GD: So you’ve got the directions and the scales that are very important. I couldn’t take a photograph of this one because I had to work out on the outcrop and actually do it in a series of movements. Before we had the technology of stitching photographs together, this is the way we’d reconstruct it. You can also pull orientation measurements. It’s important because later this outcrop is totally over grown and you can’t see anything, but you’ve recorded that information in a drawing.
MN: Do you teach your students to draw?
GD: The course I’m teaching this semester is called Structural Geology, and one of the things I decided was that I needed to have my students draw more, even if it’s just drawing samples, or from photographs. I’m making it a little more formal than I did last year, and grading them on the drawings. The reason I’m doing that is that a lot of the students say, “Oh, I can’t draw.” And I have to say, “Well if you don’t try, you wont.”
MN: Do you find it difficult to convince your students to draw?
GD: We have a saying in geology: “If you can’t draw it, you can’t understand it.” I think there’s a temptation, particularly for the present generation of college goers with the ubiquity of the cell phone, that you can photograph everything. But it’s just one representation of reality. A sketch can enhance the reality. It’s more than just a depiction of what you’re looking at; it’s an interpretation. So that’s why I think drawing is important. There are some concepts in geology that are very difficult to understand. You can take pages and pages of description that you could summarize in a single conceptual diagram.
MN: The act of drawing teaches you to observe in a different way, and the more one draws, the more one sees. Seeing itself is a learned skill.
GD: I look at the scene of a landscape, and they’re not seeing what I see, but that’s because they’re neophytes and haven’t learned to look closely. A lot of what I do in the more advanced classes is to try to get them to read the landscape as well.
MN: There’s an interesting connection between the slowing down required for drawing and understanding the slowness of time that’s required of geological concepts.
GD: When you have to stop and draw something, then you really sit down and start analyzing it in a way that you don’t do if you’re just doing a photograph. Something my colleagues are trying to do is a first year seminar class to ease people into this environment. Something I would like to do is have at least one module in there that is how to look at stuff. I don’t how many of the current generation sit down and draw things.
MN: What is this drawing describing?