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#1 mikiek

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 11:27 AM

Hi everyone - I'm still pretty new to sketching and seem to have run into a wall. I've posted a few lunar sketches and have been really pumped about pursuing this area of astronomy.

About a month ago, I went out one night with the intention of doing another lunar sketch. I got my equipment set up, my table with all my art tools laid out, scanned the moon for a while, found some good subject matter, studied it for a while, sat up and grabbed a charcoal to begin and BLAH! Body and mind just couldn't do it. I struggled for about 10 minutes and finally gave up. Sadly since then I have had several similar episodes and have not yet been able to produce another sketch.

Just wondering what you guys do to get out of a funk like that?

#2 Jeremy Perez

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 12:08 PM

Hey Mike,

I've gone through something similar. A little more than a year ago, I physically burned myself out pulling a couple weeks of all-nighters sketching and writing about Comet Holmes. For months afterward, I had a sort of post-traumatic reaction to the thought of going out & observing or sketching. As soon as the thought entered my mind, I lost all energy and felt instantly like I wanted to fall asleep. It was horrible. I still don't think I've completely recovered.

I found that what I needed to do was to go after less ambitious targets. Over the last year, I've had a lot of fun sketching uncomplicated high-power objects like double stars, planetary nebulae, and galaxies. Gradually I've been able to re-introduce heavier subjects and been able to build up my tolerance again as long as I pace myself. I have to say though that I haven't even attempted a Lunar sketch since that happened and I've been trying to work myself up to it again. I find Lunar drawings to be particularly demanding--at least the way I tend to do them. If observing & sketching turns into a chore, then something definitely needs to change. The reward needs to balance or hopefully outweigh any effort you put into it--otherwise it's a kind of slavery.

Perhaps try to just spend time enjoying the view, and then pick a _very_ small part of the landscape that you like, and do a very loose, casual sketch of it. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to make it perfect or including everything. Just enjoy getting a feel for a little piece of what made the view interesting. Maybe that will help. Then again, that may not be where the block is coming from. Let us know how it goes!

#3 mikiek

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 12:39 PM

Great advice Jeremy. There is something in me that is always overly ambitious. Whatever I do, I just have this need to do 'bigger and better' than last time. I see where that can lead to a lot of frustration.

#4 cildarith

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 01:43 PM

Yes it does. Jeremy has nicely summed up my thoughts on the matter - I think I was getting burned out even before Comet Holmes outburst - and I still haven't totally recovered. Looking over my sketch gallery, I realize my output in 2008 was pretty anemic (part of that was, and continues to be weather related, however). I still get a thrill setting up the scope, and doing a few sketches, but following up with a thoroughly researched write-up afterwords makes my eyes glaze over.

Sketching the moon is never an easy task, IMO.

Remember, this your hobby, not your job. It is supposed to be relaxing and fun. If it stops being those things, it is time to change your approach, or just step away from it for a little while (blasphemy, I know).

#5 markseibold

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 03:12 PM

Mikiek

Welcome to the world of 'artists block'. There have been self-help books written about this for years. I think Eric and Jeremy covered it well here and offered some good advice to encourage you to not be discouraged.

I suppose we have all been there. I will say this: The moon is easy if you do the whole thing and work very large leaving out certain details as you cannot get every crater in one observing session. You shoot for an overall image or feel of the moment. I know that this process differs from close-up technical sketches of one crater. Something I have done little of so far.

I just found an antique book; The Moon by Richard Proctor. (c1886 Printed by Spottiswoode & Co. London.) I am stunned that the book store let it go for $20. It is a rare find in it near perfect condition at 123 years old!. I will post some images of sketches, photographs of the moon in it and text by the author soon. It is so inspiring, I could write a separate post on just this book. I think all who sketch the moon should own this book. I am sure that collectors will post here and inform me of its unavailability. If artists could sketch like this over a hundred years ago, why not today with all the creature comforts and technology that we have?

