In celebrating the release of our latest B’Cause Artist Series, we sat down with the artist and adventurer behind it all, Rachel Pohl.
Rachel is a Montana-based artist who spends her time painting acrylic landscapes, giant mountain murals, and even watercolors while in the backcountry. Rachel’s paintings of incredible landscapes and bright colors remind us daily to enjoy the world around us. The more we got to know each other, we knew the perfect product to pair with our final B’Cause 2021 Artist collaboration would be our first-ever coffee canister.
Now not only can you get a daily reminder of the beauty in our natural world, you will also have the coolest coffee canister around. Rachel spent a month in Denali National Park in Alaska and it shows in the detail she captured.
Rachel and her husband, Charles Post, are also passionate about the protection of wild places and the wildlife they sustain, and have proudly chosen the Audubon Alaska as their beneficiary.
Who are you and what do you do for a living?
My name’s Rachel Pohl, and I’m a full time artist. My husband, dog, cat and I live outside of Bozeman, Montana in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been weaving my passion for being outdoors with my creative process. Painting is the medium in which I express myself and connect with nature and the places I spend time in, be that on skis, a mountain bike, or on foot.
How did you become the artist you are today?
15,000 hours of practice, commitment to my craft and my business, passion for this work, and dreaming have allowed this career to come to life. Painting has always been my focus on a professional level. The wonderful thing about being a painter is that in order to find and draw from inspiration, I need to spend time outside really connecting with and experiencing the places that I paint. My clothing and e-commerce business often leans heavily on my art and paintings, and more recently I have also been experimenting with digital art and patterns for certain projects, products and clients. Looking back on a lifetime of art, I can say that I simply wouldn’t be where I am today If I didn’t believe in myself and practice my craft daily, almost obsessively.
How does working and living in Bozeman, Montana influence your work?
I was born and raised in Bozeman, and so in many ways, this is my universe. It’s the place that raised me and shaped my life in more ways than anywhere else, and so naturally the landscapes and mountains, seasons and subtleties inform my approach as an artist. Montana has 4 true seasons, but winter and deep snow, big mountains and adventures have fueled me, and so these elements often appear up in my work. And while I’ve been here for almost 30 years, I’ve also traveled the world, skied across Canada and Europe, climbed and skied Denali and other peaks across North America. And now looking ahead to a new chapter, my husband, Charles Post, and I will be moving somewhere exciting and new this spring. Onto the next adventure!
You wear a lot of hats both literally and figuratively- how does your athletic background, environmental activism and artistic creativity compliment one another?
My passion for the outdoors, and specifically skiing, has informed my point of view and inspired my focus on highlighting the need to care for our planet. Art is the vehicle through which I expand on these intersections and values. Having grown up in a wintery, snow filled place, I have also bared witness to the frontrunners of climate change be it raging forest fires, increasingly low and unstable snowpacks, scorching summers that shatter temp records or waterways literally drying up. I feel like it’s my responsibility to use my platform and art to raise awareness for the crisis that threatens our existence as a species and my favorite ways to spend my time.
What is your creative process? Can you walk us through a day in the life of Rachel Pohl?
My morning routine is very important to me. I love waking up early. I start by doing a Wim Hof breathing routine, then eat as much fresh fruit as possible, and look at my to do list lists for the day. I don’t check my phone until I’ve had time to gather my thoughts. We always make time to get outside for the day, and working for myself means I can pack in 12+ hours of work one day and go skiing the next. Besides being an artist, I have an eCommerce and clothing business, Rachel Pohl Art, which takes a lot of time. I have partnerships to manage, gallery relationships, and a small team to lead, too. My husband, Charles Post, also helps by leading my partnerships efforts and with some of my sustainability efforts like working with Chooose Today to offset our carbon footprint, and 1% For The Planet. But generally, I have to juggle the big projects, and so they vary quite a bit day by day. Some days, I’m working on a new painting, designing a new clothing line for my brand or working with a partner on a collaboration or new content piece. And some days I am taking advantage of sunshine and snow.
What drew you and Charles to choose Audubon Alaska as the beneficiary of this campaign?
