The science of paleo art, and more!
from Bethann Garramon Merkle
March 2017
Tips & inspiration for incorporating drawing into science, education & daily life.
Happy spring, dear readers!
The spring equinox was just a few days ago, and my tulips noticed. While they're not in full bloom yet, they are several inches tall!

Although it's hard to believe it today, as snow falls and the wind rattles the trees outside.

My thesis is due at the end of this week, so I spent most of last month writing, revising, or going on health breaks (hiking with the pup).  So, this month's newsletter takes a look at projects I've just had published, along with some other people's work.
Happy sketching,

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

Click section title to jump to topic.
Sketching tips
Artful Science


"Stop assessing your work based
on how close it
is to 'reality'.
- Danny Gregory

While this quote might seem counter-intuitive, it is important to remember that drawing is not photography, and thus photo-realism is not the only effective type of drawing to produce. Editing, selective focus, synthesizing points of view, and many more opportunities exist for illustrators willing to explore the possibilities of their media. Also, if you wait to draw until you can produce photo-realistic images, you will a) possibly never draw, and therefore b) never practice enough to develop the skills necessary to do life-like drawings! So, just get out there and sketch! :)

Illustration: draft of a commission I recently completed for American Scientist magazine; learn more in the "News" section below.
Sketching Tip: Being ready to sketch
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 these 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 below.)

Looking for handy sketching materials of your own?
I have the mini (toothbrush holder) 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.
Artful Science: Learning by Drawing
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!
Artful Classrooms: Students explore connections between art & energy issues
 Writing + Artwork + Public Audience = New Connections
This semester, I'm teaching a course entitled "Communicating Across Topics in Energy."

Students spent the first half of the semester conducting research and drafting audio guides for select pieces in the university's art museum.

The students' focus was on providing energy-related interpretations, as a way of applying their discipline-specific knowledge to an authentic public-sphere communication challenge.

These 1- to 1.5-minute audio pieces range from the implications of technological advances on cowboys in the Old West to Fitbits in the modern West; using photosynthesis as a photography process; geologic sedimentation as a parallel to color layering in early color photo printing; and exploring connections between oil pastels and oil spills.

Click here to listen to the audio guides, and let me know if you have questions about how to facilitate a project like this in your class! I'd love to chat!
Incorporate sketching
into your k12, university, or
adult education program!

I am available for half- and full-day sessions or artist-in-residence
programs. I can teach or coach you in both drawing and drawing
facilitation, and I'm willing to help write grants to secure funding.

Please contact me directly if you'd
like to schedule an educational program.
Artful Gifts

Sketching Kits

Having the right materials - lightweight, portable, designed for making quality images - makes all the difference when you want to sketch in the field (or try sketching for the first time) 

In addition to participants in my workshops, scientists, summer research assistants, and even family members have wound up using the sketching materials I recommend.

Try them out this spring by ordering a sketching kit from my online shop!

There, you'll also find illustrated greeting cards, recommended books, etc.!
>>Click to order yours!>>
Upcoming Events

Using the Arts to Investigate Social, Conservation & Ecological Relationships

Berry Center
University of Wyoming
April 3, 2017; 5:30-9:00 p.m.

Following talks by other Center for Global Studies fellows, I'll be doing a poster presentation on my Kenya-based research. Click here for details.
Looking for training?  
If you'd like to schedule a public workshop, artist residency, or professional development training, let me know!
>>Click to view calendar online!>>

Citizen Science Article
For the past two summers, my husband and I have volunteered for an amphibian monitoring project. And for the past 6 months or more, I've been working on an article & illustrations about it! The article was just published in Western Confluence magazine. Click here to read it.

Biodiversity Illustrations

I just had a handful of illustrations published in American Scientist magazine! Click the image to view, or click here for the article my illustrations accompany.
Can't get enough?
Here are two easy options:

1.Enhance your drawing & observation skills, or to learn to draw!
Check out my calendar for upcoming courses and workshops, or feel free to contact me about scheduling one!
2. Subscribe to my blog.
Get in-depth articles and tips on artful science, natural history observation, and science communication. Click here to get detailed explanations of how to incorporate drawing into your research and classroom, along with lots of helpful ideas for enhancing your own drawing skills. 
Find something helpful?
Feel free to share!*

I'm absolutely thrilled when you like material in this newsletter well enough to share. Please respect my intellectual copy rights, and those of contributors, by only:
  1. forwarding the entire email without altering any content;
  2. or by sharing a link to the newsletter links to specific content within the newsletter.
Thanks for not copying and sharing any of the text or images, especially without attribution! 

If you have any questions about sharing or reproduction, let me know!
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