Sketching the West: Art, National Parks, and Environmental Knowledge
All artwork on this site belongs to Virginia Drummond
Sketching the West: Arts, parks, and Environmental Knowledge was published as a book in the spring of 2018-- it contains Drummond's sketches of the people and geography of five Western National Parks.
Environmentalism and art have long been twin sources of momentum in the establishment and preservation of US wilderness areas and parks. In the words of Finis Dunaway, environmental reform is not only a series of legal victories but also “the story of images representing and defining the natural world... shaping politics and public attitude.” In the past three years I have worked as an environmental researcher, a freelance illustrator, and, most recently, an environmental artist. One method of recording information is essential to all of these pursuits: the practice of recording notes and sketches in field journals.
We see the power of this sort of visual environmental storytelling in John Muir’s descriptions and sketches of the Sierra Nevada Mountains which were so pivotal in the establishment of Yosemite National Park. I believe that the field journal and sketchbook are among the most powerful tools at our disposal for understanding nature and communicating its wonder and sense of scale to others.
My work as an environmental artist is based upon that premise. In the summer of 2017 with funding from Stanford’s Chappell Lougee Scholarship I spent three months traveling and drawing in five National and State parks in the Southwest and West Coast. In each park I recorded the landscapes, flora, fauna, and people in sketches. “Sketching the West: Art, Wilderness, and Environmental Knowledge,” celebrates the field journal and sketchbook as methods of environmental storytelling in the form of more than 100 pages of sketches from these parks. By sharing this work, creating podcasts about national parks, and volunteering for organizations advocating for US wilderness I hope to encourage others to support the US’s park systems.