Artist helps save local species, one poster at a time
The native fish of the Klamath River are highlighted in a new educational poster by Ashland artist Deb Van Poolen, who earlier painted two such works, “Butterfly Diversity in the Klamath-Siskiyous” and “Birds in Oak Woodlands of the Cascade-Siskiyous.”
Van Poolen creates the posters as an aesthetic and simplified educational tool for agencies and nonprofits who can use them to support species survival. She is sponsored by local businesses and such nonprofit groups as KS Wild, Soda Mountain Wilderness Council and the Selberg Institute. In turn, she gives out posters to any teachers and classes in the region who will use them.
“People who are concerned with the Klamath want these species to survive and this produces images that promote that,” she says.
Her fish painting includes chinook and coho salmon, steelhead, coastal rainbow and red band trout, green sturgeon, marbled sculpin, three spine stickleback, and three species of sucker and lamprey. Osprey, mayfly and stonefly nymph are also represented.
For each poster, Van Poolen undergoes extensive, person-to-person tutoring with regional scientists. Fish biologist Michael Parker of Southern Oregon University was her authority on suckers, while Stewart Reid, a teacher at Siskiyou Field Institute, was the lamprey expert.
The Klamath River is slated for a monumental change in 2020 with removal of its four dams, she says, returning its ecology to pre-settlement times. Painting the present ecology, Van Poolen placed suckers above dams, not mixing with salmon in warmer water below dams.
On her poster, she writes, “The 25 fish species of the Klamath River system form a unique and diverse group throughout the entire watershed” and are the heart of a food web for bear, humans and many other creatures. It is one of only three rivers in the Northwest to cut through the Cascades to the ocean, she says, and hosts the highest diversity of lamprey species of any major watershed on Earth.
Van Poolen is planning paintings on the mountain caribou and its relationships with lichen, a main food source. Deforestation is threatening the animal, she says. Another canvas will be on fungi of the Northwest. Yet another is an expansion on butterflies.
“The purpose of the posters is definitely educational and inspirational, helping promote a love for the environment,” she says. “My greatest happiness is outside in nature, running, biking, backpacking and skiing in winter. I hope I help conservation people to protect the natural world.
“Trying to live simply in harmony with the Earth, it’s my source of being and I want to recognize that.”
The posters are $20 and may be ordered at debvanpoolen.com or viewed and purchased at Ashland Art Center, where she has a studio, and at Lithia Artisans Market on Saturdays off the Plaza, where she carries on conversations with the public. The original acrylic painting is on view at AAC and is for sale at $5,000.
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.