I believe the more you sketch, the more comfortable you will become about producing as you develop a comfort in familiarity with what you want to achieve after many repetitive motions of the process. Frank mentioned something in another post as a response to Jeff’s multiple images the other day. "Are we producing this art for ourselves to enjoy or to impress others?", I think was the question. I believe it is both. Although expectations by others or ourselves can hinder us at times; it happens in writing, or I suppose in anything in general life. I heard an art teacher say to students in a class some years ago, to think of each painting as a stepping stone to something else. Not that everything that you do will be a masterpiece.

I suppose I could write a chapter on it and tell stories that go back to my early childhood as to how I overcame this while nearly blind before I had corrective lenses at age nine. I saw a quote by Frank Lloyd Wright the other day. I was shocked that it fits many artists:

Early in life I had to choose between honest arrogance and hypocritical humility; I chose arrogance. – Frank Lloyd Wright

I know this sounds like arrogance and hubris but I think Wright means that you have to be bold about doing the art. Or as Miles Davis said once; Do not fear mistakes; there are none. That quote bothers my conservative non-artistic friends.

I think they say this about accomplished artists although I won’t say that I am necessarily accomplished [yet.] We should always strive to improve to excellence. I cannot say how I overcome the sketching from the eyepiece block as it still happens to me too on occasion. The cold night air, the way the wind blows, not being at my home and in a strange driveway at the place I stay now, is where I produced all of my lunar sketches since last summer. I feel like a stranger in a strange place but I must produce and under not so comfortable conditions sometimes. A lonely hilltop park in central Portland. The music in the background, one asked about here in the sketch forums a while back can affect the art. A good cup of tea or coffee at the table side or a friend or your spouse watching you work.

You can see my bio going back to childhood in www.markseibold.com (the 'about me' icon) yet some might take this as, you should have started when you were younger. I would say today, that there is no time like the present!

I look forward to your next sketching venture. It’s a small world, but it’s a big universe!

Art is not a product; it is a process.

Mark

Here it is. I am not sure if this helps to inspire you but I get some old world nostalgia spark to the art when I see these illustrations. The artist M. Nasmyth does the detailed crater close-ups. The author did the two lunar landscapes. there are more in the book but I did not want to oversaturate this post. The moon photo at the opening of the book is phenominally sharp by Rutherfurd; (I cannot find a credit to the telescope used.) - Mark >
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#6 markseibold

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 05:55 PM

Mikiek

Although the above images appear more as extremely detailed close-ups, I find this ceterfold image of imaginary landscapes to inspire me more so. Note that the upper first two images have a etching-like lineage or rotogravure by the artist M. Nasmyth. Imagine the time this takes to produce the details. Note also that all of the image plates in the book are covered by a rice paper sheet (i curled back to only expose the sketches, obscurring some of the text, I apologize. The author is demuring as he admits that the two lunar landscape renderings, [his] only art in the book, are crude and to merely make for a perceived conception. The author Richard A. Proctor is prolific. They list other titles by him. The titles alone inspire me! From his Knowledge Library: Strength and Happiness, Rough Ways Made Smooth, Our Place Among Infinities, The Expanse of Heaven- Essays on the Wonders of the Firmament, The Poetry of Astronomy, How to Play Whist- With the Laws of Etiquette, Pleasant Ways in Science, etc. If anyone can locate these books by Proctor from the 1800's, please let me know.

-Mark

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#7 Tom and Beth

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 09:56 PM

Very interesting, Mark. I too find observations by those who paved the way before us to be inspiring, an example of which was Galileo's Sun Sketches posted here recently. The level of detail and accuracy these Observers pulled out of their equipment astounds me.

BTW, you and I are about the same age. I was born Sept 1954.

#8 frank5817

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Posted 06 March 2009 - 10:59 PM

Mike,

Glad you posted this topic.
I would imagine everyone that sketches has been where you describing you are. It takes much energy to sketch and no matter how much you want to you can't force yourself to make a sketch when you are too tired. If you try to keep pushing through to the end you will only make it worse. I can look at past sketches I have done and remember my state of mind while making them because fatigue shows in my lunar sketches if they take a long time to complete.
I never sketch if I am not in the correct frame of mind and I have abandoned sketches for reasons associated with fatigue.
I find practice sketching on both astronomical and non-astronomical subjects helps me to want to draw the night sky again.
Jeremy and Eric have given you very good suggestions, follow them and you'll be back sketching at the eyepiece in no time.
Don't sketch when fatigued, frustrated or in any other negative state of mind. If you don't feel the awe and beauty do something else.

