Forest Sketch

On one of my forest walks, I came upon an elderly gentleman who was standing by the trail, gazing up at a gnarly bigleaf maple. It was one of those Seattle-summer days when the sun comes out unexpectedly, and after weeks of dismal gray, the world was in full-color once again. The whole forest was glowing.

As I passed, the man tipped his hat to me in a polite, old-fashioned way that seemed out-of-place in West Seattle. He must be from a foreign country. Or at least, a foreign time.

“You know what I wish?” he asked, smiling. “I wish I was an artist. I wish I could paint this!” He swept his hand across the lovely scene.

I stood with him for a moment admiring the lumpy, twisted old maple. The sunlight was filtering through the leafy canopy, falling in streaks against the brilliant moss-covered trunk. I imagined painting the tree, how I would drag brushloads of sap green over raw umber to capture the colors and play of light.

I was just about to share my art-thoughts with him when I noticed his eyes had teared up a little. “I want to remember this tree,” he said. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen, but by the time I get home, I’ll have forgotten. It’ll all be lost…like it never existed. If I was an artist, I could paint this and take it home with me. I’d have it forever.”

I realized we weren’t really talking about art at all, but about how it feels when things we love slip away. Was he afraid his beautiful world was disappearing…being erased into blankness?

He was still standing with the old maple when I continued on my walk. I hope he remembers his tree.

I wish I had painted it for him.


An acrylic sketch I did of a maple in Schmitz Park. It didn’t have a mossy trunk, but it was beautiful anyway.




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Puget Sound

Our inland sea needs help


If you visit the Seattle Aquarium, you might come away thinking Puget Sound is a bright, beautiful undersea wonderland. In some places, it is.

But overall…Puget Sound is in serious trouble.

(Click on the images to get a larger view)

I did this watercolor after spending some time at the Seattle Aquarium. These types of “habitat and species” illustrations are meant as a condensed versions of reality—to inspire curiosity and wonder. But do they give a wrong impression that Puget Sound is bursting with healthy life?


Puget Sound has toxic levels of many different chemicals, and it is killing the ecosystem. At one time, we could have blamed Big Industry for Puget Sound’s problems.

I did this sign for my West Bay Park project in Olympia. It shows historical uses of the working waterfront. Today, some of that area has been restored.


Today, the biggest source of pollution in Puget Sound is not Big Industry. It’s us…you, me and pretty much everyone who drives a car or lives in a house in the Puget Sound Basin. It’s called  Nonpoint Source Pollution—meaning not coming from one point, but coming from many points.

Basically, anything toxic on the ground or city streets—like motor oil or lawn chemicals—will end up in Puget Sound. Over time, the accumulations take a serious toll on marine life.

I did this illustration of Non-Point-Source Pollution for a project at Lost River Cave in Kentucky. It’s a different type of watershed there, but the idea is the same. Everyday pollutants end up in water…either ground water, or major water bodies like Puget Sound.



This aerial view I did for my Arboretum project, shows how the Puget Sound basin is ringed by mountains—and by major urban areas. Extending north into Canada, Puget Sound is also called The Salish Sea.


Looking east, with Seattle in the foreground, you see the Cascade Range, which collects lots of precipitation as snow and rain. But between the mountains and Puget Sound are urban Seattle and the eastside cities and suburbs. By the time time flowing water reaches the Sound, it has picked up a lot of contaminants. (But, rest assured… Seattle’s drinking water is pure and protected.)


(Close up view of the Seattle skyline as it often looks. Gray on gray.)


If we want to protect marine life in the Sound, we all must help. Find out how you can help protect water quality.


What is your favorite Puget Sound marine creature?

For me, it’s a tie between the Pacific giant octopus and the wolf eel. At the Seattle Aquarium, I like watching the wolf eels swimming in the dome room. They are the most graceful swimmers! Watching them is positively hypnotic.

Wolf eels are fish, not eels. The male and female often live together and breed for many years.
















And they have such a face! A real mug. Love it!









What is the fate of Puget Sound?

Find out more…

Puget Sound Partnership

Washington State Department of Ecology

West Seattle Blog


Puget Sound Starts Here

Seattle Aquarium


What do you think?

Are you looking for ways to become a non-nonpoint polluter?

Leave a reply!

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