I was! Thanks for the resources. C. Hart, Harvard Forest Outreach & Development Manager for Education & Research Programs

  2. Appreciating the persistence you put into your site and detailed information you provide.

    It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that
    isn’t the same old rehashed material. Excellent read!
    I’ve saved your site and I’m including your RSS feeds
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