Watercolor sketch of snowy mountain peaks and an icy lake by Jill Richie.

Artist and Archeologist Jill Richie

Portrait of Maria Coryell-Martin.

Maria Coryell-Martin


Featured Artists | October 02, 2020

Alaskan artist Jill Richie (@jill.richie.art) creates connections between humans and the environment with her plein air studies. Here she tells us about her family quarantine art project, the importance of learning from your environment, and extolls the virtues of not being too fussy with supplies or results:

Human connections with the natural environment, both past and present, shape my lifestyle as an outdoor enthusiast and advocate, career as an archaeologist, and growing art practice. I grew up in Alaska, and after a decade of living abroad, I’m happy to be back in my home state with my husband and young daughters (one human, one husky).

Watercolor sketch of rocks by Jill Richie, enhanced with white gell pen.
Jill is always studying rocks in one way or another.

My art practice is grounded in En Plein air – whether I’m in the backyard or the backcountry. I use watercolor and pen to gather details of the natural and cultural environments I recreate in, learn from, depend on, and turn ephemeral experiences into creative exercises and tangible artworks. I joke that I paint about one minute for each hour spent in nature - most of my art practice takes place between 3-30 minutes at a time - and I try not to be too precious about my supplies or resulting artworks. A little rain splatter, a squished mosquito, or dirt in my palette adds character!

Watercolor landscape with blueberries by Jill Richie.
Blueberries taste better with a view.

The Pocket Art Toolkit is always in my bag – at the grocery store, on tops of mountains, on archaeological studies. It is the primary tool that has helped me overcome the “I don’t have _____ (time, supplies, skill, talent, etc.)” excuses, and allows me to create for a moment, in the moment. My sketchbooks are honored for their sentimental value over their artistic one, the opportunity to practice rather than produce, and create more than I consume. Lately, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with toned paper, white gouache, gel pens, and making my own inks from nature!

Since the pandemic started, my extended family spanning three generations and many thousands of miles have graciously participated in an art challenge in which we make artworks - a notebook scribble, wire sculpture, painting, photograph, any medium counts! - based on the prompt of the day. We each take turns coming up with prompts and relay our artistic interpretations in a group message. The process has been surprisingly hilarious, bonding, and motivating during these challenging times; I highly recommend it!

See more of Jill’s gorgeous sketchbook pages on Instagram.