Elegant Aviary

Birds of the West


What: Molly Hashimoto

When: 7 pm Thu., May. 23

Where: Village Books, 1200 11th St.

Info: http://www.villagebooks.com

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

“On the whole, birds appear to be the most aesthetic of all animals, excepting of course man, and they have nearly the same taste for the beautiful we have,” observed Charles Darwin in The Descent of Man.

This quote, included in the opening of Molly Hashimoto’s Birds of the West: An Artist’s Guide, posits that our avian friends are lovers of beauty and, in some cases, creators of art. If so, then it’s not hard to imagine they would appreciate Hashimoto’s loving tribute to them in the pages of her new book published by Skipstone, the sustainable lifestyle imprint of Mountaineers Books.

Over the course of 165 pages, the Seattle-based artist and author uses a dizzying array of mediums, formats and techniques to sensitively portray many of the West’s most iconic birds.

Rufous hummingbirds nectar on blazing Pyrrol scarlet trumpet vine. A green heron stalks with an extended quinacridone burnt orange neck in a Hansa yellow swamp. A pair of common loons float on the shimmering phthalo blue-green surface of Diablo Lake. A northern flicker poses outside its nest cavity, blazes of cerise on its head contrasting against the subdued brown tree. Trumpeter swans, stark in their whiteness, amble across the soft grays and earth tones of the Skagit Valley in winter.

Birds of the West is an elegant aviary captured in ink on pulp, a glorious riot of feathers and beaks presented in familiar natural habitats, in poses that reveal the distinct personalities and habits of their subjects.

Hashimoto began her journey in art at 11 years old, and has been making a career from her craft for more than 25 years. She leads plein air watercolor painting and printmaking workshops at nature centers throughout the West, including the North Cascades Institute, Yellowstone Forever Institute, Wenatchee River Institute, and Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. Her artwork—which isn’t exclusively focused on birds, but also mountains, forests, coastal headlands, estuaries and other landscapes—has been published in cards, calendars and journals, and she is also the author of Colors of the West.

One striking thing about Hashimoto’s work is how many different mediums she is able to skillfully deploy in her artistic interpretations of the natural world. When asked why she uses so many varied styles of art-making in her portrayals of birds, she explains, “I feel that different birds require different approaches. I don’t want to impose a single style or medium on the incredibly diverse natural world. It seems that each subject, each place, calls out for an authentic response to its essence.”

Her tome includes a section exploring these different artistic mediums for portraying birds, including pencil sketching, block prints, etching, egg tempera and, of course, watercoloring.

Sidebars delve in to “how to” topics like a survey of carving tools, strategies for creating color palettes, how to depict water reflections, mixing oil-based paints, and tips on how to capture feathers and wings on the page.

For Hashimoto, the act of making art is an important step in the process of tuning in with the natural world.

“Art brings you out of yourself so that you meet nature halfway,” she explains. “Without that active approach, our connections remain somewhat passive and incomplete.“

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