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My foray into sketching

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#1 Michael Rapp

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:27 PM

Hi all,

Many years ago, I tried my hand at sketching, but unadulterated impatience caused me to abandon it. I was just starting out in astronomy and I wanted to see everything NOW. It was unusual for me to not have an observing session in which I did not knock out 15-20 objects in the Messier or even the Herschels lists.

The problem is, as you undoubtedly suspect, is that I don't remember hardly anything about those objects that I "observed." Indeed, I've been reading through my log books and the descriptions all sound the same, just variations on "faint, brighter core, diffuse outer region."

For several years I was involved in imaging as an effort to record what was up in the sky, but I got burned out on it; namely, as I felt I was engaged with the technology and not the universe.

I've decided to try to take up sketching again, to really try to record what I see in the eyepiece, and to enjoy the process, and most importantly, SLOW DOWN.

I've been reading Astronomical Sketching: A Step by Step Introduction. Tonight, I tried my first "practice sketch." I found a sketch of M 29 on the web and placed my laptop some distance away. Using the techniques discussed in the book, I tried to sketch the field.

My result is not perfect. Some of the stars are not quite in the right place and I noticed that I seem to draw slightly curved lines instead of dots for stars! (Is there a Paracorr for my technique? :lol:)

The first image below is of my sketching clipboard and if you've read Astronomical Sketching you'll recognize the gooseneck-attached red flashlight. You can see the model sketch I was using in the background.

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#2 Michael Rapp

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:28 PM

And, my sketch. I used 2H for most of the work and an HB to darken the brighter stars.

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#3 Michael Rapp

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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:31 PM

I've decided that my first two targets for real will be M 29, of course, in Cygnus and M 103 in Cassiopeia, another small cluster that seems manageable.

One question I have is, what size circle would you recommend for sketching? The size I chose was basically at random, and seemed a bit too big.

#4 Andrev



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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:38 PM


Wow, its a nice setup and a good first praticing sketch. Looks promising from you. Sketching at night must be more difficult than sketching the sun daytime. I never tried.

Good luck and look forward to see your real sketches.


#5 blb



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Posted 28 October 2012 - 08:38 PM

I use a 3-inch circle for my sketches. I have found that anything larger than a 4-inch circle is to large and anything smaller than a 3-inch is to small. So any circle from three to four inches seems to work best, a 3-inch circle fits my sheet with all the added information you will need to include. I worked up the sheet for sketching on my computer that I use. You can check out my blog site to see examples of the form and some of my sketches.

#6 JayinUT


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Posted 28 October 2012 - 09:43 PM


I recently did M103 and will have to find the time if I can to post it on my blog. It is a wonderful and fun object to sketch, especially with the color that is evident.

I use to use a 4 inch circle and then went to a 3 inch circle. After switching to the Mellish method I gave up on circles and have found that very liberating. I have to say that I like what you did with your practice sketch and the fun of sketching is to watch your own improvement over time.

#7 frank5817



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Posted 28 October 2012 - 10:16 PM


It sounds like and looks like you are on your way to enjoyable sketching for a good long time. A wise decision no doubt.

Frank :)

#8 Jef De Wit

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Posted 29 October 2012 - 07:15 AM

One question I have is, what size circle would you recommend for sketching?

It's very personal. So try some different sizes ande you will find the one that suites you best. It depends also on what kind of object you are sketching.
Hope to see much sketches here on CN in the (near) future!

#9 Special Ed

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 03:00 PM


Just wanted to add another encouraging voice. You'll get plenty of good advice from this forum (and from the book you're using). A practice run is good--now go out and try it in the field. You might be surprised how absorbed you get.

I use a 3.5 in. circle for DSO's and comets, a 4 in. circle for full disk solar observations, a 2.25 in. circle for Mars drawings, and various specialized templates for the other planets.

Not using any circle can be very liberating and/or appropriate for the target and type of drawing, e.g., a widefield rendering or a strip drawing, but I recommend a beginner use a circle. Having a field stop will help you place your anchor stars correctly and accurately distanced from one another.

Good luck with your sketching. :)

#10 Undermidnight


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Posted 31 October 2012 - 07:54 AM

Wonderful first sketch!! Keep it up...


#11 Michael Rapp

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 09:35 PM

You might be surprised how absorbed you get.

Thanks for the encouragement everyone. I haven't had a chance to get back out and sketch, but Michael mentioned something that is one of the things that has drawn me back into sketching.

I had the opportunity to regularly use a 9" refractor in college. I decided that with access to such a lovely scope, I might as well do something useful with it so I joined ALPO and did some sketching of the Moon, Mars, Hayakutake, and Hale-Bopp.

Sketching involves such an intensity of focus and study. I remember hours slipping by as I studied the objects and tried to accurate commit what I was seeing to paper. It's so paradoxical to me. Sketching requires such focus, but it is so relaxing! I guess, for me at least, it was that in order to heighten perception my mind shut out all the other distracting cares of the world.

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