Editor’s note: This is the second week of special Earth Day issues in Pacific NW magazine. Last week, we profiled Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University in Bellingham.

 

IN THE FALL of 1969, at a conference in Seattle, U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin proposed a nationwide day of events to call governmental attention to our planet’s growing environmental issues. The idea was to harness the energy of ongoing anti-war protests to a rising public awareness of air and water pollution, and to pressure government to take action. A year later, Washington native Denis Hayes organized the very first Earth Day, inspiring 20 million Americans — 10 percent of the U.S. population — to attend massive coast-to-coast events.

The Backstory: A global premiere of Earth Day art, and a collection of rare, local talent 

Earth Day didn’t start the modern environmental movement — Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” sounded an early alarm in 1962 — but the event galvanized numerous small groups that individually were fighting oil spills, toxic waste, pollution, pesticides and wilderness loss into a unified force for environmental causes. That first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, made quite a splash. It led in short order to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean AirClean Water and Endangered Species acts, and sparked a worldwide environmental movement.

Fifty years later, the Earth’s environmental outlook is decidedly mixed. Yes, some great things have been accomplished over the decades. Auto emissions have been greatly reduced. Recycling has become commonplace. Organic farming and locally grown farm-to-table food have pulled up a chair at the dinner table. American lakes and rivers have made substantial recoveries. Globally, ecological consciousness and activism have never been greater. Here in the Pacific Northwest, more of us than ever are exploring the beauty of our natural world and joining others to help preserve it.

However, to many in the environmental movement, the lack of greater commitment and urgency from national leaders is increasingly frustrating. An estimated 5 trillion to 6 trillion pieces of plastic and microplastic trash swirl in our oceans. Reefs around the world are dying. Storms of growing frequency and intensity batter islands and coastal communities. Glaciers are melting, and seas are rising. Fires and drought seem to be increasing in size and duration. Climate change looms as an existential crisis.

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So, after half a century, it’s hard to know whether to celebrate or mourn how far we’ve come. Rather than debate the issue, we elected to take a fresh look at Earth Day through the eyes of current and former Seattle Times artists.

We invited them to contribute an artwork or two that speaks about Earth, nature, the health of the planet, endangered wildlife or anything else Earth Day might evoke for them. The results are amusing, thought-provoking, enraging and inspiring. A little like Earth Day itself 50 years ago.

 

PAUL SCHMID

The images of polar bears are from Paul Schmid’s children’s book “Little Bear Dreams,” a gentle bedtime story set in the fragile, stark beauty of the Arctic.

(Paul Schmid)
(Paul Schmid)
(Paul Schmid)
(Paul Schmid)

An artist at The Seattle Times from 1989 to 2006, Paul Schmid is an internationally published author and illustrator of picture books for children. In 2010, he was invited to a monthlong fellowship with Maurice Sendak. He also sells fine art paintings through his website, paulschmidstudio.com.

 

ROBERT MASSA

“This work is part of a series. I challenged myself to create a new work each month and pair it with a quote. After finishing April, which was all about rain, I used the same image to show what all that rain gave us.” The complete series can be seen at robertmassa.com or on Instagram at #robertmassa_art.

“APRIL”

“April” (Robert Massa)
“April” (Robert Massa)

“The weather wouldn’t settle down.

It would rain cats and dogs, then stop, then drip awhile,

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then stop while it made up its mind what to do next.”

— Glendon Swarthout

“I love this quote with this image … no explanation needed.”

“MAY”

“May” (Robert Massa)
“May” (Robert Massa)

“Lots of people go mad in January. Not as many as in May, of course.”

— Sarah Joy Fowler

“Who doesn’t go a bit ‘mad’ when, after all that rain, come the colors and smells of spring in the Northwest?”

“JUNE”

“June” (Robert Massa)
“June” (Robert Massa)

“How did it get so late so soon?”

— Dr. Seuss

“June’s image is a tribute to Max Fleischer, a major pioneer in the development of animated films. The quote is a bit obscure … but, hey! It’s Dr. Seuss!”

Robert Massa worked at The Seattle Times from 1984 to 1990. He thanks his co-workers for all he learned from them. He continued working in the graphic design field as well as designing and building clocks: massaclocks.com. He now spends most of his time letting his mind run free (creating) in 3-D space.

 

RANDEE FOX

“Bee Shaman’s Dream”

“Bee Shaman’s Dream” (Randee Fox)
“Bee Shaman’s Dream” (Randee Fox)

“This is an 18-inch-by-23-inch acrylic painting on panel. This piece was created in response to the current global crisis of the disappearing honey bee. It’s inspired by an excerpt from Antonio Machado’s poem, ‘Last Night As I Was Sleeping.’ I made the frame by hand, and the little nicho in the top contains a piece of real honeycomb.”

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“Last Night As I Was Sleeping”

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt — marvelous error! —

that a spring was breaking

out in my heart.

I said: Along which secret aqueduct,

Oh water, are you coming to me,

water of a new life

that I have never drunk?

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt — marvelous error! —

that I had a beehive

here inside my heart.

And the golden bees

were making white combs

and sweet honey

from my old failures.

