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Why do you sketch?

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#1 azure1961p


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Posted 21 December 2012 - 01:54 PM

In the face of effective CCD imaging and the affordability of it , it poses a question to the classic approach of EE Banard and the like. So why do you sketch?

Without getting wordy Ill just say it is a discipline that forces me to see more and to do it methodically and systematically. The end game is that despite the CCD imaging out there real time dedicated observing offers first person experience that just doesn't fit into a pixel. I know I saw it how it truly was.

Well that's my .02



#2 Andrev



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Posted 21 December 2012 - 02:44 PM


Because I always said I won't go into the imaging way, the only way to show what I see in my solar scope is to sketch it. That's it.

And god I love that. So addictive.


#3 Ed D

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Posted 21 December 2012 - 08:04 PM

About a year ago observing changed for me. With the Planets putting on a parade, and Mars coming to opposition, I found I couldn't get enough. Additionally, I could now observe my targets in spite of the heavy light pollution, and best of all, I didn't need to eradicate my yard of doggie land mines because I can observe comfortably from my patio.

Meantime, I had made many enhancements to my scope to better optimize it for observing in my heavily light polluted environment, which also turned it into a very good planetary instrument. I was now observing details I had never seen before and knew nothing about. Wanting to know what I was looking at I started to frequent the sketching forums. It was inevitable that I decided to try it. My first sketches left a lot to be desired, and I almost gave up. It was the support I got on this forum that kept me going. I soon started developing the 'personality' that you see in my sketches.

A benefit to sketching is that it has made me a much better observer, enabling me to see much better detail not only in planets but also in DSOs. The other benefit is that I now have a record of my observations and I can compare previous ones to current ones and see the changes that have taken place.

I work in a technological field and the last thing I want to do is complicate my life with more technology after work. I don't even want PUSH-TO, much less get into AP. I actually find it relaxing to make rough sketches and make notes, then sit down at a later time and compose my sketch based on the memories of what I observed and the drawings and notes that I made. I wish I had more time and more clear nights to pursue observing and sketching, but I'm very grateful for what I do have.

Ed D

EDIT: I guess the short answer is I like it and want nothing to do with technology in my free time.

#4 azure1961p


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Posted 21 December 2012 - 09:58 PM

Great answers guys. A real bonus is that its cheap to do. All I did was go to the art store and buy some pastels and such and I just have at it. One thing that bugs me is that my drawings look three times as good as the online images. They're smoother, refined where as online they seem clumpy, lost definition and the blending efforts are lost in the translation. I like em but I wish they looked like they do hanging on the wall.


#5 Asbytec


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Posted 21 December 2012 - 10:49 PM

I am amazed at the similarities between Ed's experience and my own, well except for the light pollution and doggie bombs but including an enhancement to my own scope. Ed, what enhancement, specifically? I reduced my CO.

I am convinced it makes us better observers. And observing is a one on one, very personal experience like no other. You actually develop a relationship with your subject and develop a desire to capture the beauty offered to you, personally.

I used to image (2 decades ago) and it would take a very long time to set up equipment and drift align. I am old enough now to take life easier and really do not want the hassle of all that. Just give me a good Ortho.

#6 frank5817



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Posted 22 December 2012 - 01:21 AM

Hello Pete,

I wrote about this here and at ASOD couple of years back,
others added their ideas.


Frank :)

#7 JimPie


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Posted 22 December 2012 - 01:22 AM

Before I started sketching , I was a hunter of objects. Find one, then move on to the next. I think this is probably due to a malfunctioning pre- frontal cortex causing poor impulse control :grin:. Sketching has made me take the time to really study objects . I see far more detail and structure in objects than in my hunting and gathering nights.

I also have been interested in art since I was a child. I used to sketch and paint in oil and water colors: still life’s , landscapes , seascapes, portraits. Sadly, I know longer do that. Astronomical sketching (for me) is a marriage of my interests -the heavens and art.

#8 stray1


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Posted 22 December 2012 - 01:32 AM


I sketch because of a love for art (not that I claim my sketches are art), and that I want to present what I am "seeing" to anyone who cares to look.

AP is fantastic as far as that goes, but I am not currently interested in tying my rig down with a camera while I go off and do other things. I want to be "there", at the EP.

And sketching does make for better observing.



#9 Asbytec


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Posted 22 December 2012 - 04:41 AM

Jim, great point on skipping around the sky. I'll spend 2 to 3 hours with Jupiter. Even occasional deep sky will take half hour or so. That's a dramatic change from previously. Sketching causes us to slow down, smell the coffee.

Stray, "to be there." Exactly, to be part of the experience.

#10 Jef De Wit

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 08:16 AM

For me a sketch is the most easy way to share an observation with others. A nice souvenir too.

