Green in the City

For Earth Day, I post this sketch made while watching my daughter and a friend scrambling over the rocks in green, watery and magical Rock Creek Park, which runs through the heart of Washington DC the length of the city and beyond.

In gratitude for this resource, fellow city-dwellers, you may wish to sign up for one of the many area clean-ups through your local community association, or, alternatively, the Earth Day website, where everyone, whether urban, suburban, or rural, can discover many ways to say Thank You to Mother Earth.

For another sketch, and a history of Earth Day, please see Earth Day.




Almost Cherry Blossoms

My son suggested that, instead of restricting my posts to completed work, I post something in progess. So here is a painting of a cherry blossom still life, in the early stages.

And today is the birthday of Fannie Farmer (1857-1915), who, despite suffering a debilitating stroke at age 16, went on to study cookery, open her own cooking school, invent standardized measuring tools, and eventually publish the never-out-of-print Boston Cooking-School Cookbook—a reference not only for food information but also for home medical care. For a sketch, and a mini-bio, please see Mother of Level Measurements.


Cherry Blossom Biking

Yesterday morning dawned clear and mild, and our family biked down to Haines Point and the Tidal Basin for a St. Patrick’s Day picnic breakfast (whole grain soda bread, Irish cheddar, and apple wedges) along the water. Although Cherry Blossom Week doesn’t begin officially for a few more days, the cherry blossoms, in all innocence of this fact, were opening their pink and white faces to admiring visitors. As we pedaled along, I tried to recall the words of this verse.



Skating Season?


In late December or January, I usually take my daughter once or twice for a day of ice-skating at Washington DC’s Sculpture Garden rink, followed by hot cocoa and a cozy stroll through the National Gallery of Art or Museum of Natural History. As an urban skating experience, it’s hard to beat gliding round on a sunny winter day under an icy blue sky among sculptural masterpieces, with distant views of museum facades, the U.S. Capitol, and the Washington Monument.

However, since I fell and fractured my patella just before New Year’s Eve (no drinking was involved, I assure you!), our skating excursions have been put on hold… only temporarily, I hope. But DC’s “winter” weather has been so oddly and disconcertingly balmy this year that it feels more like roller-skating season. Fingers are crossed here for a snowy February.

This illustration is not from DC’s rink, but is my imagined depiction of the rink that existed on the World Trade Center plaza before September 11th, 2001. It was created for the book The Survivor Tree, about which I posted on the ten-year anniversary on September 11th, 2011.

And today is the birthday of Alexander Robey “Boss” Shepherd (1835–1902), whom Washington DC has to thank for much of its 19th-century infrastructure, however unconventionally (some might say illegally) it was obtained. For a mini-bio, please see “Boss” Shepherd.

Double Cherry Trees, November


The morns are meeker than they were,
The nuts are getting brown;
The berry’s cheek is plumper,
The rose is out of town.
The maple wears a gayer scarf,
The field a scarlet gown.
Lest I should be old-fashioned,
I’ll put a trinket on.

—Emily Dickinson

I received a commission to paint the dramatic double-cherry trees in front of this house at two different seasons of the year (and also create two sets of seasonal cards with the results). Here they are in their golden gowns of autumn. Watch for them in spring.

And today is the birthday of amateur scientist and astronomer Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), grandson of a slave, who surveyed the new city of Washington, DC, created a 1792 almanac that went through several editions, and corresponded with Thomas Jefferson. For a picture and a mini-bio, please see Skywatcher.


Firefighter in Autumn


As the leafy color grows more beautiful daily, I post this autumn illustration, one of a series I painted for the book The Survivor Tree by Cheryl Aubin, based on the true story of a tree that survived the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center.

For more on this book, please see The Survivor Tree.



The Survivor Tree


This summer I completed the illustrations and layout for The Survivor Tree, a book by Cheryl Somers Aubin, created to help children deal with the traumatic experiences suffered on September 11th, 2001, in particular, and with loss and the struggle to heal, in general. Here is a brief summary of the book.

A month after the collapse of the Twin Towers, workers on the site discovered a few green leaves showing through the gray concrete and ash. Clearing the debris, they found a badly injured Callery Pear Tree. She was rescued and taken to a nursery outside the city and put into the care of Richie, a City Parks worker. No one was sure if she would live, but the following spring, a dove built a nest in her branches, and new green buds appeared.

Over the years, the tree, although still bearing scars, grew tall and strong, and last year she was replanted on the 9/11 Memorial Plaza. This story imaginatively describes the experiences, memories, and feelings of the tree throughout her healing and her eventual return home.

The book is available from and All profits from its sale go to charity.

Yahrzeit3 Jim