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GBSQ 6 Sketching Workshop

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#1 Special Ed

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 06:37 PM

Hello Everyone,

I'd like to share with you my experiences presenting a workshop on astronomical sketching at the recent Green Bank Star Quest. The workshop consisted of two parts: a presentation showing the historic background of sketching, examples of contemporary work and techniques, a materials list, and tutorials; and a hands-on component using an object projected for participants to copy. Workshop participants were furnished with a 2B pencil, a kneadable eraser, templates, and a clipboard.

I was gratified to see a lot of interest in sketching. I gave the workshop twice and had 20-25 people at each one. Unfortunately, technology difficulties prevented me from showing the presentation at the first workshop, but we had a lively impromptu discussion and Q & A session which most found valuable. I provided hand outs for materials and resources including this forum, so I hope that some of my workshop participants show up here.

One of the reasons why I wanted to do the workshop was to use it as a showcase for some of the talent that we see here on this forum everyday. I also wanted to encourage people to sketch their observations, thereby improving their observing skills. I believe I succeeded on both counts.

When we got to the hands-on part of the workshop, I let the group vote on which object they wanted to practice sketching (all the choices are objects visible in the sky now). They overwhelmingly chose M6, the Butterfly Cluster, thinking it would be the easiest. They soon found that easy is still hard, but all did a very good job on their sketches, learning a great deal in a short time about astronomical sketching by doing.

This workshop was introductory and therefore limited in scope. I have been asked to conduct the workshop again next year, so I will be able to correct mistakes I made in content or focus--any suggestions or feedback are welcome.

I want to thank all the folks who generously allowed me to use their sketches in this workshop. If I did not use a sketch dear to you, I can only say that I used the work based on the best example of the point I was trying to make, so the mistake, if any, is mine. I wished I could have shown all the sketches I had (they were all that good), but my time for the presentation was limited.

I particularly want to thank Erika Rix, who provided me with much good material and encouragement, and Rony De Laet, who sent me an example of a presentation he did which was immensely helpful in designing my own presentation.

I also want to thank the organizers of GBSQ 6, especially Steve Ahrens, who actively promote and encourage astrosketching at this wonderful event on the grounds on the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.

I have posted the presentation on a hosting website for anyone who would like to see it. I could not believe how much work this turned out to be, although ultimately satisfying. A few caveats:

* the niceties of the actual presentation, such as dissolving from one slide to another or adding text one line at a time, are not present on this host website.

* Erika's animations do not work on the host website, although they did in the actual presentation. I plan to check with the host to see if I can fix that.

* Sol's positive/negative example looked fine in the real presentation, although it does not on the host website.

* Some of the text is a little cryptic--I filled in the details during the actual presentation.

* Click on the full screen icon (lower right corner) for the best view.

Here is the presentation:

Introduction to Astro Sketching

Best regards to all.

#2 kraterkid

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 08:23 PM

Michael, I very much enjoyed seeing your presentation slides, a very wonderful and educational astronomy outreach program! :waytogo: There must have been a lot of discussion and questions about astro-sketching from the two classes. What was the most asked question from the sessions?

#3 frank5817

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 08:34 PM

Michael,

From what I see of your presentation, you covered the topic very nicely. :cool: Can you tell me how long it took you to get through the slide presentation? And then the follow up sketching exercise on M-6? What kind of feedback did you get from those that sketched M-6?
Sorry for all the questions but it is interesting that you had two groups of 20-25 folks that found participating in an astronomical sketching exercising worthwhile. This is fascinating to me. Very few of the observers I have known would ever consider sketching what they see at the eyepiece.
Excellent work Michael, your efforts at this sketching workshop are to be commended. Congratulations! :waytogo:

Frank :)

#4 Erix

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Posted 05 July 2009 - 09:23 PM

It sounds like a success! Terrific presentation, Michael, and thanks for sharing it with us.

I really liked the history section at the start of the presentation. That was a very nice touch.

#5 Jef De Wit

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 04:50 AM

Michael

I really like the diversity in the drawings. It shows nicely all the different techniques possible. I will send the link to the mailinglist of my astroclub.

#6 Special Ed

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 06:01 AM

Michael, I very much enjoyed seeing your presentation slides, a very wonderful and educational astronomy outreach program! :waytogo: There must have been a lot of discussion and questions about astro-sketching from the two classes. What was the most asked question from the sessions?


Thanks, Rich. Probably the most asked question was, "where do I start?" We discussed starting with the most obvious or prominent features in a lunar or planetary drawing and anchoring the sketch with bright stars or asterisms in the case of a DSO drawing.

