I love this book. I love everything about it.
Full disclosure: I started painting small watercolors as I traveled in my 20s, starting with wildflowers in New Zealand and tropical blooms in Hawaii. Simple stuff, done in an hour on a beach or in a garden, long before I ever heard the term â€œplein air.â€ I enjoyed how it made me slow down.
Seattleite Molly Hashimoto took her passion for the pastime and made a life of it, teaching others at environmental institutes in Oregon, the North Cascades and Yellowstone. She has exhibited watercolors at galleries throughout the Northwest and at Bellinghamâ€™s Whatcom Museum of Art.
In â€œColors of the West: An Artistâ€™s Guide to Natureâ€™s Palette,â€ she presents not only a handsome coffee-table book of her work, with gorgeous landscapes from Oregonâ€™s Ecola State Park to Wyomingâ€™s Devils Tower, but also a useful how-to manual for hobbyists like me. The subject matter is delightfully organized by hue â€” green, blue, gold, red, orange and violet â€” with landscapes and wildlife to match. (In the orange chapter, three images of an awakening fox make you feel it stretching out the kinks.) The North Cascadesâ€™ Diablo Lake is in the green chapter, of course, and here and elsewhere Hashimoto documents the entire palette she used. (A great help â€” I always have trouble choosing the right green for firs.) Guess what chapter has Mount Rainier? Violet. Of course.
She got me with these lines: â€œIt doesnâ€™t take long for my students to recognize the power of slowing down and closely studying their environment. They tell me they look at trees, rocks, clouds, and all the elements of natural landscapes quite differently once they attempt to sketch and paint them.â€
There are technique tips, material lists, pleasant snippets of poetry â€” plenty that will make any watercolor fan love this book.
(Mountaineers Books, 192 pages, September 2017, $24.95)