For student artist, painting a way to connect to nature.


Rachel Pohl is beginning to regularly sell her artwork as prints, but what she’s really in love with are canvases. As she graduates this semester, she hopes to complete even more work, so she won’t feel bad about parting with what are now only a limited number of canvases in her collection.

For years, Pohl has kept her art and her love of outdoor activities — skiing, hiking and, more recently, snowboarding — intertwined. Although she has been involved in the psychology and religious studies departments during her university career, the School of Art has been her home base as long as she’s been enrolled. This doesn’t mean she’s had to make a decision between the humanities and the arts, though. Taking a wide assortment of classes has helped her acquire “a greater understanding of people,” Pohl said, as long as she is aware of what approaches resonate with different people. “My art can mean something to me, but I like it to have a greater impact. Anyone is an audience for artwork,” she said.

The mountains Pohl paints illustrate the “joy and time and movement” spent outside, soaking in atmospheric energy. “There’s a joy in going outside, even if just for a walk … there is just a lot of space in my life that’s very positive,” she said, addressing the blockiness and glowing colors of her canvases as abstracting the pure warmness of the outdoors.

Her business plan is not divorced from this aesthetic strategy, either, as she wants people to “have an art print or shirt on their wall that reminds them of that feeling,” the sheer optimism of Montana geography. “I’m a normal person,” Pohl said, and described how part of being a normal person is directing work at normal people, who have neither the need nor the ability to purchase many luxury goods. As a mark of this drive, she aspires to be included in the Asymbol Gallery, a company that produces prints and snowboard decks from illustration work. “The outdoor industry is important to people, but there are not enough women who go out into the backcountry,” Pohl said. She’d like to fulfill that role, by making canvas and backcountry art, and spreading her appreciation of experience to a like-minded audience.