2014 April 15 – Lunar Eclipse Animations

Rich Lunar EclipseMaster lunar sketcher and great friend, Rich Handy, created a 7-sketch sequence on August 28th, 2007 of the total lunar eclipse. While putting them into an animation, I was inspired to one day try it myself. That opportunity came on April 15th this year.

As a recap, I set up my 60D DSLR camera and tripod so that a friend could take photos of the event while I sketched at the eyepiece of a 102mm refractor. My stamina lasted until mid-totality before ending the sketching session to finish the photography sequence. The sketches have been smoldering in their folder until just recently. I say “smoldering” because each sketch from ingress to mid-totality took only 5-10 minutes before starting the next one!



















The sketches were flipped and rotated to match standard orientation.

preparing media

Preparing the circular sketch template

To prepare for the sketch sequence, I put together a media kit that included color Conte’ pastels, white pencils, an eraser, bulb blower and black Strathmore Artagain paper (400 series). To save time at the eyepiece, I used an upside bowl to create circle templates on several sheets of the black paper before heading outside.

prepared media

The prepared sketch kit and drawing board – ready to head outside

The pastels were assorted by the color palette I expected for the eclipse. Times that the phases were to occur and the planned sketch times (every 15 minutes) were jotted down on paper and taped to my drawing board.

Outside, I organized the sketch kit on a tray next to the observing chair for easy access and then sketched the Moon prior to the umbral phase. Once the actual eclipse began (05:58 UT), there was a flurry of sketching activity to catch the main features of the Moon, umbral movements, and the color changes. The most difficult part was resisting the temptation to chase the umbra’s shadow as it quickly moved across the disk.

The first step was to note the time outside of the sketch area and fill in the background of the disk with the side of a white (or color if needed) pastel stick. After blending quickly with my fingertips, I drew the umbra’s curved shadow and then filled in as many lunar features as possible within the allocated time slot. The sketch was removed from the pad and placed into a folder for safe-keeping before moving on to the next one.

20140415 collage low res

I ran out of steam during the greater eclipse phase and felt quite an accomplishment for completing the entire ingress segment.

A few days later, Rich sent me his beautiful eclipse sequence to animate, and I was thrilled to see he hung in there to sketch the entire event!


Here are the details from Rich:

Telescope: Tele Vue Pronto 70mm f/6.8 E.D.
Eyepiece: 8-24mm Tele Vue Zoom (24mm setting)
Date: 4-15-2014 Time: 04:54 UTC – 0950 UTC
Weather: Clear, 10-15 mph winds
Seeing: Antoniadi II to III


  • 14 sheets of Strathmore Artagain 400 Series 9” x 12” Coal Black drawing paper
  • 1 White Conte’ crayon
  • 1 White Conte’ pastel pencil #13
  • 1 Light orange Conte’ pastel pencil #17
  • 1 Medium orange Conte’ pastel pencil #12
  • 1 Deep orange Conte’ pastel pencil #40
  • 1 Brown Conte’ pastel pencil #07
  • 1 Sanquine Conte’ stick
  • 1 Tan dry pastel stick
  • 1 Brown dry pastel stick
  • 1 Art gum eraser
  • 1 12” x 16” drawing board
  • 1 Roll of 2” wide masking tape (four pieces to hold the corners of the paper down)

I was very excited to hear about the April 15, 2014 total lunar eclipse because I wanted to capture the entire event as a set of individual sketches. Based on the approximately 240 minute duration of the eclipse, and the fact that each sketch would take from 10-15 minutes, I calculated that 14 sketches would work well to document the entire eclipse.

First, I used the plastic lid to a jar and the white Conte’ pastel pencil to create 4” diameter circles on each of the 14 sheets. Each piece of black paper was taped down across the four corners only to allow quick removal and mounting of the next sheet to the drawing board.

Before sketching, I recorded my start time using Universal Coordinated Time (UTC), and did the same when I finished each sketch. I started using white Conte’ pastel pencil and white Conte’ crayon to sketch the Moon, and as the dark umbra advanced across the disk, I sketched the crescent Moon as it was gradually being overtaken by the Earth’s shadow.

At about the time of the 6th sketch, the beautiful copper orange hues started to dominate, with only a segment of brightly lit lunar surface showing. For these colors, I found that the orange and brown pastel pencils along with the sanguine stick and dry pastels represented the colors pretty well. I applied these colors in a very quick and almost impressionistic style, knowing that I did not have the time necessary to produce detailed drawings.

Eventually the bright white edge of the 11th sketch signaled the end of the umbral eclipse as the Moon slowly emerged from Earth’s shadow and by the time I started working on the 13th sketch the Moon had lost most of it’s color. The 14th sketch has just a small bite missing. Finally the 15th sketch is a reproduction of the first one, since at that point there was no further change noted and the Moon appeared just as it did prior to the eclipse.

Capturing the entire eclipse from start to finish as a series of individual sketches was very challenging and at many times during the course of the sequence I felt overwhelmed by the task, but my perseverance was rewarded with a unique record of a stunningly beautiful celestial event.

Rich Handy

I used Adobe Photoshop CS6 to process and animate the sketch sequences that Rich and I created. Here’s hoping for success during the upcoming eclipse in October!



~ by Erika Rix on May 25, 2014.

2 Responses to “2014 April 15 – Lunar Eclipse Animations”

  1. nice work. ifr conditions here prevented viewing. Just ECCELLENT! I have very bad central vision blindness. Found astronomy mag for kindle (reads aloud to me!) Led me directly to your article!

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