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Watson's artwork commissioned for Plant-A-Thon tree cards

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In Richard Jesse Watson’s recent commission, “Sharing Their Journey,” children ride a coho salmon across a starry skyscape, planting native seedlings and sprinkling magic. Watson’s image will be seen all over town – from neighbors’ refrigerators to shop windows – as well as distributed internationally.

An award-winning illustrator of more than a dozen children’s books, including Tom Thumb, High Rise Angel Food Cake and The Magic Rabbit, Port Townsend–based Watson has created the ink and acrylic image for the seventh annual Plant-A-Thon. The event is the largest fundraising/environmental service project in Jefferson County. Collectively, 250 students and parents from five local schools will plant 5,000 native trees at Tarboo Wildlife Preserve, a 310-acre salmon habitat restoration site near Quilcene.

For each tree they plant, students sell a corresponding tree card for $5. The person who buys the card in turn sends it to honor someone special. That’s how the cards are disbursed so far and wide. People use them as holiday greetings; to recognize births, deaths, birthdays and special occasions. Businesses send them to clients. Suitors send them as valentines.

Watson worked to balance realistic images of native salmon and plants while retaining a dreamy allegorical mood in his watercolor. “We are thrilled to be a part of such a positive, effective effort. It really can impact the kids who are getting this firsthand connection with salmon, trees and the delicate balance in the entire ecosystem,” wrote Watson’s wife, Susi.

Cards are available through schools that participate in the Plant-A-Thon. Participating schools include Swan School, Chimacum Pi Program, Sunfield Land for Learning, Quilcene Elementary and Jefferson Community School. Through cards sales and business sponsorships, schools raise more than $30,000 a year, collectively.

The cards are being sold now, in anticipation of two “green-belt-scale” tree-planting work parties in February. To purchase cards from any or all of the schools, visit

swanschool.net. Tree cards are also available from students and parents in participating schools, or through their school’s representative: Swan School, Betsy Carlson, 379-1554; Jefferson Community School, Susan O’Brian, 360-531-1795; Chimacum Pi Program, Kit Pennell, 360-821-1476; Sunfield Land for Learning, Michele Meyering, 385-3658; Quilcene Elementary, Eric Jorgensen or staff, 360-765-3363.

Last year, local painter Max Grover donated his original tree card painting for auction, which generated funds for Watson’s commission. This year, Watson will continue the generous tradition by donating his original “Sharing Their Journey” for a February auction to benefit the Plant-A-Thon. Interested collectors can contact

jude@nwwatershed.org for auction details.

Plant-A-Thon is coordinated by Northwest Watershed Institute, a local science-based nonprofit environmental organization, as part of a larger effort to restore salmon and wildlife habitat in the Tarboo Watershed.

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