Sketching Method: (was (IAAC) Your deep sky projects)


Sorry for the delay, but yes, I'd be delighted to outline my sketching
method. Having found the object, I usually spend about ten minutes looking
at it. I use a few different methods to try to extract as much visual
information as I can from an object before beginning to draw it. I use
averted vision all around the object, looking everywhere but at the object
itself. This is a very effective technique and most of what I end up drawing
can only be seen with peripheral vision. Tapping the telescope to make the
image wobble a bit also can bring out difficult detail. One technique that I
use myself but have never seen or heard anyone else mention is simply
letting the object drift through the field without actually paying any
conscious attention to it. When I have used all these techniques and
squeezed as much as I can out of the object (ten minutes is quite enough for
this stage) I begin to draw what I see. I use sheets of A4 paper pre-printed
with three circles. I illuminate the paper with the dimmest red light I can.

I have experimented with many different drawing implements, but finally
settled on a very fine black or blue fibretip pen. Pencils and biros are
horrible to use on slightly damp paper. Also, the fibretip shows up far
better in my tiny circle of dim red light than pencil.

Initially, I outline the shape of the object in the centre of my circle.
Usually with a galaxy, this will simply be a circle or ellipse of the right
size. Having done that, I then plot all the stars that are visible in the
field. I know of some observers who plot the stars in an object's field on
the paper from a star chart before even looking at the object. I don't do
this for two reasons. 1) Plotting the stars that I can actually see can
gives me an idea of the limiting magnitude at the eyepiece at the time I
made the sketch. I often note the magnitude of the faintest star I can see
(I usually put a little "f" next to the faintest star so that I can identify
it later). 2) How well I draw the star field (i.e., have I plotted all the
stars I should have been able to see, and are they all in the right place
with regard to each other) is a permanent record of how well I was
performing at that moment. I can tell whether I was over-tired, sloppy or
right on the ball.

Having plotted the stars, it's amazing how much more detail I can see in the
object - even though I've not been studying it. I usually draw a larger
version of my outline outside the circle of the main observation. In this, I
plot all the fine detail I can see, sometimes making extra sketches of small
details. I have also developed a shorthand all my own over the years. It
started as NGC description code, but has grown to include arrows, symbols
and vowel-free words. These are not detailed notes, but just an aide-memoir.

I write up the observation as soon as possible after seeing the object. This
usually means the following morning. The image of the object is still fresh
in my mind at that point, and my shorthand scribble still means something.
My permanent observation sheets have a circle on them exactly the same size
as the circles on the field observation sheets. I determine the orientation
of my field sketch by comparison with a star atlas (usually Guide 8.0).
Aligning the field sketch so that North is up, I trace the positions of the
stars onto my permanent sheet. I then very faintly outline the position of
the main object in soft pencil. Using all the little sketches made at the
eyepiece, I redraw the object onto the star field. With judicious use of
soft and hard pencil, fingertip and sharpened eraser, I find there's very
little that cannot be successfully put on the sketch.

Hope this is of interest.

Clear Skies All,


 Believe it or not...
 Your life could be better.
 Treat yourself to a Lifestyle Upgrade.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Lew Gramer" <lew@upstream.net>
To: <netastrocatalog-announce@atmob.org>
Sent: Thursday, October 03, 2002 3:20 PM
Subject: RE: (IAAC) Your deep sky projects

> Patrick, I have been intrigued by your sketching technique
> ever since you showed me some of the results (and I over-
> heard some of the process during the nights) at WSP. Can
> you elaborate a little bit for IAAC readers, on what your
> detailing and sketching process is? Clear skies!
> Lew Gramer, IMO, NAMN, Webb Society, NDSOS, ATMoB, NSAAC

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