Sketching Materials

I was talking with my friend Mat on Friday evening and he asked me what items are needed to start sketching or in order to do sketching out at the Utah Star Party. So I thought I would link some of the reference sites I have and then also post some of the pictures I took on Friday to help out those who may want to sketch.

There are two ways that I have sketched and I'll present them here.  I began by simply using a #2 penicl and a circle. I eventually worked up to using a set of sketching pencils in the following ranges:

HB, 2H, 4H, 2B, 4B.  Here is basic guide for items you need it your doing pencil/graphite on white paper. A Clipboard to draw on. A dim red observing light to illuminate the clipboard. Paper prepared in any of the following ways:
1. Blank.  2. Prepared with predrawn sketching circles. 3. Copied or preprinted log sheets. 4. Copied or printed or traced starfields (I recommend if your doing this to print off a prepinted map of stars with the circle for the eyepiece your using. This allows you to focus on drawing the object).  Then a HB and 2H pencils.
Pen for notes, I recommend writing on the backside not on the front as it looks more pleasing.  Blending stump or tortillon. Choice of erasers whether art gum, eraser pencil or kneaded.  Eraser shield used to constrain erasures to a small area.  Pencil sharpener or lead pointer. Sandpaper block used to hone the point of a pencil, blending stump, or tortillon.

Jeremy Perez over at his sketching site, The Belt of Venus has a great tutorial of how to use these items. It is located at this link. It is a video of Jeremy sketching M81 and M82 but the principals would work the same with a nebula or similar region. Jeremy to me is one the masters of not just sketching, but of capturing exactly what he sees at the eyepiece. Also at his Belt of Venus site Jeremy has a wonderful resource for Graphite on White paper located at this link.

Here are some images of materials you can purchase here in Utah at Hobby Lobby if you want to do this method. I have a case to hold my pencils and on the left side of the case are my sketching pencils. On the right, the blue are drafting pencils that hold sticks of lead and that come with their own sharpener to sharpen the lead.  I like the drafting blue pencils as they are easier to use and hold.  Next to the blue drafting pencils are my blending stumps.  Below the case you can see an eraser that I use.  Next to the case is my white sketching pad. I use to use a compass and make a circle but I personally find it more liberating to simple sketch on the paper.  Here is a sandpaper sharpening tool that allows you to sharpen a pencils, or a blending stump. On the bottom of the sketching pad are two kneaded erasers in two different sizes. I prefer the larger size because it allows me to form it as I want. To the left of that are more blending stumps an a couple of tortillons which can blend also. Under that package is a chamois cloth that also helps in blending and removing blending marks.

The other method, which is the only method I am currently doing on my own sketching is called the Mellish method. It was developed by Scott Mellish of Austrailia. You can see Scott's work at Astronomy Sketch of the Day at this link and in this link. Scott, unfortunately, passed away at age 46 in April of 2011. Another wonderful observer who Scott had shared his technique with, Alexander or Alex Massey, actually got the word out to the astronomical world on the Mellish method of sketching.  Alex made this tutorial over at Ice in Space at this link to the site.  

The Mellish method is using a dry paintbrush to paint on the pastel to black paper. You use a white pencil or pen to make your stars, I use a pencil and then the brighter stars I come back later and make brighter with a white ink pen.  I'll post images of what I use in a second. I recommend that you also look at these links if you want to do the Mellish method as posted in Alex's article.

Sketching Practice

Star Brightness

Layering in the Mellish Method

here are some images of the items I use in my sketching using this wonderful method.

