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 prior to the workshop start.


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 some "in class" drawing of samples and some "out in the field" work that will allow participants to practice the methods that we have discussed.