The question that surprised me was when I told the group that as they practiced and got better, they would develop their own style. Someone asked, "What is style?" We discussed how no two astrosketcher's work looks the same. I said that astrophotos of the same object looked similiar, although the way the imager presented the picture was a matter of style. With sketching, one has differences in media, technique, and presentation that become a pattern over time. In other words, you develop a style.

I really enjoyed the audience's reaction when your drawing of the Bay of Rainbows dissolved into view--it was the same feeling you get when you give someone a gift that you know they are really going to like. :)

#7 Special Ed

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 06:45 AM


From what I see of your presentation, you covered the topic very nicely. :cool: Can you tell me how long it took you to get through the slide presentation? And then the follow up sketching exercise on M-6?


Thank you, Frank. I had 90 minutes for the workshop, which sounds like a lot of time but, as I discovered, isn't. The presentation, with my accompanying comments and questions from the participants took about 65 minutes which left us 25 minutes for the practice session. I saved time on that by passing out pencils, clipboards, etc. as people came in at the start. Then we just jumped right into choosing a target and sketching it.

Two or three experienced sketchers attended the workshop and they wished we could have chosen a faint fuzzy so people could get experience with blending. I agreed--perhaps I need to cut the presentation in order to have more time at the end--then we could practice on two or three targets--but I just loved getting a chance to show off everyone's work. The first thing I would cut would be my solar projection tutorial. I left it in because the technique is accessible to all (not many amateurs have Ha scopes yet), and because Galileo used it. There are even sunspots on the Sun right now.

What kind of feedback did you get from those that sketched M-6?


Most if not all enjoyed the exercise. I circulated and gave feedback while they worked and they were totally absorbed in the task of placing the stars and recognizing the asterisms. People would comment out loud about the level of difficulty, but no one gave up. And they were eager to show me their work when they finished.

Sorry for all the questions but it is interesting that you had two groups of 20-25 folks that found participating in an astronomical sketching exercising worthwhile. This is fascinating to me. Very few of the observers I have known would ever consider sketching what they see at the eyepiece.
Excellent work Michael, your efforts at this sketching workshop are to be commended. Congratulations! :waytogo:


I welcome the questions, Frank. It's important for me to reflect on the workshop and try and improve it if I can. I, too, was surprised when Steve Ahrens told me how much interest there was (although many wanted to know if it was for adults as well as children). Partly, the interest was due to the fact that the Star Quest has always encouraged sketching, providing templates and conducting a contest.

Also, at the beginning of the workshop, I made some brief introductory remarks about the 800 pound elephant in the room--astrophotography. I emphasized how AP and AS were not in competition, but complemented each other--how you could compare your sketched observation to an image. I also mentioned how the eye doen't "bake out" when looking at bright objects, how your visual memory can "stack" images, how low-cost and low-tech sketching can be, and of course, what it does for your observing skills.

I wish you could have heard the ooh's and aah's at the end of the presentation when your picture of Orion appeared. :)

#8 cildarith

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 09:31 AM

Michael, you've produced a thorough and well-thought-out presentation that serves as an excellent introduction to astronomical sketching. The history section provides a great context for observational sketching that is sometimes overlooked. Thank you! :applause:

#9 rodelaet

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 04:15 PM

Michael,

Congratulations with your excellent presentation. :cool: :bow: :rainbow:

I wished I was able to attend to your magnificent workshop. :D

Keep up the good work. :bow:

And thank you for sharing the presentation.
I'll recommend it to all I know.

#10 Tommy5

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 06:55 PM

great presentation, hopefully we will see some of the foklks in attendence produce sketches here on CN, great job, sketching is the best way to accelerate ones seeing ability i'm glad so many were interested, keep up the good work.

#11 Carl Kolchak

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 07:08 PM

Here is the presentation:

Introduction to Astro Sketching

Best regards to all.


Michael,

Thanks for sharing this. I really enjoyed it. Wish I could have heard the presentation.

peace & clear skies,

#12 frank5817

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Posted 07 July 2009 - 01:02 AM

Michael,

Thank you for all your feedback. You are to be commended for this important contribution to astronomical sketching.
Wonderful work. :applause:

Frank :)

#13 Deven Matlick

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 04:54 PM

Here's some very bad news.

It is with great sorrow that I have to inform you that Steve Ahrens has passed away this morning form a massive heart attack. There are no other details at this time, but I will inform you as I hear more.
Please keep Connie, Caitlin, and our friend Steve in your prayers and pass this message on to anybody else who knew him.

#14 Special Ed

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 06:02 PM

I am very sorry to hear about Steve. He was a wonderful guy, funny and hard working and caring. He, with the help of the other members of the Central Appalachian Astronomy Club and the Kanawha Valley Astronomy Society, was the prime mover in organizing events at the Green Bank Star Quest, making it a great success year after year.

