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

Toad 5x5
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

Sketching Tip: How few materials can you bring?

Sketching any time, any where, gets easier with practice. But planning for sketching helps, too.

I discussed a couple of ideas for planning in the April 2016 newsletter. Those tips focused on paring down your materials to essentials and sketching from photos so you’re a little more familiar with subject matter when you sketch it in real life. Click here to read those tips.

Let’s take those ideas a step further, and figure out what, exactly, to bring along.

Having materials ready means I can grab the appropriate (and/or most convenient) set-up and be ready to go at a moment’s notice. And, having sketching materials along means I’m way more likely to sketch!

Along with some sort of sketchbook, I always have one of the following kits in my pocket, purse, or backpack when I leave the house:

Micro kit: small container with eraser, pencil sharpener, half-pencil, half-watercolor pencils in primary colors, mini waterbrush, and scrap of fabric for a blotting cloth (a corner of an old washcloth works well). This kit is 4 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ x 3/4″, smaller than the palm of my hand. (See top photo.)

Mini kit: Instead of a small metal container, I use a travel toothbrush case. This can hold full-length pen, pencil, a small eraser, half-watercolor pencils, and a mini waterbrush. If I really pack it tight, I can squeeze in a small blotting cloth or a sharpener.

Medium kit: I use a Derwent watercolor tin that has a removable metal tray. This enables me to fill the bottom layer with a combo of full-size and half-size pencils, pens, full-size or mini waterbrush, eraser, sharpener, blotting cloth, and odds and ends. Sometimes that’s all I bring. But, I can also include the removable tray, and layer in a lightweight plastic watercolor palette, enabling me to bring quite a lot of materials in a fairly compact container. The tin I use, when filled and closed, measures 7″ x 4″ x 1 1/2″. (See image below.)

Looking for handy sketching materials of your own?

I have the mini (toothbrush holder) kits and larger kits available for purchase in my online shop! Choose from a lightweight paper-back sketchbook or a hardback sketchbook with multimedia paper; all other materials are consistent in both kits.

Sketching Tip: Insects

Rob Dunn Lab_Bee Germs_Students Discover
A draft illustration that didn’t ultimately wind up in the final image (©BGMerkle, 2016)
It’s still summer where I live (though not for long – we’re at 7200′ in elevation!). The bees and wasps are honing in on crab apples falling in my yard and arugula bolting in my garden. A bumble bee I spotted the other day reminded me of some bees I drew a while back, and I went digging for my sketchbook.

Almost a year ago, I was thrilled to recently receive a commission to illustrate native bees. I did a series of them, compiled into two illustrations that are be featured on a “Bee Germs” citizen science lesson developed by the Your Wild Life/Students Discover project.

Drawing these insects took my back to my science illustration roots. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I started my career drawing aquatic macroinvertebrates (caddisflies, mayflies, etc.). And, when I’m sketching, I spend a lot of time looking at moths.

A glimpse at my sketchbooks and you’ll see I think sketching most any insect is a blast!

Click on an image to view enlarged/full image.

And so, I thought I’d pass along some insect sketching tips.*

Continue reading Sketching Tip: Insects

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

201707_commnatural_newsletter_screenshot1.png
Click image to view full newsletter.

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
201707_commnatural_newsletter_screenshot2.png
Click image to view full newsletter.

 

 

Sketching Tip: Drawing on Windows

This is a simple short cut for situations when you have a complicated landscape to draw, and you don’t feel up to it, or don’t have the time.

20160305_Biodiversity Institute workshop (81)_cr_c_sig

I recommend a wet-erase marker (like the ones that used to be standard equipment when using an overhead projector). These markers will enable you to re-use your window, along with ensuring that your sketch doesn’t smudge (as might happen if you use a dry-erase marker).

The basic idea here is to “trace” the scene outside your window. Really, that’s it. 🙂  What you get from drawing on a window, though, is a bit more nuanced.

Continue reading Sketching Tip: Drawing on Windows