#11 Ed D

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 09:05 AM

"Ed, what enhancement, specifically?"

Norme, I don't want to derail this great discussion so I'll be brief. The major mods to my scope are a set of Discovery mirrors (6.025"/33mm) to replace the Chino ones, flocking the tube and everything in the light path, fan, a modded 2" R&P focuser. I'm going to make a tube extension soon.

Ed D

#12 Ed D

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Posted 22 December 2012 - 09:17 AM

Pete, I also don't like how my sketches look when I scan them for posting. They lose so much. Also, what started me looking in the sketching forum originally was that the sketches were more of a true representation of what could be seen at the eyepiece.

Ed D

#13 Asbytec


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Posted 22 December 2012 - 09:24 AM

Thanks, Ed, just curious.

#14 AdirondackAstro



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Posted 22 December 2012 - 09:18 PM

I always hear people asking what they can see through a telescope since it doesn't look like hubble's images, what does it look like? That motivated me to start sketching what I see through the eyepiece which has helped out a few people that were wondering about the views at the eyepiece.

I also enjoy sketching because, as others have stated already, it helps you pay attention to the minute details in an object. When you just view for a minute or two and move on you miss the subtle things in an object that really make it what it is. Noticing different colors of stars, dim nebula away from main nebula, or maybe even a galaxy hidden in a star field that you wouldn't have noticed if you only spent a couple minutes looking.

One thing I wish is that I would sketch more often. I always find myself grabbing my camera and imaging instead of grabbing my pencils and sketching. The cold winter nights makes it hard to motivate myself to try to sketch. I haven't yet figured out a way to keep my hands warm while sketching in 0F weather yet.

#15 JayinUT


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Posted 24 December 2012 - 07:06 AM

Sketching captures a single event in time for me. I can look at a sketch, review my notes on the back and I am instantly transported in time to that moment. I can recall my sense of smell, my thought process and observing. I post y sketches so that others can see and so I can see my own progression and if I can learn, so can others and do it better than I do. In the end I sketch because it improves me as a visual observer.

#16 Asbytec


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Posted 24 December 2012 - 07:34 AM

All excellent comments.

One point implicit is sharing the experience. To that end, sketching is about the event, the experience. It's about being there and telling others what a wonderful view we had, what we saw, and wish others could have seen it, too.

In that sense, sketching is not about the sketch itself. Really, you could throw up a blank circle, put a dark spot on it, and say, "hey, I saw this right there!" We should all applaud and hope to see that same thing...like Ganymede rising at opposition (in my avatar.) That's a moment locked in time I just had to share.

Most of us do our utmost, though, to replicate the view as accurately as possible. And we should. After all, it is the view that we want to get across. Hey man, look how beautiful Jupiter was, words escape me. But, sketching, to me, is about the moment - the time we spent under the stars. We're giving the observer a chance to look through our eyepiece and share that moment the following day. Sometimes words work, sometimes sketching can get that across better.

Pete spends hours getting the lighting just right so he can photograph his sketch and get it across to us as best he can. So we can see it as he sees it. Some folks use scanners and try to balance all those tones to get the best image across. I use paint programs and spend hours on each one carefully recreating the view in the most minute detail for those same reasons. Bottom line, results can vary. But the enjoyment we all share for the love of observing is orders of magnitude the more important thing.

I dunno, make sense? If not, Merry Christmas, anyway. :)

#17 Chopin


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Posted 24 December 2012 - 08:39 AM

...A benefit to sketching is that it has made me a much better observer, enabling me to see much better detail not only in planets but also in DSOs. The other benefit is that I now have a record of my observations and I can compare previous ones to current ones and see the changes that have taken place...

I concur with Ed 100%. I'll add that comparing changes from sketch to sketch not only provides me with subject progression, but also a record of my own technique and skill. I'm self-critical like that. :grin:

#18 stanislas-jean



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Posted 25 December 2012 - 12:54 PM

In spite of the poor consideration of this mean, it should be considered that under skilled hands and eyes it is possible still to perform extremly acurate results.
The eye performance is not still supedseeded
The results are immediately usable for analysis
The accuracy can be good with several sketches, 9 sketches can improve by 3 the raw data and acuracy.
The CM measurements can be performed by the transit method (the use of a spider wire installed at the focus of the eyepiece) with timing collection on features crossing the reticle located at the CM.
At last the big concern that remains is the fact that the observer is and remains in contact directly with the subject, can analyse what is collected, under the sky conditions, with tools, filters, polarimeters, spider wire reticle, in the visible spectrum.
That does a difference with imaging, not superseeds imaging but is still a complementay method to not negligeable.