Last night as I was sleeping,

I dreamt — marvelous error! —

that a fiery sun was giving

light inside my heart.

It was fiery because I felt

warmth as from a hearth,

and sun because it gave light

and brought tears to my eyes.

Last night as I slept,

I dreamt — marvelous error! —

that it was God I had

here inside my heart.

 Antonio Machado

Five Elements

“In addition to artwork, I have been a Nia (a holistic mind/body physical conditioning program) educator since 2004. This is a series of pieces I created for Earth Day last year. They represent the five Nia elements that provide the physical tools to rebuild our body tissue and to reorganize our nervous system. Each of the artworks contains some of the element it represents.”

Metal: Strength

Wood: Flexibility

Fire: Agility

Water: Mobility

Earth: Stability

Former Seattle Times artist Randee Fox has been a working fine artist since 1997 and has a studio/gallery in Georgetown. It’s called Fogue Studios and Gallery, and features professional artists over 50. View their work at foguestudios.com. You also can view Fox’s work at randeefox.blogspot.com/p/randee-fox-artist.html.

 

MARIAN WACHTER

“Bird of Happiness,” collagraph and clay relief print

“Bird of Happiness,” collagraph and clay relief print (Marian Wachter)
“Bird of Happiness,” collagraph and clay relief print (Marian Wachter)

“I spent many years living on a Puget Sound beach where Great Blue Herons were regular visitors. Seeing their graceful shapes in flight always made me happy. Likewise, I loved the shapes made by seaweed adrift in the water. It seemed like a natural companion for my beloved herons.”

“Childhood Wonders,” photo lithograph

“Childhood Wonders,” photo lithograph (Marian Wachter)
“Childhood Wonders,” photo lithograph (Marian Wachter)

“One day when my daughter was small, she walked into the house, wide-eyed, and said: ‘Look, Mom!’ She was proudly cupping her hands around a moth that she had captured. Her excitement was a magical moment that I wanted to capture. Sometimes, it takes the fresh eyes of a child to remind us to stop and look closely so we don’t miss the marvels of our natural world.”

Former Seattle Times artist and art director Marian Wachter lives in Seattle and works as a user experience designer at Amazon.

 

DAVID MILLER

“Orca on a skateboard”

“Orca on a skateboard” (David Miller / The Seattle Times)
“Orca on a skateboard” (David Miller / The Seattle Times)

“I painted this piece as part of a charity auction last year. Local artists were invited to create art on old beat-up skateboards that were displayed in a show and subsequently sold to benefit the Austen Everett Foundation. Orcas in peril have been a major news topic — starting in 2018, The Seattle Times produced a comprehensive series on their plight, Hostile Waters. In many ways, orcas are a bellwether species for the health of our oceans, and their decline raises alarm throughout the Pacific Northwest. The art was created in airbrushed acrylic paint.”

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David Miller is the Pacific NW magazine art director. Previously, he was The Seattle Times design director. During a long career in newspapers, he has served as art director for the San Jose Mercury News, The Denver Post, The Kansas City Star and USA TODAY. His work has earned awards from the Society for News Design, Society for Publication Design, Society of Illustrators and Print magazine.

 

JENNIFER LUXTON

“Inheritance”

“Inheritance” (Jennifer Luxton)
“Inheritance” (Jennifer Luxton)

“As I come of the age when family members start asking about grandkids, I find myself wondering what kind of a world I’d be giving those children. Could I bear to watch them struggle to survive the environmental consequences of the ambitious but ignorant generations before them? Would they come to resent me for their inheritance of a dying planet? What about their children? What about yours?”

Jennifer Luxton is a former artist at The Seattle Times who will be returning to The Times next week. She’s a full-time illustrator, volunteer entomologist at the Burke Museum and an avid gardener in her local Seattle P-Patch. Her illustrations regularly appear in the environmental outlets YES! Magazine and Grist. You can see more of her work at jenniferluxton.com.

 

FRED BIRCHMAN

“Earth Day 1970”

“Earth Day 1970” (Fred Birchman)
“Earth Day 1970” (Fred Birchman)

“I tried my damnedest to be positive, but after 50 YEARS!!!??? and so little action … We also have politicians who have been unwilling to face the facts of climate science. I do see an occasional bright spot (thank you, Greta Thunberg and Jay Inslee!).”

“After I left The Seattle Times in 1994, I did a brief stint as a graphics and illustration instructor at Seattle Central Community College, a brief fling as art director for a couple of startups, and ended up as art director for daily news at MSNBC from 2000 to 2013. Since then, I have primarily spent my time working on fine art (mixed-media drawing and sculpture). I was represented by Francine Seders Gallery from 1981-2013, when Francine left the business. You can see my work at fbirchmanart.com.”

 

CHRISTINE COX

“Endangered Species”

“Endangered Species” (Christine Cox)
“Endangered Species” (Christine Cox)

“At the time I made this painting, I was Pacific NW magazine’s art director and an illustrator for The Seattle Times art department. In honor of Earth Day 1990, we produced an edition focused on endangered and vanishing species. Shown here are white pelicans, North American monarch butterflies, mountain caribou and northern sea otters.”

