Why drawing and science?

Drawing (even without training) can:

There is even evidence that collaboration between scientists and artists may result in better science.

And yet, we collectively avoid sketching because drawing has become art, and art (like science) has become specialized.

But, drawing isn’t exclusively for the pros.

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

“Sounds neat, but I’m not an artist.”

It could be argued that humans are actually born knowing how to draw. Our ability to draw goes back even further. Archaeological records indicate that drawing was the first visual representation method.

Drawing people_sigThat being said, modern drawing basics are learned, not inherited.

Fundamental skills, techniques, and knowledge of different media (ex: watercolors, pencils, pen and ink) can be taught, practiced, and improved upon. Thanks to this combination of your childhood aptitude and basic drawing techniques, anyone can learn to make a sketch.

Fortunately, the STEAM movement is gaining traction, and increasingly, people recognize the value of merging science and the arts.

I appreciate drawing so much more now!” and “That was the most enjoyable drawing experience I have ever had.Harvard University students

Contact me for advice and to collaborate on:

  • incorporating sketching/drawing into research practices and field work;
  • using drawing as a learning and assessment tool in classrooms and outdoor education (think Art+STEM = STEAM);
  • enhancing outreach and public education efforts.

We can choose to focus on:

  • incorporating sketching into your research methods;
  • facilitating sketching in your classes;
  • using drawings as a student assessment tool;
  • enhancing your own drawing and field journal skills.

“I wasn’t going to miss your workshop. I think you have a real talent for communicating what you’ve discovered — and also for goading us into actually sitting down and doing some drawing! […] You did a great job of presenting the whole topic, and I think everyone learned something new. Even the other people on my table who all seemed to be pretty competent sketchers already.” Dr. B. Waterhouse, professional organist and translator

One collaboration option is to offer trainings like those I lead for colleagues and students at the University of Wyoming. 

All trainings include introductory sketching exercises that ensure even total beginners have a basic “tool kit.” If you have some drawing experience, these exercises will help you warm up, and might help you see your surroundings in a new way. In addition, you can mix and match from the following options to customize your workshop.

Professional development options:

1. Research

Sketching compliments a wide range of research methodologies and objectives. Having your own drawings can also be extremely useful for communication and outreach purposes. We will customize your session(s) to ensure you gain the necessary skills to produce sketches that enhance your research process and communications efforts.

Topics range from basic drawing (shading, perspective, etc.) and how to make accurate sketches, to how to digitize your images and what makes a compelling drawing.

“It’s so neat to see people explain their profession and complicated processes with simple sketches. Great job encouraging this transfer of knowledge and excitement.” H. Clark, natural resources and project management specialist (Montana)

2. Teaching & Assessment

Drawing is a powerful learning and assessment tool, and I offer training to help you incorporate drawing into your teaching methodology. Depending on what you want, we can focus on the nuances of facilitating basic sketching activities, how to incorporate a field journal into your curriculum, and/or the practical aspects of using drawings to assess how well your students understand what you’re teaching.

This is a great option for field course instructors – field course students are often told, but not taught, how to draw, and together we can remedy that oversight.

“What I really appreciate is what you bring to workshops, Bethann — a structured, interactive, androgogical approach to everything you do. It is in our ability to find other workshop facilitators like you that will enable us to stand out: if only it were that simple.” M. Thibeau, executive director; community development & entrepreneurship organization

3. Drawing skills

Personalized instruction can help you enhance your abilities rapidly. We’ll focus on basic techniques such as shading, making things look three dimensional, and tips for sketching quickly. We can also work on specific subjects such as birds or trees – that’s up to you.

What you showed me on our backpack trip has been immensely valuable. I think I’m a better observer, thanks to you!” G. Killeen, literature professor and naturalist

4. Illustrated sketchbook/field journal: Gain hands-on experience making an illustrated sketchbook entry that combines words and images. Think of a travel sketchbook or a naturalist’s sketchbook, complete with colored sketches and handwritten notes. Depending on your interests, you can learn to combine words and images in a visually satisfying way, by thinking about page design, hand lettering, color theory, and more.

“I should be the one thanking YOU! I learned tons, not just drawing techniques but also interesting art history facts. Save that presentation!” N. Pavey, sustainable development translator

Want to know a bit more?

I love sharing the fun and value of sketching, which is why I’ve made available the advance copy of my Guide to Sketching & Field Journal Basics (available at commnatural.com). This booklet-size guide is formatted for printing or reading online, and includes sections on basic sketching exercises and an explanation of how drawing can enhance your research, communication, learning, and teaching/assessment efforts. If you use it, let me know what you think!

Field journal basics cover


It will be so wonderful to have you back, dedicating the journaling as a very solid piece of the curriculum….you are much needed. The evaluations showed that it wasn’t done as comprehensively and with as much skill by others. You are such a great teacher with your journaling techniques, and imitation is never as good as the real thing!” D. Fassnacht, Watershed Education Network Executive Director