Meet Alaska-based Artist & Archaeologist: Jill Richie
Posted on 14 June 2021
Jill Richie: artist by night, archaeologist by day, new mom somewhere in-between.
Jill's lifestyle, career, and growing art practice are shaped by human interactions with the environment, both past and present, in her home state of Alaska. From the backyard to backcountry, she uses art as a tool for observation, recreation, and environmental and social advocacy. Her practice is grounded in plein air field sketching, where she uses watercolor and pen to document the natural and cultural environments she depends on, learns from, and celebrates, turning ephemeral experiences into creative exercises and tangible artworks.
On Life in Alaska:
"For much of my life, I found more inspiration in capturing moments away from home. I'd regularly sketch while traveling, admiring new surroundings with any medium I could harness. Back in Alaska I often took for granted the endless natural beauty, grounded communities, and resourceful lifestyles that I knew well. By dedicating more time to art, I've been able to engage with my home through a new lens, and appreciate the beauty from the backyard to the backcountry. Art has allowed me to connect with, share, and support places, people, and ideas that are closest to my heart – and my home.
"Alaska is known for having three seasons – winter, break up, and construction. But there's a brief window – we're talking days, maybe weeks – between winter and break up that offers long, sunny days and some of the finest skiing of the year. On the best of days, you can skinny ski across miles of crust in the morning, skin up to cold powder high in the mountains, and ski corn for an afternoon snack."
"Despite being a place-based artist who prefers to create en plein air, I joke that I paint about one minute for each hour spent in nature. With a nearly two year old daughter and a 9-5 job, most of my art practice takes place between 3-30 minutes at a time. I try not to be too precious about my supplies or resulting artworks – a little frozen watercolor, a squished mosquito, or dirt in my palette – all adds character! The result is a tangible collection of memories, honored for their sentimental value over their aesthetics."
On Field Sketching:
On Place Names & Art:"Learning the names and histories (human and natural!) of the places I paint is part of my responsibility – and joy – of being an artist. While many of the landscapes I engage with may appear unpeopled at a first glance, these environments are filled with story, knowledge, memory and opportunity.
"I recently kicked off a project called "Alaska Place Names Illustrated" where I share, to the best of my ability, cultural context and references for both Indigenous and colonial naming practices associated with the scenes I paint. The process of painting prompts an intimate observation of an environment's physical attributes, while research into naming histories promote a deeper understanding of – and respect for – Alaska's cultural landscapes.
"This ongoing project was created in solidarity with those working to help Indigenous languages, traditions, and lifestyles thrive. It is an opportunity for inquiry, discussion, and consideration of the significance of place names in Alaska and beyond."