Sketching Your Observations


From Eye to Paper

The other day, I was leafing through a three-ring binder looking for an old drawing of some Messier object when a sketch of NGC 7789 caught my eye. This gorgeous open cluster graces the winter sky as a resident of Cassiopeia. The cluster was discovered by Caroline Herschel in 1783. Seeing that sketch immediately transported me back to the late autumn night in 1999 when I first saw Caroline's cluster. Looking into the eyepiece of my 10-inch Newtonian, I was awe struck by a delicate nebulosity entangled with brilliant white stars. That image reminded me of a blooming white rose which is why, to me, NGC 7789 will always be the White Rose Cluster.

This is why I sketch my observations and why I encourage you to do the same. A drawing records the aesthetic experience of observing far better than words. It allows us to relive nights long past as though they were experiences just completed. It allows us to share those experiences with family and friends, giving them a tangible representation of what we see. And the act of drawing makes us better observers.

Drawing requires that we pause long enough in this helter skelter existence to spend significant time with an object. We drink it in, allowing the eye and mind to reach beyond the physical and, perhaps, experience the metaphysical. On those rare magical nights, the telescope, the sky, and intervening space all melt away. We make a direct connection with a star cluster or galaxy, and experience it with an indescribable immediacy. Drawing at the eyepiece builds a connection between the observer and the universe, which is unequalled by any other observing approach.

In this section of Cosmic Voyage, I share my thoughts on the art of drawing at the eyepiece. And it is an art. As such, each observer needs to discover his own purpose for drawing and style of drawing. There is no right or wrong way to approach sketching at the eyepiece, except that the act of drawing should enhance your observing experience. Hopefully, the pages that follow will help you to discover your mojo with pencil and paper.

Musings on the Art of Sketching The Deep Sky Shallow Sky


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Revised: June 14, 2003 [WDF]