Outdoor sketching tips, science on art & more!
February - March 2015
Tips & inspiration for incorporating the arts into science, education & daily life.
February and March = adventure
On fairly short notice, my husband, puppy, and I signed up for an epic road trip to and from the Northwest Territories. By the end of the month, we found ourselves just two degrees south of the Arctic Circle, having endured three grueling days, over 2,337 miles driven (the final leg of which was a winter road 150 miles long which took us nearly 8 hours). At the moment, we're snowed in - a blizzard has closed all the winter roads leading to and from the village. See below for some sketches, and feel free to follow along on Twitter and Facebook!

This month:
For now, the adventure continues, and this month's newsletter deals with thinking creatively, research showing how the arts enhance science and education, and planning for sketching outdoors. Enjoy the tips and ideas, and as always, please feel free to share your sketching adventures (and sketches) with me via email or social media.

Here's to your
adventuresome sketching!

  • Sketching tip: Planning for outdoor sketching
  • Artful Science: Value of drawing for science (according to American Museum of Natural History)
  • Artful Classrooms: Research shows drawing is valuable aspect of teaching & learning
  • Sketchbook Snapshot: Sketching in the Northwest Territories
  • News & Events: Workshops, classes & more

"Artists and scientists both think outside
the box [...] They've got to come with
genius experiments or ideas to expose
the most interesting phenomena. Later, they've got to diverge a little bit because scientists will start to look at the common elements between many of the phenomena
to describe the most general law, and
artists will probably try to study individuals rather than the crowd as a whole."

Professor Konstantin Novoselov,
Nobel Prize-winning physicist
currently collaborating with artist Cornelia Parker
BONUS: Click here for how to draw 8 specific things in winter!
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 if need be.

Please contact me directly if you'd
like to schedule an educational program.
Sketching Tip

1. Less is more: Limit yourself to a single pen, pencil, sharpener and eraser, stored in a travel toothbrush case, like I do. Or, carry a small kit of watercolors and a watercolor brush. You don't want to be making lots of choices, carrying supplies you don't need, and worrying about loosing them.
2. Notebook: Typically, one small or medium-sized sketchbook is plenty unless you're going on a long trip. My favorite hardback sketchbooks are made by Stillman & Birn, and I also like slim paperback books with multimedia paper for toting in my purse.
3. Know your tools. Practice in comfortable controlled environments, so you know how your supplies work. Then, you can go outside with confidence, knowing you have only what you need, and that you haven't forgotten something important.
CLICK HERE for my recommended sketching kit, resources & more!
Upcoming Events
Drawn to Natural History: full-day sketching workshop June 19, 2015 in Glacier National Park. Click here to register and for details.
Artful Science
"Close observation is the first step in any scientific inquiry, and to my mind, there is no better way to observe than to try to draw what you are looking at," says Barrett Klein, a trained artist and entomologist who prepares specimens and displays at the American Museum of Natural History. 

"Even if you are a poor artist, when you take pencil to paper and just draw the line--not even the shading--you begin to appreciate each structure and understand it better."
CLICK HERE for more about how drawing enhances Barrett's research & scicomm.

A set of my illustrations are online, illustrating a great scicomm piece about nest-building fish, and people said such nice things!

"Today's @BuzzHootRoar by @phishdoc and @commnatural is beautiful! Maybe my favorite BHR yet!"

"It is a beautiful piece. Wonderful combo of science & art." 
Artful Classrooms
Research results:
Art in science classrooms = improved student outcomes

"Students in arts-integrated classrooms are more creative, positively challenged, and more engaged in their schoolwork than those not in arts-integrated classrooms."  Report from Kennedy Center for Education

"Cutting-edge studies in neuroscience have been further developing our understanding of how arts strategies support crucial brain development in learning." President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities report 

And yet, integrating the arts into classrooms can be overwhelming for teachers with limited arts training. Want to get started? Contact me, or...
CLICK HERE for arts integration resources I've provided and curated; special emphasis on sketching.
And more...

I followed those illustrations up with a
blog post about what I learned drawing those fish
. Responses include:

"It made me appreciate the dedication nec to *really* get it right.
Also thought abt 
naturalists drawing
in pre-photo era."
Sketchbook Snapshot

My first sketches focused on the reason we came to the Northwest Territories - dogs.
We drove up here to reunite a friend with her dogs (long story which made for a long drive). Since we've arrived, the dogs have mellowed out, and we've seen foxes, lynx, northern lights, and the tiny Dene town of Tulit'a. Accessible by roads only in winter, this First Nations community has used this site on the banks of a massive river, overshadowed by the sacred Bear Rock, for eons.

Our friend Jean Polfus is here doing research on caribou genetics and traditional ecological knowledge, and it's an extraordinary opportunity to be up here experiencing this place firsthand. Jean is also an artist in her own right; she uses her drawing skills to bridge language barriers when working with local hunters, and takes phenomenal photographs which reveal her study area to the outside world. A
s if visiting the NWT isn't great enough, I have over a week to brainstorm, 'jam' and revel in the company of a fellow #sciart advocate!

Right now, though, I'm just soaking in the quirks and discoveries of the place.
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!
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Copyright © 2015 Bethann G. Merkle (, All rights reserved.

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