The science of paleo art, and more!
from Bethann Garramon Merkle
January/February 2017
Tips & inspiration for incorporating drawing into science, education & daily life.
Happy not-quite-spring, dear readers!
Although we're a long way from actual spring, the weather in my neck of the woods has been decidedly warm lately.
That means, I've been spending a lot of time outside, roving the prairie with my pup, and, to be honest, writing more than drawing. Even so, the January/February 2017 newsletter focuses on winter (or what's left of it), things you can do indoors, etc. 

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

"I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty.
Every crystal was a
masterpiece of design and no one design
was ever repeated."

- Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley
self-taught photomicrographer 

& snowflake expert
*Close-up from my illustration in 
root & star magazine's snow issue!
Sketching Tip: Sketching Snow
Drawing snow isn't always intuitive, and in general, sketching winter scenes can take some advance planning.
                    Sketch from a trip I took to the Northwest Territories two winters ago!
Here are a few ideas:
  • If you are sketching tracks, indicate the edge of the track with a broken line to indicate that the track itself is not a solid object.
  • When drawing skies, sunsets, etc., remember that the sky is typically lighter near the horizon, and thus darker toward the top of the page/scene.
  • When dealing with snow piled up on things, look at how it overlays or hangs off the edges. Take time, also, to draw the shadows the snow casts.
Want a little more?
  • Click here for how to paint shadows on snow, and click here for how to draw snow on trees. Both are great brief tips from one of my favorite sketching resources, artist/naturalist/author John Muir Laws's website.
  • Check out this article I wrote a while ago for tips on how to draw 8 specific things in winter.
Artful Science: Drawing in Biology
Too cold to sketch outside? Here are a few suggestions for integrating drawing into university biology courses. 
I’m collaborating with the coordinator of a series of undergraduate Animal Biology labs this semester. She is interested in integrating drawing more fully and effectively into the work that instructors and students do in those labs. Her motivation stems, at least in part, from noticing that photographing specimens appears to be the most common way students interact with specimens in these labs. And yet, based on low exam scores, students aren’t getting much out of taking photos.

And so, we’ve been talking about how to utilize drawing as an active learning tool, as well as a self- and summative assessment strategy. Considerations include how to introduce drawing to TAs and students, and how to integrate it in myriad forms throughout lab activities, homework assignments, quizzes and exams.

As we planned all this, I realized that one thing I take for granted is my capacity to articulate how and why to utilize drawing in these ways. And so, I offered to write up some text which she could copy or modify and distribute to TAs and students. 

Click here to view the full text I shared with her (on my blog). Feel free to utilize it, and if you do, please do let me know how it goes, if and how you adapted it, etc.
Artful Classrooms: Winter Vocabulary
Though many a northerner might beg to differ with Robert Frost’s somewhat flippant statement – “You can’t get too much winter in the winter” – there is a truth to the poet’s words that became evident when I looked into winter vocabulary.

According to, the word winter likely derives from a combination of Proto-Germanic, Norse, Dutch, and Gaul words which meant “wet” or “white.” The word snow dates from circa 1300, shares linguistic roots with winter and was alternatively spelled “snew” until the 1700s. Click here to keep reading the full article on my blog.
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

Wintry Wonders
greeting cards

Folks are snapping up my illustrated greeting cards for letter-writing and gift-giving!

The Wintry Wonders collection (pictured above) is back in stock!

Drop-shipping is available, and all cards are printed in the USA on environmentally friendly paper.

And, as always, I offer bulk discounts for purchases of 24+ cards.

>>Click to order yours!>>
Upcoming Events

Drawn to Illustration
Webinar at 1 PM EST
February 22, 2017

In a 1-hour live webinar hosted by the Textbook & Academic Authors Association, I'll provide tips on working with an illustrator, plus a couple of hands-on activities for creating your own concept sketches or finished illustrations. 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!>>

Limber Pine
poem in Montana anthology

My poem, “Green Fire”, was recently published in Poems Across the Big Sky II: An Anthology of Montana Poets! Click here for details.

ESA SciComm Chair-Elect

I'm really excited to share that I've been elected to chair the Ecological Society of America's Science Communication Section in 2017-2018. Contact me directly if you have questions, want to get involved, etc.!
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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