June 2017. Watercolor and pen on paper. Notes: A portrait of Rachel Carson, the author of Silent Spring and a crucial figure in founding the modern American environmental movement.

As I was creating this portrait, as part of an illustration workshop a couple of weeks ago, an interesting conversation came up. Should a portrait of Carson emphasize her awareness of pending ecological loss — the silence in Silent Spring — or celebrate the many animals and plants she ultimately helped protect? It raises for me the larger question of whether a portrait created decades or more later captures something fundamental about the subject in their own time, or about their relevance to now. And about the painter, perhaps torn between celebrating the beauty of the nature world and dwelling on current and future losses.

<a href=”https://static01.nyt.com/images/2012/10/28/business/28-CARSON/28-CARSON-superJumbo.jpg”>The reference photo of Rachel Carson,</a> from the <em>New York Times</em>, is itself beautiful and complex.