Friday, February 25, 2011

Try Sketching

Two fields of study become far more enjoyable by the simple addition of sketches of the subject or subjects. These are astronomy and botany.

It took me years to realize that a person need not be an artist in order to make useful sketches. For astronomy, a sketch of whatever we see through a telescope or binoculars at any particular time becomes useful when looking at the same scene on a different night. By sketching stars, planets or whatever, we quite naturally become more familiar with that part of the sky.

The same goes for plants, even more so. Making simple sketches has greatly enhanced my study of wild, useful plants. Since plants differ in style and structure, it pays to become familiar with the idiosyncrasies of each plant. And sketching helps immensely. Here’s one example.

I had just completed a sketch of a mature ostrich fern and then compared it to a professional drawing in one of my field guides. It was only then that I realized that I had depicted the pinna, the primary divisions of the blade, “leaves,” if you will, as being opposite each other on the stipe (stem). In fact, these occur opposite each other on ostrich ferns.

This little technicality made my sketch null and void. And, it etched in my memory the true features of an ostrich fern.

Besides all this, sketching is fun and rewarding. It requires nothing more than paper and pencil and perhaps a ruler.

Surprisingly, for someone with little or no artistic talent or skills, my sketches do manage to impart the flavor and general appearance of the wild plants.

For me, sketching my favorite plants has become an important adjunct to my study and enjoyment of the same. Just don’t ask me to sketch people, fish or animals. That simply isn’t going to happen.

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