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Three Second Chess Applied to Sketching

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#1 rolandlinda3



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Posted 23 June 2009 - 12:26 PM

The Setting.

On the longest day of the year (June 21) central Virginia had the first reasonably clear night for over two weeks. The heavens showed themselves late through lots of moisture and some haze but they were beautiful. My observing time began with a simple delightful sky survey. Sketching started later but I wanted to cover several objects and get some practice doing them quickly. There is a game called Three-second Chess. Each player is allowed 3 seconds to think then immediately make a move. It forces some quick thinking but keeps a person focused on the overall game. As applied to sketching, I wanted to do something in parallel by concentrating on the overall shape and appearance of some chosen objects but not allow any digression into detail on particular features. It forces a rapid lay down of key stars, object boundaries, and overall features—a practice that helps in other observing periods.

The Technical Part.

Telescope equipment: 12.5 inch Dobsonian on Compact Platform and fitted with Mallincam Hyper Color Video Camera (50% gain; 7 or 14 second integration periods); 80 mm refractor for finding and centering

Monitor and sketching equipment: 4 inch B&W monitor for precise aiming and focus; S-Video input from camera to nearby sketch station with 19 inch HDTV monitor; observed magnification: 178X

Object 1: M51/M101 (charcoal on 12x18 white sketch paper)
Object 2: Lagoon Nebula central region (pastels on 9x12 black Strathmore Artagain paper)

Sketch time self imposed limitation: about 20 minutes per object

The Sketches. (simple scan; size reduction and/or merging with Photoshop Elements 2.0

M51/M101 quick charcoal sketches

A wild intense impression of the central region of the Lagoon

The Story.

As much as I love the study the heavens, that love seems more acute when I have not seen a clear night for a couple weeks. The sketching time was already primed with an hour of looking around—giving thanks to God for the beauty of a dozen objects that I surveyed in a quick run through the center of the sky. It was so intense at times that I stopped to raise my hands and exclaim back to God the words of Psalm 19. So with a glad heart, a warm evening, and summer sounds in the background, I went for a pair for favorites (M51 and M101), purposing to do them together with charcoal on white paper. Between equipment adjustments and moving back and forth to sketch, it took about an hour total. By then it was after midnight and the Milky Way was as pretty as I had seen it in months. Taking advantage of the color video camera I chose to apply the same rapid sketch techniques to the central region of the Lagoon Nebula. In this case, I made no attempt to get star field detail beyond the anchor stars but chose the concentrate getting an overall shape with a quick application of color. The colors were so vivid that I translated the intensity with force on the pastel to paper. The result was pretty outrageous but it was fun. By the time I unwound from the excitement and began putting away, I tried to stay awake to see more but I was more than tired. I was barely conscious when I hit the pillow after 2 am. It was a good night to give thanks. It was a distinct privilege to observe so much of my gracious Father’s heavens in such a short time from my own backyard.

#2 kraterkid



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Posted 23 June 2009 - 12:41 PM

Roland this is a wonderful idea that produced two beautiful sketches. Such a cool way to hone the eye and mind to rapidly define the key details in an observation. Well done! :waytogo:

#3 rolandlinda3



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Posted 24 June 2009 - 07:31 PM

Thanks Rich. Have to admit...I keep thinking about that latest sketch you did. Fast sketching does help some things, but in the end there is no substitute for an extended time studying and sketching an objective area, as you so well illustrated. Roland

#4 frank5817



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Posted 24 June 2009 - 07:52 PM


These sketches are very impressive and especially with your quick technique. If you had not told me I would have guessed 45min to an hour for each at least.
You have also done something else with the first two sketches put face-on spiral galaxies side by side for comparison. That is very cool.:waytogo:

Frank :)

#5 CarlosEH


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Posted 25 June 2009 - 12:56 PM


Excellent observations of the central region of the Lagoon Nebula (M8), M51, and M101. You have captured the spiral arms (with condensations) of the galaxies very nicely. The central region of the Lagoon shows a wealth of detail. Thank you for sharing it with us all.


#6 rodelaet



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Posted 25 June 2009 - 03:54 PM


It is my impression that the galaxy sketch was not made in a hurry, because it displays so many fine details. I like how you handle the charcoal. Well done.

The Lagoon seems chaotic and very excited. :cool:

#7 rolandlinda3



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Posted 25 June 2009 - 04:07 PM

Thanks all. Yep, Rony, it was chaotic....I was a combination of pooped, blown away by the vivid color on the high resolution screen, and ready to apply some "muscle" to the pastels to see what would happen.

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