People Still Draw Astronomical Sketches? Really?
Technique And Drawings Contributed By Master Astrosketcher Chuck Hastorf
Above, you see a sketch of the lunar crater Eratosthenes. Below
is the photograph used for creating the sketch. This photo and other lunar
photographs can be seen at full size at 6 Inch Newtonian Astro-Photos.
But Why Sketch In This Day And Age?
You may ask "Why do we continue with astrosketching in this age of modern
photographic equipment and expensive huge telescopes?"
There are several reasons:
(1) The huge observatory telescopes are dedicated to more arcane projects
than objects visible in backyard telescopes.
(2) Believe it or not you can actually see more detail visually with a
modest telescope than expensive CCD and SLR cameras can capture. Do you think
that is too bold of a statement? Do think that you don't look like your
driver's license or passport photo? Well, you are right, you don't. The camera
can do one thing that you cannot do visually on dim, astronomical targets, that
is capture some color. Even at that, almost all photographs that you have seen
have been digitally enhanced.
(3) The activity of drawing helps you concentrate, and strengthens
memory and viewing acuity.
(4) Most importantly, astrosketching is fun.
I have seen the work of many astrosketchers. I think that there are
basically two types of sketchers. The most common of those sketchers are
already accomplished artists that bring their lifetime accumulated sketching
skills to the field of astrosketching. The second are amateur astronomers who
want to enhance their astronomical skills and record their observations. My
recommendations are, if you already are proficient at sketching, don't change a
thing. Just apply your acquired skills to the fascinating subject of
astrosketching. Have fun.
A Workable Sketching Technique
Personally, I find individual styles the most interesting. Read on about
this sketching technique, and apply or reject as you please. If you lack
sketching skills, the following steps won't guarantee to make you a polished
astrosketcher, but may help you to create your own sketching technique.
1. Pick Target
2. Gather Your Drawing Tools
3. Establish Centers "X" and Angles
4. Use soft lines, avoid circles
5. Lightly Sketch Primary Object Outlines
6. Sketch Outlines of Peripheral Objects
7. Repeat for Interior Objects
8. Finalize Walls
9. Finalize Interior Object
10. Finalize Floors
11. Establish Sunlight Source
12. Draw Shadows
13. For an additional challenge, you can scan in your drawing (or photograph
with a digital camera), and use your sketch as a background in a drawing
program like Sketchbook Pro, Photoshop, or Gimp. Then use their extensive
tools to create a truly amazing image. That was the process used on the
drawing in the following illustrations.
14. Save as JPEG File
An Example Sketch Sequence
The following images illustrate the described sketching process as it was
used to creater the Eratosthenes crate drawing shown at the top of the page.
The first step in sketching, illustrated above is to sketch out the angles
to the areas of interest in the telescope or photograph view. This becomes the
template for inserting the sketch of each interesting feature.
Note that in this illustration, the center of the Eratosthenes crater
(the X) was chosen as the reference point for the other features.
The next step, as illustrated above, is to rough in the main feature
limits. In this way, the overall geometry and feature sizes will come out
properly in the final drawing.
With the geometry established and the main feature sizes drawn, it's time to
rough in other features, as illustrated above, such as other smaller features.
In this case, smaller craters, mountain peaks, and crater interiors.
Now, as shown above, the lighting source can be considered, and the feature
shadows sketched in. Note how what was just a bunch of lines is taking form as
a clear crater and mountainous region.
The Final Product And Comparison Photograph
And finally, you can end up with a finished sketch like the one above.
Below, you see a photograph of the Eratosthenes crater region
as a reference.
To help you appreciate the art of sketching astronomical objects, you can
enjoy more of Chuck's fine drawings at
Another accomplished astro-sketcher is Eric Jamison, and you can view his
tutorial and some of his sketches at Eric
Jamison's Astronomy and Photography site.