Frank :)

#9 varmint

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 12:20 AM

...frustrated or in any other negative state of mind....

Frank :)


I'm not disagreeing with Frank, because I completely agree with his statements, but this statement triggered something in my mind about moods and sketching or photography.

I sometimes find doing artistic things in different frames of mind can be enlightening and interesting. You can surprise yourself with what you can generate and the results are often quite interesting and different, anger and negativity can cause different approaches or tones and give subjects quite a different feel than excited and enthusiastic.

I'm sure Frank is talking about not harboring negativity at the process/effort of sketching which would just make you detest going through it and the material you generate.

It just reminds me that I don't always have to be in a "happy" or "enthusiastic" mood to do something like sketching, not that I've had an experience sketching angry [yet, but when I do I'm expecting it to feel like the man in the moon to be spouting lava flames at earth! :grin:]

Back on topic, I feel like I've been in a funk the past couple of years with Astronomy, I get into one aspect then hit a wall (mainly due to lack of energy). Most of it boils down to my personal availability, and not so much motivation. Like others have said, my approach is to step away and do something else until I have energy and motivation.

I have plenty of motivation, but currently lack energy to act on it. One thing that I also do is write down the projects I want to do when I get that motivation and energy combo. Then at least I'm helping minimize the setup time because I have a "plan" so to speak. It also is a low energy thing to do that satisfies my desire to do something when I don't have the energy or time. I can pick up the list later and then go "yeah, lets do that tonight or this weekend."

But I'm not very productive in many of my astronomical pursuits (astrophotography, visual observation logging, sketching) because of my current life situation.

I don't know if this helped you, but it did help me clear my head...since I have energy but am currently staring a bank of clouds that are being overly persistent... :grin:

#10 markseibold

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 05:07 AM

BTW, you and I are about the same age. I was born Sept 1954.


Tom

August 15, 1954, 6:30 AM, Good Samaritan Hospital- Pearl Art District, Northwest Downtown Portland Oregon. Not sure what it all means but there it is. I keep wondering when I get to go back in time as I am a grandfather for the second time, any day now. -Mark

#11 markseibold

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 05:44 AM

...frustrated or in any other negative state of mind....

Frank :)


I sometimes find doing artistic things in different frames of mind can be enlightening and interesting. You can surprise yourself with what you can generate and the results are often quite interesting and different, anger and negativity can cause different approaches or tones and give subjects quite a different feel than excited and enthusiastic.

It just reminds me that I don't always have to be in a "happy" or "enthusiastic" mood to do something like sketching, not that I've had an experience sketching angry [yet, but when I do I'm expecting it to feel like the man in the moon to be spouting lava flames at earth! :grin:]

Back on topic, I feel like I've been in a funk the past couple of years with Astronomy, I get into one aspect then hit a wall (mainly due to lack of energy). Most of it boils down to my personal availability, and not so much motivation. Like others have said, my approach is to step away and do something else until I have energy and motivation.

I have plenty of motivation, but currently lack energy to act on it. One thing that I also do is write down the projects I want to do when I get that motivation and energy combo. Then at least I'm helping minimize the setup time because I have a "plan" so to speak. It also is a low energy thing to do that satisfies my desire to do something when I don't have the energy or time. I can pick up the list later and then go "yeah, lets do that tonight or this weekend."

But I'm not very productive in many of my astronomical pursuits (astrophotography, visual observation logging, sketching) because of my current life situation.