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“Mother Earth”

“Mother Earth” (Christine Cox)
“Mother Earth” (Christine Cox)

“I created this image to be used in a video for a series called ‘Almost Fashion, Almost Fashion Earth Day Edition.’ The mom kisses the host and leaves a lipstick mark on the video screen.”

“Cone”

“Cone” (Christine Cox)
“Cone” (Christine Cox)

“I painted this image in response to all the invasive construction destroying habitat and wildlife, as well as humans!”

Christine Cox is a former Seattle Times news artist and Pacific NW magazine art director. She has worked for MSNBC, MSN Video & Entertainment and How Stuff Works. As a freelance artist, her clients include Amazon, UNHCR, Alaska Northwest Books and others. She has won numerous awards and was featured in Print magazine, along with other Seattle Times art department members. See more of her work at ccoxmedia.org.

 

GABRIEL CAMPANARIO

(Gabriel Campanario)
(Gabriel Campanario)

Gabriel “Gabi” Campanario is a visual artist, illustrator and journalist best known for his work as a staff artist at The Seattle Times. He is the author of “Seattle Sketcher: An Illustrated Journal,” and several books on urban sketching, including “The Art of Urban Sketching: Drawing On Location Around the World.” His sketches of Seattle were showcased in a five-month solo exhibit at Seattle’s Museum of History & Industry in 2014. To see more of his work, visit seattletimes.com/seattlesketcher and instagram.com/gabicampanario.

 

CELESTE ERICSSON

“Can it be Safe?” 

“Can it be Safe?” (Celeste Ericsson)
“Can it be Safe?” (Celeste Ericsson)

“This illustration is about the contamination of salmon runs in the Columbia River Basin due to the inadequate containment of Hanford nuclear waste, and its effects and intersection with Native American tribal rights. It originally appeared on the Sunday, Feb. 17, 1985, Seattle Times Issues page. It is a concern that continues to this day.”

“Saving the Salmon”

“Saving the Salmon” (Celeste Ericsson)
“Saving the Salmon” (Celeste Ericsson)

“This is an illustration about the continued threat to the salmon resource, this time posed by international treaties between the United States and Canada and by hydroelectric power considerations. It appeared on the Sunday, June 19, 1994, Seattle Times Issues page.”

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“Harvest of Questions”

“Harvest of Questions” (Celeste Ericsson)
“Harvest of Questions” (Celeste Ericsson)

“This illustration is about the array of pesticides in the nation’s food, and it raised questions about the efficacy of government oversight — especially about the use of the EPA-declared carcinogen Alar — on Washington state apples. It ran on Wednesday, May 17, 1989, in The Seattle Times Food section.”

Celeste Ericsson is a Seattle-based, award-winning illustrator and graphic designer with 20 years of experience working at newspapers (including The Seattle Times). She has previously judged at The Society of Newspaper Design: Best of Newspaper Design competition, and The Pictures of the Year International Exhibition. An art history buff, she also volunteers as a docent at the Seattle Art Museum.

 

MICHELLE KUMATA

“Water Bottle”

“Water Bottle” (Michelle Kumata)
“Water Bottle” (Michelle Kumata)

“The first concept that came to mind was how interconnected and interdependent we are. I wanted to emphasize the impact humans have on our planet, shown trapped in a plastic bottle — an environment of our own making, crowding out nature.”

Michelle Kumata worked as a graphic artist at The Seattle Times from 1995-2006. She is currently exploring the Japanese diaspora in the United States and Brazil through oral histories and visual storytelling. View her work at michellekumata.com, or follow her on Instagram: @michellekumata.

 

ROB KEMP

The Kemps’ wedding

The Kemps’ wedding (Rob Kemp; former Seattle Times photographer Tom Reese took the wedding photos)
The Kemps’ wedding (Rob Kemp; former Seattle Times photographer Tom Reese took the wedding photos)

“After 31 years of marriage, I believe getting married on Earth Day was good luck. My wife, Anne-Marie, and I were married in 1989 in Snohomish, in an old, white church with a tall steeple. Earth Day helps me remember the date. Everywhere we’ve lived since then, we’ve had big trees: oaks, apples, firs, cedars and lofty ponderosas. Trees are what I think of on Earth Day, besides our marriage. They all need nourishment and light, and room to spread out. And pruning sometimes. It can be painful to do that. But they thrive afterward, growing more than they would otherwise. Our tree is mature now. The branches are a bit gnarly; the trunk is getting stout; and a lot of cats have climbed into the leafy heights over three decades, then buried beneath in the shade. It drops a branch now and then, but still bends in harsh weather. It likes the rain and sun both. And it almost always rains on Earth Day.”

Credit: Former Seattle Times photographer Tom Reese took the wedding photos.

“My first real job was with The Seattle Times, beginning 40 years ago this year as an illustrator and designer. For some reason, I left Seattle for a magazine job in Washington, D.C., in the mid-90s, and returned to the Northwest five years later to the colorful mountain town of Joseph, Oregon, where I have been freelancing graphics and design since, and raising an awesome family.” Website: robkempgraphics.com; Instagram @robkempartandphotos.