This afternoon I drove out to the Nielsen Observatory to do some sketching. I've been wanting to improve my "sketching-from-life" ability, and yesterday acquired a small notebook to keep handy for that purpose. I'll just say right off the bat. I've had this urge before...a few times actually. I've purchased notebooks, sketchpads, "journals," and each has ended up in a drawer somewhere with nothing but a page or two filled up.
But who says I can't keep trying?
This most recent impulse is largely inspired by my reading of an anthology of nature writing: "This Incomparable Lande," compiled, edited, and introduced by Thomas Lyon (a Utah State University professor from 1964 to 1997). I've been completely captivated by the writings contained in the book, and scattered throughout are lovely black and white illustrations by various artists.
Black and white...just the thing to get my juices flowing!
So, here's my sketch of an afternoon at the Nielsen Observatory (and please forgive my misspelling...spellcheck is a curse!)
Another impetus for this particular sketch is my experience at the last BRAS public observing session. About halfway through the night, a thick bank of low ground fog rolled in, obscuring the view of everything except that which was directly above us. Our equipment was sopping wet to the touch, but in the exceptionally still air, objects at the zenith shone with a steadiness not typically encountered in this region. I'd been considering making a drawing of the scene, and wanted to reference an accurate illustration of the tree line that borders the observatory. So, I went back this afternoon to try out my new notebook.
Here's what I wrote on the page following my sketch.
Trying to remember how this scene looked at our last public event. The star party began at 10:00 pm with a crystal clear sky in all directions--obscured only by a small crescent moon setting low in the west. Saturn. M13. The Ring. Around 11:00 a low ground fog began to move in. In minutes the tube of my Dobsonian was dripping. Lee set up a camera tripod a little ways off in order to take some long-exposure photos of our foggy gathering. The fog thickened. The air was still. Looking straight up to Hercules the sky was jet black with un-twinkling pinpricks for stars. John said even with the fog, this still air is best for splitting close doubles. He scoured Hercules for gems while Mizar and Alcor shone out boldly for young guests. Albireo was steady and faintly colored. Observing lower into the murk, a stargate still led me to the Sombrero--haze within haze. Sounds muffled. Black trees stare out from a gray sea. M7. Just barely. Green lasers are beacons. Pages curl. Glass fogs. Everything at eye level obscured. We look up into black.