Yellow-headed Blackbirds in block print.

Interview with Birds of the West Author Molly Hashimoto

Spring is a special time of year in the Northwest. The warming weather and fresh signs of life stirs us out of our winter doldrums and beckons us back into the world to engage the mystery and wonder of our new surroundings. For bird enthusiasts, Spring can be especially exciting to see the skies once again aflutter with seasonal visitors. Birds are more than an important part of our global ecosystems, they are ever-present members of our communities; filling our backyards and public spaces  with their songs, flights and colors. From mountaintop to oceanside, across forests, farmlands and urban skylines, birds can be seen and heard, brightening the landscapes we share with them.

In her new book, Birds of the West, artist, author and educator, Molly Hashimoto has created over 100 beautiful illustrations and prints of our feathered friends from around the Western United States. Molly will be speaking at Village Books on May 23 as part of North Cascades Institute’s Nature of Writing Speaker Series. I decided to ask her about her new book, her unique artistic style and what she finds vital about the connections between art and nature.

Cover of Molly Hashimoto’s new book. Birds of the West

Q: When did you first discover a passion for art?

Molly: “I began to draw when I was about 11 years old – I loved doing cartoons of my family and pets, and my drawing subjects just kept expanding from there.

Q: What is your process for creating your books? Do you have a plan from the outset, or do they come together over many years of compiling works?

Molly:The books have come together after many years of creating art.  While I’m working on the art I read widely, which enriches and deepens my experience of the natural subjects that I draw, paint and make prints of. I love poetry, fiction and non-fiction and the fine writers I have discovered over the years have inspired my own literary efforts.”

Molly’s pencil drawing of a Chickadee.

Q: When did you first take an interest in birds?

Molly:I liked birds from childhood, but didn’t begin to make art about them until about ten years ago.”

Q: I find it very interesting that many of your paintings and sketches have a very different style, texture or color scheme. Is there any intention behind that, or do you just allow it to come out organically?

Molly:Yes to organic creation! I feel that different birds, different subjects require different approaches. I don’t want to impose a single style or medium on the incredibly diverse natural world. It seems each subject, each place calls out for an authentic response to its essence; in addition, I love exploring new mediums!”

Green Heron at Union Bay. Painted in watercolor after photographing it near Molly’s house in Seattle.

Q: Besides making your own art, you also teach. What part of education do you find most enjoyable or challenging?

Molly:I appreciate all the different points of view that I get to experience when I teach. I hope to never impose my style on anyone–I try to help students uncover their own methods and styles, by teaching specific skills. Once students know how to use the brush or carving tools, they can handle those tools in their own way to create unique and very individual art.

Q: What role does art play in connecting people to nature?


Art brings you out of yourself so that you meet nature halfway–without that active approach, our connections remain somewhat passive and incomplete.

Q: If you had any advice for an aspiring artist or naturalist, what would it be?

Molly:Pursue what you love, take classes, read and study. Make friends in and out of your field of study- friends give great support as you develop.”

Q: Do you have any upcoming projects your fans should be aware of?

Molly:I am at work on new images for my calendar and note card publisher, Pomegranate Communications. I’m also working on art and text for a new book on flora and fauna of the west.

Kingfishers in pencil, watercolor and white gouache on toned paper.

Seattle resident Molly Hashimoto leads plein air watercolor painting and printmaking workshops at
the North Cascades Institute, Yellowstone Forever Institute, Wenatchee River Institute, and Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. Her artwork is  widely published in cards, calendars, books, and journals, and she is also the author of Colors of the West. Learn more at

You can hear Molly discuss her new book, Birds of the West and meet her in person at Village Books in Fairhaven on May 23 as part of our Nature of Writing lecture series and at these other events:

May 14: 5-7:30pm Seattle Audubon Suet Happy Hour evening event booksigning

May 16: 5-8pm, Cascadia Art Museum Edmonds Artwalk event: booksigning and demonstration

May 17: 1-3pm, Birds hands-on mini-workshop, book signing from 3 to 4pm Leavenworth Birdfest

May 23: 7-8pm, Village Books, Bellingham, booksigning and presentation

May 30: 7pm, Lake Forest Park Third Place Books, booksigning and presentation

June 5: 7pm, Portland, Powell’s Beaverton store, booksigning and presentation

June 6: 7pm, Elisabeth Jones Art Center, Portland, First Thursday Art Walk, exhibit opening and presentation

July 13: 6-8pm, Secret Garden Bookshop, Ballard Artwalk, booksigning

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