In particular, Steve was very supportive of astrosketching, designing and redesigning a template for sketchers to use (which was available at the registration area) and encouraging me to make my presentation.

Steve enjoyed all aspects of astronomy and was very proud of his new Lunt solar telescope which he received just before this year's Star Quest.

My thoughts and prayers are with Steve's family. I'll miss him.

#15 rolandlinda3

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Posted 10 July 2009 - 04:38 PM

Sorry to hear about Steve's passing but I am thankful for your work, Michael, and hope you will become a regular presenter to encourage sketching and observing.

#16 blb

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Posted 10 July 2009 - 10:04 PM

I am very sorry to hear about Steve. He was a wonderful guy, funny and hard working and caring. He, with the help of the other members of the Central Appalachian Astronomy Club and the Kanawha Valley Astronomy Society, was the prime mover in organizing events at the Green Bank Star Quest, making it a great success year after year.

In particular, Steve was very supportive of astrosketching, designing and redesigning a template for sketchers to use (which was available at the registration area) and encouraging me to make my presentation.

Steve enjoyed all aspects of astronomy and was very proud of his new Lunt solar telescope which he received just before this year's Star Quest.

My thoughts and prayers are with Steve's family. I'll miss him.


Me Too. My wife and I have been to four out of the last five GBSQ's and always enjoyed being around him and his family. I only wish we lived closer to lend support.
You are in our prayers.
Buddy B.

#17 CarlosEH

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Posted 11 July 2009 - 01:27 AM

Michael,

I am sorry to not have posted sooner but I wanted to review your presentation on Astro Sketching before doing so.

You have thoughtfully produced an excellent introduction to astronomical sketching. The points raised in your lecture are very important to any astronomer interested in recording what they observe with and without instruments. It is vital to point out the history of what astronomers in the past have accomplished. I have always been impressed with the outstanding observations posted by the gifted observers/artists on this forum, but to look back and see what an astronomer such as Galileo Galilei (and other accomplished astronomers) produced using his primitive telescope is nothing short of amazing.

I would imagine that most amateur astronomers interesting in recording their observations would be confused as to where to start their observations. Anchoring the sketch to bright stars or asterisms (in DSO observations) or albedo features (Syrtis Major on Mars)/major belts (NEB/SEB on Jupiter/Saturn) is useful advice. The question of artistic style has always plagued astronomical sketching. As you point out we all exhibit our own artistic styles when recording our observations. Critics of astronomical sketching argue that the existence of artistic styles by observers renders the observation less scientific. A lunar crater may be rendered using different media (e.g. graphite, pastel, digital, etc.) by different observers using their own "styles" but the major features of the crater will be recorded accurately in the majority, if not all, of the observations.

It is very important to point out, as you did, that there does not exist a competition between astronomical sketching and astroimaging. The two do compliment each other and are vital to each other.

I applaud your efforts to teach astronomical sketching to amateurs in your community. I hope that you continue this in the future.

Carlos

#18 Special Ed

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Posted 11 July 2009 - 09:38 AM

I want to thank all of you for your warm and generous comments. I hope that seeing the slideshow will encourage beginners to try sketching and re-emphasize to the more experienced how important a skill it is.

The SlideShare website where I uploaded my presentation does not support slide transitions such as dissolving or animations at this time. Such is the price of a free hosting website. I am sorry that Erika's interesting animations can't be viewed by people visiting the website, but at least the actual workshop participants got to see them. Any websearch on astrosketching will bring one to this Sketching Forum and eventually lead to Erika's animations. I will add the resources handout (which I gave to workshop participants as hard copy) to the slideshow to make that search easier.

I am very glad that everyone liked and appreciated the historical section of the presentation. As an amateur historian as well as an amateur astronomer, I especially enjoyed putting that part together. During the actual presentation, I was able to elaborate a little on the contributions of these giants of the past, e.g., Huygens's deductions about the true nature of the changing aspect of Saturn's rings, the Bond's discovery of Saturn's C Ring, Dawes's research on the limit of resolution of various apertures which is named for him, Antoniadi's seeing scale and his map of Mars based on his careful observations, Barnard's discovery of Almathea, the fifth moon of Jupiter.

Bobby B, I will pass on your condolences to Steve's family when I see them. Steve was instrumental in having Alan Bean, the fourth astronaut to walk on the Moon, speak at this year's Star Quest. Captain Bean was particularly interesting because he resigned as an astronaut in 1981 to devote his energies full time to his art. He has just published a collection of his paintings of space travel and lunar exploration for the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing. I highly recommend it.

Carlos, I want to thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. You have been a long distance mentor to me for many years now. We are very lucky to have an observer and artist of your experience and calibre participating with us in this forum.






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