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This issue: Insects galore!
T H E
CommNatural NEWSLETTER
from Bethann Garramon Merkle
July 2016
Tips & inspiration for incorporating drawing into science, education & daily life.
Mid-summer in the Rockies is a riot of tiny creatures.

From sketching what is pollinating my garden to guessing what trout are eating, I've been thinking a lot about insects. And drawing them takes me back to my science illustration roots.

The first science illustration commission I ever had was with the Watershed Education Network in Missoula, MT. I had recently joined their team as Artist/Naturalist-in-Residence, and they were working on a wetland field guide. I created about 30 drawings of wetland creatures, most of which were invertebrates that live at the bottom of streams and ponds. We even wound up designing a whole new logo and line of merchandise featuring my illustrations! 

I've had a penchant for insect-related drawings ever since, and this month's letter focuses on just that. 

Enjoy and happy sketching!


Illustration: backswimmer (acquatic beetle)

Contents
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News & Art 

As always, please feel free 
to share* this newsletter with
friends and colleagues...and
your sketching adventures
(and sketches) with me
via email or social media.
Illustration: bees and bluebellInsight

"Our treasure lies in the beehive of our knowledge.
We are perpetually on the
way thither, being by nature winged insects and honey gatherers of the mind."
-- Friedrich Nietzsche
Sketching Tip: Insects
Halictidae_native beeSketching insects is a blast!

I was reminded of the fun, and taken back to my science illustration roots recently.
I was thrilled to recently receive a commission to illustrate native bees. I've done a series of them, compiled into two illustrations that will be featured on a "Bee Germs" citizen science lesson developed by Dr. Rob Dunn's Your Wild Life/Students Discover project.

The Bee Germs project isn't live yet, but I can share with you a few other insect illustrations I've done lately, along with some sketching tips.


Insect sketching tips:
  1. Adrena hirticincta_native beeBody Parts: Be sure to double-check anatomy...head, thorax, abdomen; 3 pairs of legs, but how many sections?; how many antennae?; how many wings?
  2. Color: Try watercolor to achieve iridescence. A vivid turquoise, a vibrant green, and some yellow are good bets. And, be sure to block out highlights before you start, so you can keep them white. Highlights of accurate shapes can help provide dimensionality.
  3. Don't shy away from depicting hair. It's amazing how hairy insects are! For hair/fuzz that is light in color, try drawing the outline of the overall shape of that fuzz. For dark hair, be bold yet wispy with your line work.
  4. Dimensionality: Add extra shadow/darkness/line work on the shaded side of body parts, especially legs. Bulking up the darker edge of legs will help them stand out from the body details/textures.
Artful Science: Biomimicy Illustrated
The internet abounds with examples of SciArt inspired by insects. But sometimes, insect art inspires science.
  
"Are there caterpillars on butterfly wings?" asks an article published last winter (open access) in News of the Lipidopterists' Society.

The authors took a close look at butterflies and noticed many species seem to have wing patterns which mimic inedible or toxic larvae.

The premise is fascinating, and of course, I'm delighted they resorted to drawing to explore and communicate their observations.

Screenshot of paper
Artful Classrooms: National Moth Week
Beyond the Darkness: Moth Watching 24/7  

moth sketchesThe last week of July is International Moth Week, which I've written about before.

One of my favorite activities to do during Moth Week is to sketch the moths I spot. This is a fantastic activity for adults and kids of all ages.

Look for Moth Week activities near you to get a great set up for sketching, particularly if you want to do so at night. Look closely as you walk about next week,
and you might be surprised how many
moths you can find even during the daytime.
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.
Sketchbook Snapshot
 
Chickadee greeting card
Chickdees eat a lot of insects!

Toad greeting card









As, of course, do toads and chickens!

Chicken greeting card
Buggy sketches
 
I couldn't resist - here are a few of the insect-related illustrations featured in my illustrated card collections. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

And, of course, if you'd like some of your own, let me know. Click here to order!
 

Moth illustrations on greeting card

Fishing lures on greeting card
Artful Gifts
 
Caddisfly greeting card
 
Another insect card!
Part of the classic black-and-white natural history collection, these caddis flies hark from my days with the Watershed Education Network!

My "Drawn to the West
TM" line features simple-yet-elegant line drawings with a splash of color. These hand-drawn sketches are made on-location in the Mountain West, and they are blank inside, printed in the US, and use sustainably sourced paper and envelopes.
>>Click to order your cards!>>
Upcoming Events

University of Wyoming English 1010 Teaching Colloquium

Thanks to serving as a co-editor for a new UW English 1010 textbook (available August 2016), I've been invited to contribute to this year's training colloquium for incoming instructors. 

It's not entirely clear yet what specific material I'll be covering, but I'm excited to share my enthusiasm for teaching communication skills with fellow instructors. Hopefully, I'll have a chance to discuss intellectual property rights and #scicomm! 


Looking for training? 
If you'd like to schedule a public workshop, artist residency, or professional development training, let me know!
>>Click to view my complete calendar online!>>
News

Best Environmental Story Award
"An eel is an eel is an eel, or is it?" won an award from the Quebec Community Newspaper Association! I wrote this article to raise awareness in Quebec City about the ecological importance of St. Lawrence River eels, and a scientist who is working to figure out their genome and migrations. 
 
Rocky Mountain Front Research
In early July, I spent almost two weeks conducting interviews and site-specific research in Montana's Rocky Mountain Front region. I'm pretty excited about the raw material, and looking forward to what it will become.
 
National Park Service/UW AMK Ranch Residency
This spring, I was selected for a two-week residency at a research station in the Grand Tetons. I'll be going there in mid-August. My goal is to have a rough outline for my RMF manuscript planned out by the end of the residency, inspired by lots of hiking in a spectacular (and wifi/cell service-free!) landscape.
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 by only 1)forwarding the entire email - without altering any content - or by sharing 2) a link to the newsletter or 3) 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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Copyright © 2016 Bethann G. Merkle (www.commnatural.com), All rights reserved.


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