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Sketching question

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#1 calder


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Posted 22 February 2010 - 04:15 PM

Hi all,

This is my first post to the sketching forum and my question is what is the size of your original sketches. I'm trying to get a sense of scale of how large my sketches should be when working at the scope. I have done my first quick sketch of Mars which can be seen Here(scroll down). I did not have much time to spend on this sketch as clouds rolled in shortly after I started thus ending any observing and testing out the optics of my ATCO 60mm scope. Because of all the snow here, I will not be able to get out with my usual AP equipment and will be doing some sketching through the ATCO. Sorry for the poor quality of the sketch... I used what was on hand; Derwent water color pencils on a sheet of plain paper. Next time I'll use better pencils and paper etc.

Thanks & CS,

#2 mathteacher



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Posted 22 February 2010 - 06:22 PM

For Mars I use a circle ~1.5" in diameter. For Jupiter I use something more like 2.5" diameter.

#3 frank5817



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Posted 22 February 2010 - 07:16 PM


Welcome to the sketching forum.
Nice Mars sketch as are the astrophotographs at your web page. :cool:
I think whatever size your are comfortable with would be good. I have made sketches on 3" x 5" index cards all the way up to 12" x 12" sketching paper. Some folks here go much larger than that.

Frank :)

#4 spaceblanket


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Posted 22 February 2010 - 10:23 PM


Wonderful sketch of Mars !!! I use a 2" circle for Mars and most other renderings. Although I was just reading and referring to the book Astronomical sketching, link below:


