Art and Field Sketching

Thursday, Friday 8-11am PT / 9am-12pm MT / 10am-1pm CT / 11am-2pm ET Online


Ander Sundell, College of Western Idaho
April VanDeGrift, College of Western Idaho
Ryan Petterson, Stanford University

A deployable module to increase students' drawing and sketching abilities.

Drawing is a vital mode of communication in the geosciences. As educators, we use it to communicate concepts and processes to our students. We also regularly require it of our students for the purpose of showing comprehension or to aid in their analysis of a field area. Most educators and students alike have never been exposed to a formal drawing course and the inherent abilities of each group have a broad range. In this workshop we will work with a formal drawing instructor to develop a deployable module that will give students exposure to the fundamentals of drawing in the context of the Geosciences.

All workshops will take place online, via Zoom (unless otherwise noted). Participants will be sent links to the Zoom room and connection info will be posted below prior to the session start.

Following drawing sessions, participants will upload images of their work to our google drive workshop google drive

Session Connection Info

This event has already taken place.


Drawing and sketching can play a vital role in geoscience education. In the classroom we use sketches as an effective tool to convey scientific concepts that would be difficult to communicate otherwise. This is an easy way to represent the complexity and nuance of the natural world. In a field setting, drawing has some specific advantages over photography; it provides a shorthand that captures the complexity of a feature much more effectively than a written description, it can focus on key aspects of a particular outcrop or field area that may not be as obvious in a photograph, and it forces the artist to closely analyze the subject and pay specific attention to how various features come together.

Field sketches do not need to be particularly well done or beautiful to be effective, they serve to reduce the subject to the key geologic information and force the artist to investigate detail that may have been missed otherwise. That said, many students may feel intimidated by their perceived lack of artistic talent. In this workshop we will work with a formal drawing instructor that will provide tips and methods that will allow students of any skill level to more accurately sketch geologic features ranging from hand sample to field area.


This workshop is designed for any level of Geoscience educator that would like to incorporate or improve drawing and sketching in their courses.


By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Show students how to use a view finder to "crop" the information that they would like to communicate in their sketch
  • Use a sighting rod and other simple tools to accurately represent spatial relationships of their subject
  • Effectively "filter" the scene and focus on features that summarize the information that is most important


The workshop will consist of "in class" drawing of outcrops from photographs and some simulated "out in the field" work that will allow participants to practice the methods that we have discussed.


all times are shown in PST, adjust times as appropriate

Day 1

8:00-8:45 - Warm-up, Introduction, backstory, workshop overview

8:45 -9:30 - drawing from a printed picture at 1:1 (drawing session 1)

9:30-9:45 - Break (upload work via dropbox)

9:45-10:10 - 1:1 scale drawing review

10:15-10:55 - drawing from a presented image with viewfinder? (drawing session 2)

10:55-11:00 - end of day "roadcheck"

Day 2

8:00-8:10 - coffee and welcome

8:10-8:30 - review from drawing session 2

8:30-9:30 - using previous skills to draw "in the field" including color and composition (drawing session 3)

9:30-9:45 - break and upload work via dropbox

9:45-10:10 - review last drawings

10:10-10:50 - discussion, workshop review, plans and tips for implementation

10:50-11:00 - workshop evaluation


This course can be done with the most basic materials: Paper and a pen/pencil/piece of burnt wood/quill. You don't need anything fancy.

Journal Any old paper will do, especially for this workshop. But I generally recommend students have a way to keep it all together in some sort of "journal." That could mean just punching holes and putting it in a binder, or even stapling the edges. If you would like to get a bound journal, the Strathmore Visual Journal is a great all around option. If you want something lighter, any bound notebook should work. If you're looking for something hardbound, or heavier paper (for more watercolor), Penatlic, Moleskine, and Stillman & Birn also make great journals.

Pens any will do! But if you're going to try watercolor, make sure it's waterproof ink. Ballpoint pens are often sufficient but test it out! If you want a little bit nicer pens (that are still reasonable), I recommend Microns Pens.

Pencil mechanical is best, don't forget extra lead

Watercolor I love watercolor. Wow...that felt weird saying, but there it is. Like anything, there is a lot to watercolor. Lots of different paints, and brushes, and whatever. Do not get dragged into that right away. If you're just getting started I recommend a basic set and a waterbrush. The Winsor and Newton Brush Pen & Watercolor Set is an excellent place to start.

If you have any questions about materials, feel free to reach out to any of the instructors ahead of time! -Ryan

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