I don't know if this helped you, but it did help me clear my head...since I have energy but am currently staring a bank of clouds that are being overly persistent... :grin:


Mikiek

You are relating to very much of what many artists feel in the passion to do art. I agree with Franks sentiments though too. There are times when I have over-labored on a sketch and should have quit due to lack of sleep. I always feel that I never finish them. another great quote comes to mind. An artist’s work is never done; only abandoned.
- Arthur C. Clarke

I think you are speaking about several things here though. There have been many discussions in the media over the years that point to the most impressive art coming out of depression. Ask a blues singer what inspired their music. Mozart was said to have composed his music into a fatigued death at age 34. I seem to do my best art when it is forced into a deadline or as some say, under pressure. I have too much unbridled energy. I get by on very little sleep. Yet that may not be a comfortable working environment for others. I am guessing that you are not over forty yet. Some of the greatest artists claim that their greatest work occurred between age 55 ~ 80. So if it is any consolation, as I’m guessing that you are not there yet, do not feel bad. I only observed and took allot of photographs from age 14 until just two years ago at age 52 when I started serious sketching from the eyepiece. I did not do the moon sketching seriously until last July 2008. I sketched other things early in life but not from the eyepiece. The moon has so much detail, so many surface features that I think it overwhelms many first time artists attempts to sketch it. I think the tutorial of the whole moon sketching by Rich Handy in the CN sketching tutorials is a good guide to start experimenting with.

The moon is currently in a good phase at waxing gibbous, allot of surface but not too much, so I would encourage others to give the whole near sphere a try. What’s the worst that could happen? That you make a few mistakes and it becomes a lesson to learn from? Or that you might produce a masterpiece and get really inspired to do it again? :cool:

Good luck,

Mark

#12 Erix

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 09:31 AM

You can add me to the club too, especially when I was moderating. It was getting to the point where everything was becoming too much work and just not enjoyable. It was time for me to step back, take a breather and remember why I got in this hobby to begin with. I'm also getting better about not feeling guilty if it's a beautiful day or night out and I would rather do something else instead of astronomy.

Rarely can I just enjoy the view during an observation. I always want to record them for my journals. That takes a lot of extra time itself before I even start writing up a report, record all the technical details of the observation, and create a finished collage of my sketches to store on the computer or share with others. Even now, I've got a huge stack of hard copies of my reports plus all the original sketches that I haven't put in my journals because of lack of ambition to get it done (plus I need to buy another binder to put the latest ones in).

The moon is one of the most difficult targets out there to sketch, especially if you tackle a difficult region or try to render in depth detail in some of its features. It's tempting to go straight for the most dramatic, difficult targets along the terminator. But you might find it more relaxing to spend more time away from the terminator and concentrate on simple craters, dorsa, riles, domes, mares....anything that can be done in a shorter amount of time with ease and without the rush of shadows changing your view.

Eric is spot on in that this is a hobby and it should be fun. I don't push myself anymore if I'm tire or not in the right mindset to sketch. And I don't allow myself to feel pressured to create beautiful artful observation sketches. My sketches are a means for me to record my observations and to help me spend more time studying the object I'm viewing.

#13 rodelaet

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Posted 07 March 2009 - 07:40 PM

Mike,

Like all the others say, everyone has experienced similar situations.
Now, most of the time here in Belgium, we have lots of bad weather and little opportunity to observe. And when the sky clears, I cherish that rare moment and I am glad that I can go out and observe. Cause it might take another 2 weeks for the next clear sky.
The situation chances when I’m on vacation. It happens that every night is good enough to observe. My desire to observe can fade away when observing too many nights on a row. It takes a lot of energy and concentration to keep on sketching over and over again. At a certain point, the act of observation can become boring, and then it’s time to back off. It has happened to me that I was too tired to observe and hoped for the weather to be overcast, looking for an excuse to stay indoors. Shame on me!
A good friend of mine once said : heaven can wait. There will always be the next opportunity. Don’t force yourself if it doesn’t feel right.

Clear skies,

#14 JayinUT

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 10:59 AM

I would encourage others to give the whole near sphere a try. What’s the worst that could happen? That you make a few mistakes and it becomes a lesson to learn from? Or that you might produce a masterpiece and get really inspired to do it again? :cool:

Good luck,

Mark


Mark,

I have avoided the moon because I just don't feel up to it (health and in terms of my artistic skill or lack thereof). Well, right now I am not up to it as I have passed on 1 great night, and 2 good nights of observing as my back heals. However, since my students in an after school program are going to be observing the moon on April 2nd and 3rd, and my back should be better, I do believe your words will inspire me to give a crater a try after they are done. Until then I will find a good image to practice on. Your right, the worse that happens is I have a "learning experience" and I try again. Thanks for the inspiration.

