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!

Summer 2017 newsletter: Drawing on windows, making fish & more art-science tips

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Happy summer, dear readers!

I trust this finds you enjoying the weather and doing a bit of sketching. It’s hot in my corner of the Mountain West. I’m writing you from my basement – the only space where it is cool enough to think. But, happily, along with the heat comes garden season, complete with loads of the pollinators I so love to watch and draw. Speaking of which, this is my third year gardening at 7,200 feet above sea level, and it’s a garden in a new part of town.

On top of moving, there are other reasons why it was a busy spring. I successfullydefended my master’s thesis and started a new job. I published a blog series about using the internet to source images for SciComm. I’ve also been co-editing a blog featuring the wide range of career paths possible in SciComm. And, I did some traveling and teaching about art-science synergy, collaborate on communicating about migration, and more. Also,CommNatural is on Instagram now!

As a result of my transition to a new job and all this other busyness, I’m shifting this newsletter from monthly to quarterly. That will ensure I can still connect with you, and share ideas and field experiences, while also giving attention to this new work. Meanwhile, I’ll be posting material on the blog more frequently. I will reference some of it in the newsletter each quarter.

If you’d like to keep up as material is published, and don’t want to miss any of it, please subscribe to my blog. Just visit the website, scroll to the bottom, and provide your email address in the subscription bar! Thanks in advance for subscribing there.

As always, feel free to share* this newsletter with your  friends & colleagues. And do share your sketches & SciArt adventures with me via email or social media!

Happy sketching,

Summer 2017 Table of Contents

  • Insight: E.O. Wilson on drawing & creativity
  • Sketching tip: Drawing on windows
  • Artful Classrooms: Using resin sculptures and drawing to learn about cichlid (fish) phylogeny (genetic relationships)
  • Artful Science: A best-practices primer for using images
  • Sketchbook Snapshot: A mystery moth
  • News & Events: Upcoming science communication graduate course; field sketching workshops for the Wyoming Outdoor Council; recent publications, including a book featuring my illustrations of bighorn sheep; get your summer sketching kits while they’re still in stock
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Teaching teachers to integrate cichlid phylogeny, resin sculptures, and drawing in k12+ classrooms

The longer I am involved with art-science integration, the more time I get to spend teaching teachers — teaching them how to use drawing in science education.

Cichlid specimen (R) & cichlid sculptural models (L)

It’s an incredible perk of the work I do, as I’ve written about before.

In June, I co-taught a Summer Teaching Institute focused on “Exploring Art & Science.” The institute was organized by the University of Wyoming Art Museum’s Education Curator Katie Christensen, along with Master Teacher Heather Bender, and Artmobile Coordinator Erica Ramsey. Together, they and the rest of the Art Museum team are great advocates and partners for art-science work on campus and beyond.

During the institute, my teaching focus was drawing-based science learning and assessment strategies. We started with basic drawing techniques. I walked participants through a toolkit development session which involved lots of practice drawing.

Continue reading Teaching teachers to integrate cichlid phylogeny, resin sculptures, and drawing in k12+ classrooms

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.

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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)