REVIEW: Ridge Writers on Books

‘How to Draw 60 Native California Plants & Animals’ Written, illustrated and published by Sama Wareh, indexed, 97 pages, paperback, $8.95

By Donna McCrohan Rosenthal

Sama Wareh minored in art, earned a Masters of Science degree in Environmental Studies and worked eight year in environmental education. Her combined talents shine in “How to Draw 60 Native California Plants and Animals.” At a slender 97 pages and therefore easy to carry or pack, her book has considerable potential to join the ranks of favorite field guides.

Wareh begins with a series of drawing tips for breaking down complex shapes into smaller ones, because “by explaining it in your head, not only do you train your eye to draw what you actually see but you also carve it into your memory.”

She follows this with step-by-step illustrations, one page each, for common lizards, snakes, birds, mammals, flowers and trees. Start with three circles, or a wavy line. Add stripes or a notch, then a beak, scales, legs or leaves, and so on. Delightfully respectable pictures result – not mere stick figures, but subtle renderings. (“When drawing mammals,” she advises, “don’t forget that the direction of the lines for the fur helps define the muscular structure of the animal.”)

A teacher at heart, Wareh enhances her instructions with information and quotations about her subjects.

“Because of the dense yet spongy tissue surrounding its brain,” we learn, “the Acorn Woodpecker is able to withstand the constant drilling of holes without inflicting brain damage.” Citing Voltaire to introduce one section, she notes, “The art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while Nature cures the disease.” She even shares rhymes that come in handy for dilemmas such as distinguishing predators from prey: “Eyes in front, likes to hunt. Eyes on the side, likes to hide.” Wareh concludes her manual with a brief discussion of plant uses, tea-brewing, and a short course on “How To Make a Journal from Cardboard.”

Wareh has taught art and science to adults, scouts, students, educators and the general public, leading hikes, guest lecturing, and presenting workshops. Throughout, she has vigorously advocated conservation and discovering nature through art.

Coyotes. Whales. Bobcats. Dusky-Footed Wood Rats. Facts and fun. People who appreciate the great outdoors will find “How to Draw 60 Native California Plants & Animals” very worthwhile. Those who draw will enjoy it. Anyone who doesn’t draw but wants to, probably needs it.

This weekly column is written by members of the Ridge Writers, the East Sierra Branch of the California Writers Club.

Meetings are held the first Thursday of each month at Ridgecrest Presbyterian Church and free programs are offered throughout the year. Ridge Writers’ book “Planet Mojave: Visions From a World Apart” is available at Jawbone Station, the Historic USO Building, the Maturango Museum, Red Rock Books and online at

Story First Published: 2015-05-01