- Author: Lanie Keystone
At the end of a recent visit to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, I stopped by the Museum Store. Wondering into the children's space, I came across a terrific toddler's board book, Trees by Molly Hashimoto with text by Zoe Burke. I was immediately struck that the book, created for very young children had such fine artistic illustrations and poetic narrative. I decided it was worthwhile to explore more about it and the artist and share the book with our Under the Solano Sun readers.
During that exploration I made the most wonderful discovery—Molly Hashimoto has written a magnificent book about trees for beyond-the-board book-set—us!! So, this is a two for one review of books cherishing one of my favorite topics, trees.
First, a bit about artist and author, Molly Hashimoto. Because, in the telling we can understand why her artwork is not only stunning but also has the authenticity of one steeped in a greater knowledge and intimacy of the outdoors in general and trees and other flora in particular. Ms. Hashimoto, a Seattle artist and writer, has been sketching, painting and writing in nature for over 20 years. She is an inveterate sketcher of the flora and fauna of the West and has filled over 40 sketchbooks with landscapes, vignettes, studies and natural history notes. She has written numerous books both for adults and children and teaches regularly for Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, the Yellowstone Forever Institute and the North Cascades Institute.
Trees of the West: An Artist's Guide is Ms. Hashimoto's most recent book, having just come out a few months ago in September of 2022. In this volume, she uses a variety of mediums to express the grandeur, strength and enduring beauty and importance of trees. Among them are: pencil, pen, wash sketches, block prints, watercolors and intaglio etchings. Each featured species is described through a comprehensive natural history as well as brief ethnobotanical notes. In addition to the exquisite art work, the book is made even richer by the selected poems and quotes from other writers and artists—each celebrating the human connection to trees.
It is clear that trees have shaped her as an artist, hiker, outdoors lover, gardener and traveler. She uses concise lines, strong contours and hues of foliage that range from the subtle to the brilliant. Hashimoto gives us a peek into her process of creating art by telling us about the mediums she uses while sharing artistic tips and techniques. The book is imminently personal—filled with her experiences in nature, telling stories about her encounters with trees--whether in her backyard, national parks or forests throughout the West. Native trees rather than cultivars are the centerpiece of the book with a special focus on the 46 major species found across the region. Trees of the West: An Artists Guide, is a poignant call for each of us to study and soak-in the timeless strength, elegance and enduring importance of our native trees.
Trees: The Board Book, is Hashimoto's celebration of her love for and encounters with trees—this time for the very young. Or is it just for the very young? Her art in that board book attracted me in the museum gift shop. Her art got me to want to know more about her, her work and her passion. No, this so-called “toddlers book” is for all of us. It's a call—in miniature—for us to discover and learn more about trees-- what they can do to and for us--and why we should value them as the constant companions they always be.