In my writing classes, I emphasize how storytelling can bring a subject to life. It’s always rewarding to see a student use a story to help organize a story or book. I recently had the pleasure of coaching Molly Hashimoto, a local writer and artist, who told stories of her “en plein aire” explorations of the American West. I first encountered Molly’s work when I was teaching at the North Cascades Institute on Diablo Lake in Washington State. Her watercolor paintings managed to capture the special magic of that place in an unforgettable way. I was delighted when she asked me to help her with a book about painting.
The book project began some six years ago when she wrote a chapter about following in the footsteps of 19th century artist Karl Bodmer, one of her artistic heroes. He had travel up the Missouri River in the 1830 as part of a German expedition, documenting the local landscape and native peoples. Bodmer’s paintings and sketches were an inspiration for her and a priceless record of the early encounters between Europeans and native tribes.
Molly chose an appealing location to paint, the White Cliffs along the Missouri near a place called Hole-in-the-Wall, where Bodmer had completed some of his most striking images. I saw her book as a kind of quest narrative, one of the techniques I teach in my Seattle writing classes, and encouraged her to organize the story in this way. Molly took my advice to heart, refining her story and adding beautiful sketches and watercolors to enrich it. Now, her book will be published by Mountaineers Books. It’s a beautiful and instructive look at art of depicting and interpreting wild landscapes. She’ll be reading from Colors of the West tonight at 7 p.m. at the University Bookstore in Seattle. Don’t miss it!