Rosalie Haizlett is a West Virginia-based nature illustrator who uses watercolor, ink and gouache paint to showcase the intricacy of the natural world and to honor the plants and animals that often go unnoticed. She has created illustrations for clients like Smithsonian Folklife and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
In addition to making her own artwork and commissioned work for educational organizations, she helps others use art and nature journaling to appreciate and observe their natural surroundings as a Skillshare teacher and author of the new book, Watercolor in Nature: Paint Woodland Wildlife & Botanicals with 20 Beginner-Friendly Projects. In the past few years, Rosalie has been the Artist-in-Residence at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with the National Audubon Society in Maine, and at Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
Below is a narrative of Rosalie's experience at the refuge in her own words.
In March 2021, I had the true privilege of spending several weeks at Desert National Wildlife Refuge as the inaugural Artist-in-Residence. While using Desert NWR as my home base, I spent time hiking and getting to know Desert and several other nearby different refuges that comprise the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex, including Pahranagat NWR and Ash Meadows NWR. I also ventured to Mount Charleston, Red Rock Canyon NCA, and Valley of Fire State Park during my residency and was overwhelmed by the extremely different landscapes that can be found within such a short distance from one another.
Artist residencies give professional artists the gift of unhindered time that we can spend developing our craft in a new and inspiring setting. For my time in the desert, I chose to branch out into a totally new-to-me painting medium: gouache. Gouache is a form of opaque watercolor that looks more like acrylic paint than watercolor. Because of its thick consistency, one can achieve bold, flat pops of color that are unattainable with watercolor, my go-to artistic medium. With an unopened set of goauche (pronounced gwash) in my backpack, I arrived at Desert NWR ready to spend each day a new place with a new medium. All the work in this small collection was created using goauche.
I have spent most of my life nestled in the cozy hills of the Appalachian Mountains, so the Mojave Desert was uncharted territory for me, both personally and artistically. While my usual painting palette consists of mossy greens and other deep shades of the forest, my time in the desert called for an entirely new color palette! In my body of work created during the residency, you will see bold oranges, hot pinks, electric blues, and other colors that I never previously touched. That is the power of immersing yourself in a new place and having the time to create from what you observe.
Each morning, I planned an adventure for the first half of the day. This often consisted of a three or four hour hike on the refuge or on some nearby public lands. Then, I would come back to my home base and go through my sketches and photographs to decide what I wanted to paint that day. Because I focused on exploring a new setting and getting the hang of gouache, I gave myself the freedom to create whatever struck my fancy instead of trying to stick to a cohesive series.
The work in this series was all created from my photographs, sketches I made from life, or pinned insect specimens and taxidermy that I found in the Corn Creek Visitor Center. Each plant and animal is a subject that I saw and thought, "Now that would be interesting to paint!"
So I did. I hope that my colorful interpretations of these Mojave plants and animals bring you joy!
You can find more of Rosalie's work via her website.