Artful Science: Learning by drawing

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Work in progress: illustration of a Wyoming toad (© B.G. Merkle, 2017)
One of my favorite things about being an artist is getting to learn about other people’s science.

For example, in the past couple of years, I’ve learned:

  • about traditional ecological knowledge relating to caribou genetics (link)
  • several fish species build nests (link; my take)
  • citizen science is helping Wyoming biologists track amphibian populations (link)
  • bees have germs, and these germs can be studied (link)
  • dogs are a big concern when trying to reintroduce bighorn sheep near cities in the Southwest (link)
  • you can make pants for frogs (link; my take)
  • there are many different ways to measure biodiversity (link)

It’s been pretty neat to learn about all these things, and I’m excited to think there’s no telling what I’ll learn about next!

Sketching Tip: Sketching your notes at conferences, meetings & in class

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Notes from a training I did in preparation to volunteer for an amphibian monitoring citizen science project in Wyoming.

These tips are excerpted from an earlier article I wrote highlighting many ways that sketchnotes are being used by scientists. The following tips, though, are broadly applicable for many kinds of note-taking situations. Continue reading Sketching Tip: Sketching your notes at conferences, meetings & in class

Sketchbook Snapshot: Mystery Moth

One foggy morning, I found this moth on the back steps of the cabin where I stayed in June (at the UW Research Station in Grand Teton National Park).

I spent a fair bit of time with this one, like I do with nearly every moth I can get my hands on.

I sketched it from a couple of angles (right to left on the page). Each time, I aimed for increased precision with how I recorded the markings on both front and hind wings. I figured the placement of the spots and bars would be key for identifying it.

When I looked through the insect ID guides in the research station library, I could only find one on moths: Moths of Western North America by Jerry A. Powell and Paul A. Opler. It’s approximately 500 pages, a hardcover reference, not a field guide. There are 65 pages of color photos (roughly 25% of “each family, subfamily, and larger genus” are depicted). Using only those images, I couldn’t figure out what the moth was. The closest I could get was something in the family Noctuidae. Continue reading Sketchbook Snapshot: Mystery Moth

Commissioning SciArt Illustrations? Know what you want and what you can spend. (Using Images-A Best Practices Primer, Part 6)

This article is the sixth in a series aimed at helping you enhance your #scicommand #sciart by avoiding #visualplagiarism. It will do so by laying out some best practices for dealing with images (which are, by their nature) visual intellectual property protected by copyrights.

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, and no part of this article or series should be construed as legal advice. 

Please chime in, in the comments or by contacting me, if you have suggestions for how to enhance this article or the series.

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Knowing what you want can make commissioning illustrations way more efficient and enjoyable. This entails planning ahead, being decisive, making lots of choices, and balancing budget vs. other constraints. (Lepidoptera sketches from Saskatchewan, Canada; ©2017)

PLAN AHEAD, SO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU WANT AND WHAT YOU CAN SPEND.

In the last article, we discussed contract considerations, which are the core of any commissioned illustration project.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some other important elements of planning an illustration project. To increase efficiency (which usually helps with budgeting), do what you can to know what you want and how much you can spend before you approach an illustrator and ask if they are interested in working with you. Continue reading Commissioning SciArt Illustrations? Know what you want and what you can spend. (Using Images-A Best Practices Primer, Part 6)

SciArt illustration contracts for your science communication project (Using Images-A Best Practices Primer, Part 5)

This article is the fifth in a series aimed at helping you enhance your #scicommand #sciart by avoiding #visualplagiarism. It will do so by laying out some best practices for dealing with images (which are, by their nature) visual intellectual property protected by copyrights.

NOTE: I am not a lawyer, and no part of this article or series should be construed as legal advice. 

Please chime in, in the comments or by contacting me, if you have suggestions for how to enhance this article or the series.

Placing lid on vial_sig
Hiring an illustrator doesn’t have to feel like wizardry. A well-written contract can simplify and enhance the experience. (Student assessing stream water quality, ©2017)

FAIR-TO-GENEROUS ILLUSTRATION CONTRACTS

In addition to the 4Cs of commissioning SciArt, there are four major considerations you will need to take into account when you work with an illustrator.

They are: contracts, what you want, your time frame, and what you can spend. This article breaks down the first of those, contracts. Continue reading SciArt illustration contracts for your science communication project (Using Images-A Best Practices Primer, Part 5)