#19 Uwe Pilz

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Posted 26 December 2012 - 01:45 AM

The starting point was for me: I am an engineer and se the computer all the day. If I would take photographs I had at least two computers at the scope. Not the right compensation for my professional work.

I sketch quite a lot. Sketching brings me closer to the heavenly thing, it is some kind of Zen experience.

#20 IVM



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Posted 29 December 2012 - 05:08 PM

Interesting viewpoints all. The way I see it the original question may be broken down into two and also a certain distinction must be made with definitions...

I sketch as an aid to memory about my observations. Actually I would like nothing better than having an easily recalled mental image of every great object. But sketches seem indispensable to supplement and aid in building such mental images. This pertains to observing structure in detailed objects (for me primarily the nearby galaxies), but on occasion I also sketch simple-looking, dim and distant ones in relation to the star fields to be able to confirm that I actually detected and identified them correctly.

That's as regards sketching sensu stricto, where you make a "sketchy" representation of what you think are the essential elements of the view, using whatever conventions you must but above all not destroying your dark adaptation (for deep-sky observers) and not taking a minute more than strictly necessary from your observing time. Drawing - attempting to produce an exact or at least passable rendition of the visual image - is different. As a matter of fact, I haven't done any in a while. Notwithstanding, I can say that my motivations for drawing are the artistic challenge, to communicate my views to others, especially those who do not observe with sizable apertures under dark skies, and as a reliable substitution for (rather than an aid to) the mental image.

As to why it should be a record of a visual observation, not a photograph, I would answer that it is because I like the dimness of cosmic objects. Photography makes everything as bright as what we, diurnal terrestrial beings, see in our everyDAY life. Thus while revealing much detail it also detracts from the otherworldliness in the cosmic objects. I am primarily interested in galactic structure, and the surface brightness of all galaxies (give or take) is like the surface brightness of the naked-eye Milky Way, which of course is a galaxy we see at zero distance (from inside). As we conscious telescope users know, the telescope can "bring us closer" by magnifying the image, but it is a safe device as regards preserving the surface brightness of the cosmic objects. It will never make the surface brightness higher to our eye (often it will make it lower). So the eye will be able to correctly relate the intrinsic brightness of the nebulous cosmic object to the rest of our visual experience (diurnal terrestrial). Especially after seeing the Milky Way hub overhead and "falling into it" from Australian Outback, this is for me the natural and at the same time not mundane brightness, and this is the brightness at which I want to see the structure of other galaxies. And I am not going to take a CCD image and then dim the screen to near-invisibility in a darkened room to achieve the natural viewing conditions ;) Although I like photography and it is important for guiding my visual observations.

#21 dweller25


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Posted 29 December 2012 - 06:15 PM

I feel a connection when sketching that I didn't get when I used to image.

#22 ericj


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Posted 31 December 2012 - 11:18 AM

Hi Pete,

Good question. I first started sketching because I wanted to make a permanent record of what I saw through the telescope.

Although I began observing the night sky with the unaided eye in the late 1950's, I did not buy my first telescope until 1972. One of the first telescopes I bought back in the early 1970's was not very good. It was a small 60mm refractor designed for terrestrial viewing and only gave powers up to 60x. It had terrible secondary color on bright objects, and the alt-az mount was not very stable.

At the time I did not know what to expect when observing objects other than the Moon, and did not know to find things in the sky.

Then by chance I read the almanac in the local newspaper which mentioned that Jupiter was the bright star-like object in the eastern sky after sunset, and that it had four bright moons that changed position over night to night.

As it got dark I saw the bright star like object in the eastern sky, opened the window and pointed my telescope out it to observe it (back then I did not know that pointing a telescope out a window was not a good idea because it degrades seeing).

Still as I increased the magnification I could resolve Jupiter as a disk with three bands on it, and see the four moons nearby. The fact I could see this on a planet that was over 480 million miles away really was amazing to me.

I wanted to make a permanent record of what I saw so I picked up a piece of paper, drew a circle on it and recorded what I saw. Without realizing it I had started to train my eye to see more detail. This was because each time I observed Jupiter again I made a sketch and could see more detail, even though it was the same telescope and same magnification.

The other reason I make sketches is that when I observe I get a sense of connection with the object, whether it is the Moon, planets, deep-sky objects, double stars, comets, or other objects.

There have been times when I did a lot of astrophotography http://ejamison.net/...hotography.html, in particular of deep-sky objects. However after a while I realized that what I was observing was the guide star, and that I missed the sense of connection I had when observed the object itself. For me, looking at my photos of the deep-sky object did not have the same sense of connection to it.

So this is why I still make sketches at the eyepiece. :jump:


Eric Jamison

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