Emerging Artists | Julie Riker

Fresh perspectives

Julie Riker, Home on the Range, oil, 6 x 12.

Julie Riker, Home on the Range, oil, 6 x 12.

This story was featured in the October 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art October 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

In inclement weather, plein-air artist Julie Riker appreciates having a well-appointed studio she can retreat to within her old Victorian home in Camp Hill, PA. But for the Pennsylvania native, the workspace is no match for her favorite and more frequent studio: the great outdoors. “It’s a love-hate relationship,” Riker jokes when discussing her indoor headquarters. “I struggle with the light. I’ve been trying different lighting fixtures, but I think I’m just using that as an excuse because I like to take my work outside. I like the direct observation.”

Riker studied illustration at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and today she applies her training as both an accomplished decorative painter and an award-winning fine artist. When she’s not working on a commissioned mural or other custom art project, she wields her brushes en plein air, capturing everything from tattered local barns to the Texas Hill Country’s prickly pears. Last year Riker garnered recognition in the bimonthly PleinAir Salon for her wistful depiction of a rickety wooden boat. “I will paint vistas, too, but I really like focusing on an overlooked vignette,” says the artist. “I like to peek into little places like doorways or windows. If everyone else is painting the outside of a building, I might paint a little corner of it or a view looking inside.”

On a painting trip this past summer to a living-history farm settlement in Lancaster, PA, for example, Riker couldn’t resist portraying a view looking into a rustic, dimly lit kitchen. There, a bonneted reenactor busied herself making bread. In the foreground, various sunlit crocks decorated the windowsill. “You have the interior scene that’s very dark, and the outside that’s catching the daylight,” explains the artist. “Compositionally, it almost becomes abstract when you break a scene down into darks and lights, and that’s a real foundation in a lot of my paintings.” A Sargent-esque economy of brush strokes also defines Riker’s style, though she hesitates to label it. “I do try to represent my subjects truthfully—I just don’t render every single detail,” she notes.

Looking ahead, the artist is contemplating a series devoted to interiors or perhaps the figure. For Riker, mixing things up is key. “I’m always looking for something different that I haven’t done before,” she says. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out, but that’s how you grow.” —Kim Agricola

representation
Art & Soul Gallery, Lemoyne, PA; www.julieriker.com.

This story was featured in the October 2018 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art October 2018 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.

MORE RESOURCES FOR ART COLLECTORS & ENTHUSIASTS
• Subscribe to Southwest Art magazine
• Learn how to paint & how to draw with downloads, books, videos & more from North Light Shop
• Sign up for your Southwest Art email newsletter & download a FREE ebook

COMMENT