And btw, I was born at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Portland on April 20th, 1965 at 10:47a.m. for what that is worth.

#15 Tom and Beth

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Posted 08 March 2009 - 11:15 AM


It's better to look forward to than to live or look towards the past. Life is too short as it is.

Congratulations on being a Grandfather, again.

#16 markseibold

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Posted 09 March 2009 - 05:55 AM

I would encourage others to give the whole near sphere a try. What’s the worst that could happen? That you make a few mistakes and it becomes a lesson to learn from? Or that you might produce a masterpiece and get really inspired to do it again? :cool:

Good luck,

Mark


Mark,

I have avoided the moon because I just don't feel up to it (health and in terms of my artistic skill or lack thereof). Well, right now I am not up to it as I have passed on 1 great night, and 2 good nights of observing as my back heals. However, since my students in an after school program are going to be observing the moon on April 2nd and 3rd, and my back should be better, I do believe your words will inspire me to give a crater a try after they are done. Until then I will find a good image to practice on. Your right, the worse that happens is I have a "learning experience" and I try again. Thanks for the inspiration.

And btw, I was born at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Portland on April 20th, 1965 at 10:47a.m. for what that is worth.


Jay-

I am sorry to hear of your back illness. I can sympathize and/or empathize on that as I was in excruciating pain for all of last summer 2008 with a torn shoulder muscle. It took several months to heal yet I kept working on possibly wrongful 'light duty' doctors orders. Ironically that is when I was starting to sketch the whole moon in as much detail as I could in under 2 hours or so late at night in the waning phase as I could not sleep due to pain. Perhaps that pain medication helped but I wouldn't recommend that anyone resort to pain meds to do effective artwork.

I may have forgotten the major aspect of why astronomers are advised to sketch as Erika's and Eric's comments reminded me again; it is not a job; it is supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable time away from the job. It is ideally also supposed to help the observer to remember to see the fine details which can enhance the enjoyment of observing. I never took so much increased interest in knowing all of the lunar surface feature names and to note the changing lunation and phasing effects at the terminator until I started sketching those features repeatedly every month as the summer clear weather and comfortable warm balmy nights allowed this. I wonder now why I never started sketching from the eyepiece earlier in life.

Jay, I may have missed that you mentioned earlier that you were born in Portland Oregon. Also, it sounds like you are teaching as you mentioned your students. May we ask what subject you teach?

I have been invited to speak to art, science and photography students at a local high school, showing my sketch art at the beginning of spring term; then to a college astronomy class of seventy students in the campus planetarium to introduce the importance of sketching in astronomy to increase and enhance the seeing of what is observed. I am not sure yet how I will show and tell about my past award winning astrophotography that has now transgressed back to hand sketched art and why I do this more so now instead of astro-photography. I find that the sketching can vary so much in the finished image each time, that it is simply surprising and enjoyable to see the varying degree of what will emerge with each new attempt to sketch. I was not seeing that surprise of a new image so much with astro-photography. Nor the learning of increased 'seeing' that is attained with each and every new sketch-work in process.

We have all reflected in a varied and useful way here. I hope that this encourages Mikiek and I just wanted to say thanks again to Mikiek for starting this most interesting discussion.

Mark

#17 JayinUT

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Posted 12 March 2009 - 08:36 PM

Mark,

So you know, I spent 20+ years in business, the last 10 as an executive when I left to go back into education (short and long story if you know me). I'm rather different as I have both a secondary certificate that allows me to teach History, English (double major) and science (as a minor). I also have an elementary certificate. When I moved around 5 years ago the school district I was hired into asked me to teach in a sixth grade class in a school that needed my experience. So I did and for the last 3 years I have taught all subjects; Math, Language Arts, Science and Social Science but the emphasis has been for me to teach Language Arts and Science, and I serve as the Science Director for our school.

Good luck in your speaking engagement. I know the students will be amazed.






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