Museum sketching, field journal resources & more!
January 2015
Tips & inspiration for incorporating the arts into science, education & daily life.
Happy 2015!
It's a new year, and with a new year usually comes a sense of ambition. In my case, I'm aiming to add a lot of courses and workshops to my schedule, and to collaborate with researchers I know to produce a handful of artful science projects.

In your case, you might envision enhancing your drawing skills, using drawing to learn more about the world around you, or incorporating drawing into your work as a researcher or teacher. In any case, I'm thrilled to count you among the readers interested in similar subjects to my own passions.
This month's theme: looking at the world anew

Enjoy the tips and ideas in this month's newsletter - all of which are tailored to help you take a look at the world in new ways. As always, please feel free to share your sketching adventures (and sketches) with me via email or social media (see links at the bottom).

Happy new year sketching!

  • Sketching tip: Museum visit-one piece at a time
  • Artful Science: Enhance your observation skills by drawing
  • Artful Classrooms: Mapping as a way of making meaning
  • Sketchbook Snapshot: Arizona's Sonoran Desert
  • CommNatural Calendar

“You don’t know it
until you draw it.”

- Bernd  Heinrich

<<Sea shells are a great winter sketching subject - they exude a sense of warmth, and offer lots of interesting details.
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
Go to a museum, and only look at one thing. 

Museums and galleries are a traditional destination during cold weather.

Inspired by this article from the New York Times (link), this exercise is a great way to make the most out of such a visit, albeit in an atypical fashion. 

It's all about taking your time, and luxuriating in getting to think and look as much as you want, without the typical overwhelming go-go-go of a museum experience.
Click here for detailed instructions.
Artful Living
to shop my fine art prints, 
art-emblazoned gifts, and
the sketching supplies and books I recommend.
California Native Plant Society Field Journal Curriculum: This free e-book (96 pages!) is a GREAT intro to nature sketching, whether you’re a teacher or not. If you are a teacher, you'll also find loads of info on how to incorporate nature drawing into your classes.
Artful Science
Not sure how drawing can enhance your work as a scientist?

This article (link) from illustrator and teacher Danny Gregory (casually) deconstructs the difference between observing using a camera versus observing through drawing.

Those very differences are precisely what makes drawing a deeply meaningful part of any scientist's tool kit. 

After all, deep observation, critical thinking, curiosity, and careful record-keeping - the fundamentals of drawing from life - are also key aspects of conducting research.

Recent Fun

Sketching for Scientists & Drawn
to the Landscape (
link): I led courses for faculty and students at Harvard Forest in mid-January! We drew trees, pitcher plants, signs of wildlife, and more. 

Afterwards, students said: "I appreciate drawing so much more now!" and "That was the most enjoyable drawing experience I have ever had.
Artful Classrooms
Mapping as a way of making meaning

David Sobel is an author and researcher who studies how children make sense of the world around him, and I have found many of his insights are equally salient for students of all ages.

In particular, Sobel uses map making as a way to discern how children relate to things, in terms of priority, familiarity, and proximity.

See the link below for more on how mapping and drawing can be combined to encourage learning (for children and adults).
Click here for a detailed article I wrote about how to use drawing in the classroom.
Spring & Summer 2015

Drawn to Natural History: A full-day sketching workshop June 19, 2015 in Glacier National Park. Click here for details and to register!

Projected courses:
° Drawn to Birding with Laramie Audubon chapter (Laramie, WY)
° Drawn to Local Food with Moonlight Kitchens (Missoula, MT)
° Additional sessions in MT, WY, and possibly ID
Sketchbook Snapshot
Phainopepla nitens

A saguaro cactus (Carnegiea                                    Phainopepla nitens 
gigantea) with a small                                               observed guarding a
woodpecker perched atop.                                     mistletoe berry cluster

The Catalina mountains, surrounded by a 'human fence' created by development. These mountains are the focus of the book I'm illustrating, and a recent bighorn sheep reintroduction project.
Field sketches
I'm working on a book illustration commission, for a book about the history of desert bighorn sheep near Tucson, Arizona.

Since I have in-laws in Phoenix which we visit every Christmas, my husband, father-in-law, and I took advantage of the opportunity to drive a little further south to see (and sketch!) the ecosystem I'm illustrating.

While they photographed and frolicked with our new puppy, I sketched to my heart's content. 

Media coverage
I also happened to bump into a newspaper reporter, while standing atop a parking garage sketching the Tucson Valley.

The encounter actually led to a bit of online media coverage of me sketching on location!
Can't get enough? Here are two easy fixes:
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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