Pennsylvania Legacies #166: The Little Things

We celebrate Earth Day in conversation with Pennsylvania-born Rosalie Haizlett, a nature illustrator who’s had work commissioned by the Smithsonian and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She tells PEC’s Lily Jones why she believes the arts can be a gateway to stewardship.

Pennsylvania-born Rosalie Haizlett makes a living bringing nature to life on paper and canvas. As a nationally recognized nature illustrator, she’s been commissioned by the Smithsonian and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and has completed artist residencies with the National Audubon Society and the U.S. Park Service. Last year her work was featured on cans of craft beer released by Pittsburgh’s Dancing Gnome Brewery, featuring wildlife from western Pennsylvania watersheds.

“I think when people see artwork of a plant or animal… there are these boundaries and it’s distilled down to focus in on one thing. Then people can have a few seconds to contemplate the one thing that they’re looking at and it’s a little less overwhelming and they can notice details that they might not have seen on their own if they walked past that same subject,” said Haizlett.

Her subjects range from botanical pieces to illustrated ecology maps, but each piece brings to life the flora and fauna of Appalachia and beyond.

In the past couple of years, Haizlett has started focusing on the intersection of art and environmental education with a series of painting tutorials and an illustrated watercolor lesson book, both of which help develop observational painting skills. While teaching a workshop at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, she received feedback from participants including park staff about how making art helped them engage with their surroundings in a different way.

“Even people who were so familiar with this park were noticing new things because they were painting them,” said Haizlett.

Even people who were so familiar with this park were noticing new things because they were painting them.

She will spend much of this year traveling from Georgia to Canada painting and researching native plants and animals in preparation for her second book, which will highlight the biodiversity of the Appalachian Mountains. She received the 2022 Eckelberry Fellowship, sponsored by the Drexel University Academy of Natural Sciences, to support the project.