5 August 2020

#DrawnToGeoscience: Imaginations to animations

Posted by Shane Hanlon

#DrawnToGeoscience is a series of posts by artists who draw about science and explain their process and inspiration while also showcasing their pieces. Learn more about contributing. This week, Irene Crisologo.

As a kid, I could sit quietly for hours entertaining myself if I were handed a pen and a paper. Now as an adult, I still find myself doodling and sketching when I’m bored, or when I’m trying to explain something. Putting imaginations and thoughts into drawings is apparently a useful skill later in life, also as a scientist. Illustrating processes and how things work, even in the most basic form, is a useful science communication tool. 

When I was preparing for my thesis defense on weather radars, I wanted to give a short introduction on how it works. I was expecting an audience with diverse backgrounds, so I thought I’d give a crash course on Radar 101. I did not find a diagram or animation from the internet that matched what I had in mind so I decided to make my own. 

Because I had to draw each frame in the animation, I had to pick which elements were really needed. This challenged me to keep the message concise, and this also made the final product clean and simple. My initial apprehension that it would look too informal for a PhD defense presentation was quickly relieved when I got positive feedback after my practice runs. I was glad to learn that the audience appreciated the simple animated illustrations as breaks from the nitty-gritty details, and that it helped them visualize and understand the concepts I was talking about.

To make the animations, I use apps like Flipaclip and Autodesk Sketchbook, which allows frame-by-frame construction of animated GIFs (much like how one would draw on the corner of a notebook and flip the pages). 

Here’s another one on how rain drops grow and change in shape:

And how some clouds form:


Check out the rest in https://github.com/IreneCrisologo/sci_animations!

-Irene Crisologo is a PostDoc in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Northwestern University. Find her on Twitter @irenecrisologo for more animations, and on Instagram @irenethehuman for some non-digital art.