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Sketching landscapes, historical use of drawing in science classes & holiday cards!
T H E
CommNatural NEWSLETTER
from Bethann Garramon Merkle
November  2015
Tips & inspiration for incorporating drawing into science, education & daily life.
Winter has settled in as it often does in the Mountain West. The weather in the past week has alternated between temperatures in the high 50s (°F) and fierce winds and pelting snow.

Over the past month, I've been focused primarily on writing and planning for sketching/writing research I'll be doing this winter.

I'm going to spend some time in the Southwest -- I'll be looking at museum collections, speaking to ecologists, and generally, learning what I can about the tortoises and hares that live there.

 
That's why this month's newsletter focuses on drawing landscapes and historical advice about why drawing matters for science and observation.

As always, enjoy the tips and ideas in this month's newsletter.

And, please feel free to share* this newsletter with friends and colleagues...and your sketching adventures (and sketches) with me via email or social media.

 

Happy sketching,


P.S. Although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and it's not quite here yet, I want to give early gifters and greeters a chance to do some artful gifting. So, be sure to have a look at my recently released  illustrated Drawn to the Holidays greeting cards!

Contents
Click section title to jump to that topic.

Sketching tip
Landscape sketching shortcut

 
Artful Science
E.O. Wilson on drawing

Artful Classrooms
Historically, drawing = science class method

Sketchbook Snapshot
Magpie tidbits & lore

News & Art 

NEW this season: 
1. Quirky,holiday cards
2. Natural history cards
3. Art gifts & commisisons!
Insight
"Perspective is nothing else
than the seeing of an object
through a sheet of glass,
on the surface of which may
be marked all the things
that are behind the glass."
–Leonardo da Vinci 
Sketching Tip: Perspective Drawing Hack
Drawing perspective -- the general technique of making a scene or object appear to have depth/dimension -- takes some practice.

Inspired by Leonardo da Vinci, here is a neat way of quickly getting better at perspective.

Method:
1. Print out a photograph (black-and-white on printer paper is fine). Using a thick black marker, trace/draw in the essential lines and principle details. This exercise can also be done with magazine or newspaper photographs. 


2. Once you have practiced a few times with the picture drawings, sketch the scene freehand (while looking at the photos you've drawn on as a reference). 

3. Next, sketch the scene just by looking at a photograph of it -- without looking at the marker lines you drew earlier.

4. Return to the place depicted in the photographs you've
been drawing on/from. Sketch the scene freehand (referring 
to your reference sketches as needed).

Application: Practice this way with an image of a place you revisit (field research site, family cabin, back yard, local park). If you do, you can train your eye to identify the essential lines/marks that are necessary to render/capture that scene without having to spend hours
and hours studying how to draw one-point perspective,
vanishing points, horizon lines, etc..
Artful Science: E.O. Wilson on drawing
In a delightful article on The Scientist magazine's website, Julia King explains how E.O. Wilson and other well-known scientists use drawing as an essential part of their work.

This quote from E.O. Wilson sums up a major reason why I advocate for/teach scientists to use drawing for research and teaching. 

"Doing drawings yourself by hand requires you to examine closely and precisely details that slip by scanning electron microscopes,” notes Wilson. “Time and againin doing taxonomic drawings I’ve bit upon structures that turn out to be very, very important. This is because in handling an object and turning it over and over and tracing it out with your fingers, you discover sutures, hair patterns, and other forms that you may overlook on an electron micrograph.”
Artful Classrooms: Historically, drawing was a key part of teaching science.

 "By observing and drawing to learn, students would not merely be passive repositories of information, but active participants in the creation of meaningful knowledge. Essential to this meaning making was not merely observing, drawing, or recording, however, but it was making inferences from those observations. In Agassiz’s words, “the ability of combining facts is a much rarer gift than that of discerning them..."


This quote comes from "Drawing to Learn Science: Legacies of Agassiz (open access)," an article Neal Lerner wrote in the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. Throughout that article, Lerner references preeminent naturalist-ecologist Louis Aggasiz (1807-1873). Aggasiz was Harvard Professor of Zoology from 1848-1873, and founded Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. He was extremely influential, and thus in a strong position to advocate for the inclusion of drawing as a key part of the science student's education. 
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.
Sketchbook Snapshot
 



Lately, I've been
drawing magpies.
I've been writing about them, too. Here are a couple of tidbits I've learned while researching them for the essay I'm working on:
  • Magpies are among the smartest birds on earth, and animal cognition scientists have discovered them to be apes' intellectual peers. (source)
  • Along with a prairie dog and a sharp-tailed grouse, four magpies were sent east in April 1805 by the Lewis and Clark expedition; a single magpie and a lone prairie dog were the only animals from that shipment received alive by President Thomas Jefferson. (source)
  • Folklore about magpies abounds. In many countries, traditions held it was unlucky to kill a magpie – France, Germany, India, Ireland, Norway, and Scotland among them.  Magpie chatter was thought by many cultures to warn of the approach of a stranger, a thief, a fox, or a wolf. And, magpie presence or chatter could also foretell the arrival of guests or death. 
Artful Gifts
 
New! "Drawn to the Holidays" greeting cards


Like traditional correspondence but want something more edgy this holiday season?

I designed these cards because I felt the same way.

And, because your friends and families are so diverse (like mine!), this collection is appropriate for any year-end holiday greetings. 

Details: ($15/set+s&h); 6 cards/set; bulk discounts for orders of 24+ cards. Cards & envelopes printed in the USA on sustainably sourced paper. 
>>Click to order your cards!>>
Upcoming Events

1. Drawn to Creative Science seminar -- invited talk for the University of Wyoming Zoology & Physiology Department; January 2016; October 2015

2. Research trip to the Sonoran Desert  -- One of the main projects I'm working on for my MFA deals with the "ecologically true story of the tortoise and the hare." I'll be spending some time in Arizona's Sonoran Desert this winter, as this is one of the handful of places in the world where tortoises and hares coexist. If you know folks I should talk to about either species, please do let me know!

3. Looking for some training? 

If you'd like to schedule a public workshop, artist residency, or professional development training, let me know!
>>Click to view all art cards & gifts!>>
News
 
Planning ahead for 2016 workshops

I'm in the process of planning workshops for summer 2016.

Right now, there's a good possibility of field journal and 'sketching for scientists' sessions in/at the following locations:
  • Bob Marshall Wilderness
  • Glacier National Park
  • Holter Museum of Art
  • Missoula, MT
  • Belgrade, MT
  • Laramie, WY
I also recently made some really fun connections with disease ecologists, mammologists, ornithologists, and landscape ecologists in various parts of Wyoming.

It looks like I'll be collaborating with them to offer a few workshops and trainings for students and scientists over the coming year.

Bottom line: I'm aiming to plan out a circuit through Montana and Wyoming, so get in touch. I'd be delighted to add you to the itinerary!

 
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 © 2015 Bethann G. Merkle (www.commnatural.com), All rights reserved.


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