Illustrating Ecology…conferences, that is

*Images are from the ‘drawing for scientists’ section I led in a scicomm workshop at ESA’s 2014 annual meeting.

Researchers have demonstrated that drawing (even without training) can help clarify what you know, assist instructors in assessing student knowledge, and enhance public communication efforts. And, there is evidence that collaboration between scientists and artists may result in better science.

This makes sense, because the history of science and art are closely intertwined.

Prior to the advent of cameras, scientific inquiry required drawing. The drawings and paintings of Leonardo da VinciMaria Sybilla MerianJohn James Audubon, or the maps drawn by Samuel Champlain and Lewis & Clark were tools and data that drove scientific discoveries around the world.

Fast forward to the modern era – our understanding of the world back then would be impoverished had those scientists and citizens not made drawings. At the same time, we now collectively avoid sketching because drawing has become art, and art (like science) has become specialized.

And yet, drawing is not a domain exclusive to the pros.  

After all, the curiosity, close observation, recording, and critical thinking required for drawing should seem quite familiar to any scientist.

This is exactly why I led a drawing workshop for scientists at a conference this weekend.

On August 10th, a year of dreamin’, schemin’, and planning culminated in a multimedia workshop focused on building a science communication toolkit for scientists. We covered writing, photography, audio/video, and…DRAWING!

Seeds, leaves, and other plant parts gathered outside convention center for use during sketching exercises.
Seeds, leaves, and other plant parts gathered outside convention center for use during sketching exercises.

I led the section on drawing and sketching, and had a blast leading blind contour, tracing, shadow tracing, and rubbing (frottage) exercises for a roomful of scientists and science communicators. Perrin Ireland chimed in with great techniques for doodling – people, emotions, using colors, designing your page, etc.

Some of the participants shared their sketches and reactions on social media, as you can see. I’ll be sketching throughout the conference, as will some of the workshop participants (I hope!), and I’ll keep updating to reflect additional material we generate.

Even better, workshop participants will also be producing video, photographs, and creative writing pieces reflecting on their science and that of other scientists at the conference. All that ‘Scicomm by Scientists’ will be shared on our workshop’s website and some of it will be featured on ESA’s Ecotone blog. Tune in to both spaces for lots of great content about science, by scientists!

Meanwhile, if you want to try your hand at the techniques I taught today, check out the advance release of my Guide to Sketching and Journal Basics. All of the workshop exercises I led are detailed in the guide. 

We also developed a multimedia resource guide for the workshop, and my section on sketching includes lots of links and tips. Feel free to make use of it.

Happy sketching, and let me know how it goes!


3 Replies to “Illustrating Ecology…conferences, that is”

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