I spent 4 weeks on Denali in 2013 while part of an expedition with an absolutely incredible team lead by Conrad Anker, Jon Krakauer and Jeremy Jones. During that time, the Kahiltna Glacier was home. For four weeks, I immersed myself in the rhythms of the mountain, experiencing it’s moods, dancing light and energy. Eventually, we had a window to climb. But just feet below the summit, a super rare lighting storm swept in, which forced us to call off our summit attempt. Though, when I look back on that experience, I can say it wasn’t about the summit; it never was. What made that trip so formative was the connection I cultivated with the mountain after being a passive observer for so many weeks. I watched and painted. Years later, when Charles and I started dating, and before we got married (thanks to Conrad Anker for officiating!), it became immediately clear that birds and wildlife would be a big part of my life. Charles is, among other things, an ecologist after studying and working for nearly a decade at UC Berkeley. There he did his graduate work on the American Dipper, a bird that we have spent a lot of time observing in Alaska. And so when we thought about a dream beneficiary partner, we immediately thought of Audubon Alaska.
How does an environmental conservation organization, with a mission like Audubon, allow you to do your work in nature?
Without organizations like Aububon, our planet would have even less biodiversity, fewer places still pulsing with wildlife, and even fewer corners of the globe protected so that nature can persist in a wild and natural state. These are the places that inspire me as an artist, and these are the places I feel so fortunate to spend most of my time. I grew up on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park, and so you could say that my entire life has been shaped by the rare places we set aside for nature. In many ways, Alaska, and in particular Denali National Park, is the greatest example of a vast, interconnected, intact ecosystem that still exists today. These places exist because inspired people and organizations like Audubon have been tireless in their pursuit of protecting them.
Your designs are full of color and such incredible landscapes. What about this messaging do you hope resonates with the current generation? How do you hope to inspire others?
Thank you! I’ve always had the mission to encourage my audience to spend time outside and protect the places we love. But my message has become more than that in recent years. I want to create pieces we can all fall into when we can’t be outside. When life happens and we’re stuck inside because of smoky skies. When we have too many responsibilities to make it out there. My work is a sanctuary of those best days for all of us to enjoy.
You’ve painted some stunning landscapes, from Denali showcased in our collaboration, to the Tetons, Mt. Whitney and on and on. Do you have a favorite landscape and why?
Haha that’s hard to answer! Honestly it changes with the seasons. My favorite kinds of landscapes are snowy peaks and ones with exquisite wildflowers. The older I get the more I know that my favorite places are simply ones with few people around that contain some semblance of wilderness. So many landscapes are literally being loved to death and are quite crowded. Places like Denali where there are just 100 other individuals on the mountain at any given time, where it’s all about communal living and mutual support, where you can find true solitude to watch the sun barely set over the glaciers below- that’s the kind of experience I seek out. More and more though, wherever I happen to be is a pretty great spot because life is too short to be only seeking out the big moments- life is happening now and there is always beauty to be found wherever we are.
If you could collaborate with any brand who would it be and what would you make?
I don’t know who would make it happen, but my dream is to make a clothing line that is 100% regenerative and the clothes are compostable, because I love clothes, but understand the planetary cost of most clothing and think encouraging a change towards a sustainable future of fashion would be incredible.
What inspires you to create and where do you turn to for motivation?
Time in nature, music, travel, books, podcasts… I am honestly often inspired to create because everything inspires me, and I am a very motivated person- it’s more of a question of what blocks me from creating (many things haha). I am most inspired when I am able to get outside everyday, move my body, learn about things that fascinate me that might not even seem relevant from the outside, and ultimately be able to dive into my work or choose to rest and play. I am not *lucky* to have a schedule that allows me to do so- I have worked tirelessly to make that possible. When I am feeling unmotivated it is usually because I’ve been spending too much time in front of a screen, on my phone, or doing work that doesn’t light me up. Reconnecting with my body, my breath, and my creativity always motivates me in life, and when my cup is full, I become inspired to create. All of it is necessary to me and I don’t try to force painting when I am not feeling it anymore.
What is your favorite coffee and how do you take it?
I love a simple cup of organic coffee with some macadamia nut creamer. Nothing fancy! A good mug is very important though. With most things in life, I am very detail oriented and I want everything to feel intentional, simple, and be beautiful. Ritual is essential.
How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who woke up every day with the intention to inspire others to be more honest with themselves, fall in love with their lives, notice more beauty, and live with more bravery and vulnerability. I want to be remembered as someone who shared what we were all thinking but couldn’t always find the words for, so we could all begin to heal together. Someone who chose herself first over what others thought she should be. I want to be remembered for my work, yes- but most importantly for how I showed up as a person for those around me. I want to be remembered as someone who always did her best to choose the loving, kind, sometimes hard thing to do over what was practical, convenient, or conventional. And for those closest to me, to be remembered as the one who was always down to be really silly and playful and fun. I want to change the way we think about what is truly important and I hope I have 70 more years to do so.
To see more of Rachel's work, check out her website.