Sequoia Sempervirens Cone - Botanical Watercolor Illustration

On an August night a few weeks ago, I awoke to the sound of thunder and flashes of lightning. The low rumbles of thunder have been rare in my 30+ years in California, but it is a sound familiar to me from my childhood spent on the East Coast and the Midwest. That storm ignited hundreds of wildfires throughout California. The thunder and lightning, echoing through the night, seemed distant but it brought an inferno – the CZU Lightning Complex fire – close to home. The storm came through in the early hours of a Sunday morning, and by Tuesday we awoke to ash and burnt leaves carried by the wind, drifting down from the sky. There were so many leaves and leaf fragments in our yard – touched by fire and so fragile – it made the fire seem that much closer. I began to collect them. Each leaf seemed to have a story to tell – through their charred edges, scorch marks, their smoky aroma, and their fire-eaten shapes. These illustrations are portraits of their journey and meditations on impermanence.

As most of you know, the series of lightning complex fires resulted in 2 of the 10 largest wildfires in California history. The CZU Lightning Complex fire has destroyed hundreds of homes and impacted so many in the County of Santa Cruz. Subsequently, with heat waves and the arrival of the Diablo winds in the North and the Santa Ana winds in the South, hundreds more wildfires have been ignited in California and throughout the Western United States – even as crews still fight to contain the fires ignited in August. We are so grateful to all of the firefighters and first responders who worked, and continue to work courageously and selflessly, protecting lives and communities. These portraits are dedicated to those firefighters and first responders, to those who have experienced loss from the wildfires, and to those whose compassion drives them to help their communities recover from such tragedy.

Singed Leaf & Fire Eaten Charred Leaf
Singed Leaf Fragment. watercolor and pencil illustration

Singed Leaf Fragment
watercolor + pencil on paper (6″x5.5″) • sep 2020

Fire Eaten Charred Leaf. watercolor and pencil illustration

Fire Eaten Charred Leaf
watercolor + pencil on paper (5.5″x8.5″) • sep 2020

Charred Eucalyptus Leaf & Blackened Curled Leaf with Hole
Burnt Eucalyptus Leaf. watercolor + pencil illustration

Charred Eucalyptus Leaf
watercolor + pencil on paper (5.5″x8.5″) • sep 2020

Blackened Curled Leaf with Hole. watecolor and pencil illustration

Blackened Curled Leaf with Hole
watercolor + pencil on paper (5.5″x5.5″) • sep 2020

Charred Complex 1 & 2
charred complex no. 1 • watercolor and pencil illustration of bunt leaf fragments

Complex No. 1
watercolor + pencil on paper (9″x12″) • sep 2020

charred complex no. 2 • watercolor and pencil illustration of 6 burnt leaf fragments

Complex No. 2
watercolor + pencil on paper (9″x11.5″) • oct 2020