Earlier this year, I started thinking about how I’d really like to illustrate a field guide. I talked to friends and colleagues about it. I met with some scientists and artists to talk about the idea. Through conversations with a colleague, the Klamath-Siskiyou region came to my attention and I realized this was a perfect opportunity. Klamath-Siskiyou covers a vast and diverse region in northern California and southern Oregon. It includes a number of major rivers and watersheds, a significant stop-over point on the Pacific Flyway bird migration path, and it is one of the most botanically diverse areas in North America.
In the world of field guides, this area is largely ignored in favor of the more popular regions of the Cascade, Sierra, and Coast Ranges as well as the Pacific coast itself. There are some out of print or hard to find guides for just plants or birds or geology but nothing comprehensive as far as I know. And that’s what I want to do: a comprehensive field guide for the Klamath-Siskiyou region.
As the realities of taking on such a project started to settle in, I was quickly overwhelmed. Where should I start? I love birds and they are certainly a subject I have some experience with in terms of illustrating. But the vast diversity of plants is also fascinating! And what about the fish, the geology, the invertebrates, the mega-fauna? How could I possibly figure out where to start, let alone get all of this done in some kind of reasonable timeline?
After some consideration and conversation with scientists and friends, I decided to start with conifers. There are THIRTY species of conifer in the Klamath-Siskiyou region. Thirty! There are two species endemic to the area and some of my favorite trees live within the area boundaries as well. Plus, I figure thirty species is a significant, but manageable, number to start with.
I started my efforts with drawings of one very familiar species, the Douglas Fir, and one species endemic to the region, the Lawson’s Cypress (or Port Orford Cedar). These two small drawings represent my very first steps toward creating a field guide to the Klamath-Siskiyou region. They are experiments in media, size, speed, effectiveness. They are an effort to determine how best to approach the huge undertaking that is illustrating a book. They are also intended to provide the most significant identifying information in the most compact format.
These two drawings will be on exhibit as part of the second annual Nature’s Jewels exhibit at the Tilden Park Environmental Education Center. The show opens January 1, 2013. Please look for more information here about the Artist’s Reception and other events at the show!