Rosalie Haizlett mapped a career as an illustrator focusing on the state’s most vulnerable places and things.
Before her brush ever touches paper, Rosalie Haizlett spends weeks in an area hiking, researching, and sketching everything she sees. When she feels ready, she begins piecing her sketches together like a puzzle. The feathery grass could anchor this corner, maybe. Perhaps it would look better on the other side. The resident reptile looks amazing tucked right here. And that bird is perfectly perched there just above the coursing river waters. Her pieces ebb and flow like the natural elements she captures in a fashion that is both stylized and precise.
Once she’s settled on the layout, she takes hold of a watercolor sheet. It’s finally time for
this talent behind the spectacular illustrations of West Virginia’s most notable destinations to get started. She uses permanent ink to make the details pop. Then comes the whimsical addition of watercolor to bring the illustration to life. It is a map, but not just any map. It’s a vivid sensory experience that evokes the feel of a place through its most important visual details.
The Bethany native grew up on a vast family farm and began drawing at an early age. Her father—a design professor at West Liberty University—always encouraged his young artist, taking her on class trips to museums and offering backstage tours of the school’s art galleries. As she faced college and choosing a career path, doubt about living on an artist’s salary crept in and swayed her to become a graphic designer and learn the tools and techniques of digital art. But it never sparked her fire quite like drawing.
In 2018, Haizlett won a position as an artist-in-residence at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and jumped at her chance at an adventure doing exactly what she loves. She dropped her digital art for the handmade kind and committed to making it as an illustrator.
Haizlett feels the most whole when she’s out in nature. Beyond her wanderings, she also educates herself about a place by interviewing locals and park rangers for landmarks and checking the state Department of Natural Resources’ lists of threatened and endangered plants and animals in the area. Although her main emphasis is on natural surroundings, she also makes it a point to include human interactions with the environment now and again. “There is this whole ecosystem, and we are just a tiny part of that,” Haizlett says.
Her art has become an educational tool, because her lifelike creations draw viewers to details that might typically go unnoticed. She has even started her own online courses to share her passion for art with her supporters.
Haizlett is currently working on recreating the original illustration of the Monongahela National Forest map for the forest’s 2020 centennial. She hopes to finish and share her work by the end of the summer. Until then, check out her maps of Canaan Valley, Blackwater Falls State Park, and many other beloved parts of the state. rosaliehaizlett.com, @illustrationbyrosalie on Facebook