In the image above you can see, going from right to left the following.  Sandpaper that you put the pastel down on to pick up with the paint brush.  I got a thinner sheet of fine sandpaper from Lowes.  Underneath that is a chamois cloth I use for this method to thin out pastel if I put down too much.  Next to the sandpaper are two white pastel pencils that I get for putting down stars. I use the pencil to mark all my stars, and then a white ink pen which is laying in front of the pastel pencil and paint brushes I use the white gel ink pen to make the brighter stars brighter and to record my information on the back of the black paper.  Next to the pastel white pencils are three bags of paint brushes. I use a variety, and have a larger set of fan brushes for larger nebula and wide field sketches. I use a variety so follow Alex's recommendation for brushes on his link if your new to this method. Next to the brushes are my pastel chalk. I have two sets. I have a basic set that are in the sandwich bag that are made by the General and have a white pastel, a light gray pastel, and then a dark grey pastel.  The Green box is filled with a large variety of white, light and dark gray pastel that I use the most as I like the variety of colors it provides based on the object I am sketching.

Here is my sandpaper and my white pastel pencils with the sharpeners down below. I LOVE the sharpeners and the pencils. 

Here are the pastel white pencils, and some of the brushes I use. 

Below you can see the White Gel Ink pen I use, the eraser, one pencil sharpener, though I prefer the ones in the white pastel pencils.  One of the pencils is out also. 

Here is a close up of the white gel pen I use. 

Here are my group of 3 pastels from the General and my Soft Pastels of white to various grays. They were on closeout and I gambled and bought four of them so I am set for some time! 

Here is the gallery Artist's Soft Pastels in Greyscale. 

The last thing you need is black paper. I get a type of black card stock that works well with me as I like that the paper really never bends unless I bend it. 

 There you go. That is what I use to do the Mellish method, well basically. I have a couple of items not pictured that I use also.  I hope this helps.


Equipment Tune Up

I've decided that Labor Day from now on will be my astronomy equipment tune up day.  So sure enough, I took time this afternoon to tune up my equipment. I started with my mirror and it was in need of a cleaning. Using Dave Kriege's method, I did it with the mirror in the cell.  I started by putting a drop of dish soap in a gallon of distilled water. I then poured the distilled water onto the mirror which was out of the rocker and leveled, and let the water sit on the mirror. I then used some sterile cotton and swished the solution around using the cotton. I then tilted the cell and allowed this solution to drain off the mirror. I then rinsed the mirror with two gallons of distilled water, and then laid down paper towels soak up the water and then allowed the mirror to air dry without any spots! Worked like a charm and the Zambuto looks great now!

Next, on the cell and rocker I noticed a couple of dents in the wood so I filled them up with putty, and sanded and re-sealed with polyurethane after the putty dried.  Next I adjusted the base of the scope and applied some Sailkote on the azmuith and a little on the altitude. I cleaned the rocker and the mirror cell wood areas and got the dust gone and put some lemon oil to restore some of the shine. I cleaned up the Alt bearings and after cleaning the upper OTA and lower OTA, I put the scope up. It looks good and is in excellent shape for some fall and winter observing.

Next, my observing chair was in need of some lovin after two years of use. I began by re-gluing one of the dowels on the seat that had come lose back into place. I then cleaned the chair and applied a new coat of Helmsman Clear Satin polyurethane coat on the chair and seat. I hung the chair from the long metal shaft on my garage door with some string and it made it easy to make the chair look like new again. Since in August I had cleaned my eyepieces there was no need for that put I updated the batteries in my Telrad and cleaned the glass on the Telrad and cleaned my 9x50 RACI finder glass.  I got my fall observing lists ready which were printed off and decided on my strategy for where I am going with my the Herschel 400 II list and sketching some less known and better known objects.

After this I was finished with my tune up and started looking at my winter gear to make sure it was all put together. I have purchased a pair of wool pants to go with my base layer and also a new snowmobile bibs.  I check my other items, both sets of base layers, pants, wool sweaters and hoodies. Yep, I am ready to go! Boots are in shape as are the my socks and my silk base layer for my feet. Oh, I checked the thread on my tires on my Pathfinder, good to go and tuned it up today.  Now I am ready to go and I recommend to others that September is a great time to tune up your equipment for the fall and winter observing season!