and it can depend on what the observer is sketching :-) Fantastic book by some of the Great members of this site !!!
Good luck !!

~~~ SB

#5 CarlosEH



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Posted 23 February 2010 - 12:58 AM


Welcome to the Cloudy Nights Sketching Forum. An excellent first observation of Mars. It appears that Syrtis Major is on the central meridian (CM) in your observation. This is a nice observation for a 60 mm aperture refractor.

The Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO) uses a 42 mm (1.7") diameter disk whereas the British Atronomical Association (BAA) uses a 50 mm (2"). Some observers have used 3 mm for every arc-second apparent diameter (e.g. 10 arc-second apparent diameter = 30 mm disk (1.2")). I agree with Frank that you should use whatever diameter disk that you feel comfortable with. Try not to use too small a diameter as this will crowd the observation and affect placement of the features observed.


#6 markseibold


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Posted 23 February 2010 - 04:43 AM


Welcome ot the Cloudy Nights Sketch Forum. I just perused your telescope photos. Beautifully documented. I bought an inexpensive Tasco 60mm refrator in 1968 at age 14. Still have it in the original box. I made sketches of Mars on the 1970 opposition through it while in my sophomore year of highschool but the optics were questionable. Trying to find those sketches now for years burried away somewhere.

Your Atco must have great optics. They built them with quality optics back then.

A friend loaned me a found Goto 60mm refractor in a wood box about 20 years ago to clean up the optics for him. The best views of Jupiter I have ever had were through that 60mm Goto. Although a maximum magnification of only 180X, I have never seen so much detail in the cloud belts.

Your Mars sketch is excellent. :bow: :bow: :bow: It appears that you observed Syrtis Major quite well.

As far as sketching, I am known as the mad artist that outdoes himself here with oversized art works. I sketch up to an occasional 22" X 30" black Stonehenge 100% cotton pressed fiber pastel papers with various dry soft ~ hard pastel chalks but more frequently on 19" X 25" black Strathmore Artagain pastel paper. Rarely as small as 9" X 12" Artagain tablets of black paper. I usually produce the moons disc at 12" ~ 15" and planets such as Mars, Jupiter and Saturn at 7" ~ 10" sketched discs, adding an artists conception landscape below.

Feel free to browse my gallery.

I'll look forward to seeing your future sketches.

My CN Gallery

#7 calder


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Posted 23 February 2010 - 05:25 AM

Thanks everyone for the warm welcome, kind comments and the useful links and information.

Thanks for the specifications Carlos. Gee... 50mm is a lot smaller than I thought the scale might be. It will be interesting scaling my sketches down to a smaller size because I just finished helping a fellow artist doing a 16' x 72' painting (my current avatar is a detail from part of it and is actually just about life size in the painting). I'll have to see what I can do to "think small" again. I have to admit that it is fun to get away from the AP for a while and I do know I'll be better prepared for my next sketching session.

Mathteacher, I can understand using a larger disk for Jupiter and Saturn especially when including the moons in the drawing. Nice images in your gallery and I see your really happy with your scope.

That's quite a body of work you have there Frank, very nice.

Thanks for the link SB, I'll be sure to check it out.

You all do such nice work.

Thanks again & CS to all!


#8 Rick Woods

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Posted 23 February 2010 - 02:59 PM

I use the lid from a small jar of Miracle Whip. Perfect size for Mars, and it fits nicely in my accessory box.

#9 Jef De Wit

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Posted 23 February 2010 - 03:25 PM

You made a very nice sketch of Mars. I like the black background: the "circles" work very good.

My experience with sketching:
The bigger the size, the more easy you can put detail in a sketch. The smaler the size, the more easy you can keep an eye on the total.

I make mostly my Mars sketches to big and make them smaler after scanning. So mistakes are also smaler....

#10 Jeremy Perez

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Posted 23 February 2010 - 08:11 PM

Bob, that sketch of Mars is wonderful! You obviously put a lot of care into crafting it.

A few of the factors that have affected the size of my sketches are:

Media used:
Some media work better at larger scales than others. For example, sketches that use pastels are hard to control at smaller sizes, and you'll want to go big. When I attempted my first white-on-black lunar pastel sketches, I prepared them at the same size I would usually try with a graphite sketch (about 5" x 7"). I was soundly defeated. Moving up to 9" x 12" made the process a lot more successful.

The texture of the paper you use will also have an effect. If it has some tooth to it, you'll get a bit of texture in shaded areas. If the sketch too small, that texture can start to interfere with any subtle details you are trying to portray.

When you're working under a time crunch, such as sketching Jupiter or Mars before they've rotated too much, a smaller sketch size can help you add details rapidly without getting hung up shading a larger field while the planet steadily spins before your eyes.

Comfort Level:
A huge sketch area can seem intimidating, especially if you're just getting started. It can seem like that paper is asking for a bigger commitment than you're ready to give :) Starting at a modest size while getting used to techniques can be helpful until you see that you want to go larger.

Room for Detail:
Minute details can be hard to portray using a small sketch field, especially if you are scaling a deep sky sketch to the full eyepiece field of view. It can be hard to describe dense star patterns in open and globular clusters, or mottling in tiny galaxies, nebulae and comets.


When I started, I used 3 inch circles for deep sky sketches. After a while I found they limited how closely I could accurately plot fine details, and any roughness in the paper was competing with the details. So now, I sketch in a 4 inch circle for unshaded or simpler deep sky objects, and use a 6 inch circle for most others. It's nice and roomy, and provides better opportunity to get the details right. Shaded areas appear smoother, and another nice benefit is that the stars appear more crisp in comparison to any extended objects.

If you prefer to sketch the object itself without the constraint of a field stop circle, then you can just go for whatever seems appropriate for your subject. Anytime I feel that the field stop circle is forcing me to sketch the object too small (as often happens with planetary nebulae), I'll supplement that sketch with another of just the object at a larger size so I can work on the details at a more comfortable scale. (For example: NGC 1501)

As Frank, Carlos and others noted, I'd suggest starting with a size that seems comfortable to you, see how it feels, then vary as needed.

(Thanks SB!)

#11 phxbird


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Posted 23 February 2010 - 09:08 PM

I recently posted a sketch of Mars using a new Meade 60mm refractor. I did it to mimic what a beginner could expect to see through the eyepiece. Really hard to do, bigger is much easier! I posted another that was much bigger and more detailed, so i agree that you do it in whatever size works best for you or the conditions. For years i sketched with a #2 pencil on notebook paper, so the quality of medium is not nearly as important as just getting out there and doing it! Now I print up those 40% off hobby lobby coupons and buy better quality art supplies! Got a set of 24 Prismcolor pencils for 9 dollars the other day. By the way Hobby Lobby is 60 miles away from where I live! I always hate it when people tell me to just "pop down to the local megamart!"

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