Near the Confluence, Grand Canyon, AZ, Julie Watson 2013

Julie Watson’s watercolors took her chasing the light into the treasured places where WildAZ works today, with local communities toward enduring protections.

“To have art wash away from the soul,
the dust of everyday life.”

—Pablo Picasso

In her lovely, insightful book Chasing Light: A Beginner’s Guide to Watercolor on the Road, one-time New York fashion illustrator turned backcountry landscape painter Julie Watson has left us with the marvelous gift of her love for the wild places of the Southwest and Arizona.

Born in Chillicothe, Missouri to a successful businessman father and an accomplished portrait and landscape artist mother, art was an integral part of Julie’s upbringing and family life from an early age. After receiving her initial fine arts training from the University of Kansas, Julie took her first big step down a lifelong path of exploration and travel, when she left behind the traditional midwestern lifestyle for cosmopolitan New York and the prestigious Parsons School of Design.

Always fascinated with new experiences – new people, new places, and forms of artwork, her time at Parsons blossomed into a prominent career in fashion illustration, and embracing a new life in the city. Today her illustrations have been accepted into the Parsons archives for their value as a historical retrospective on fashion in NYC in the 1960s and 1970s.

The heart-wrenching loss of her first husband and the need for change and freedom from artistic stasis eventually pulled Julie across the country to San Francisco where she re-met her high school sweetheart. Together they studied gemology and jewelry design and Julie was drawn to the color of the stones and the variation each stone brought to the creative process. Following gemology days that brought her to the far reaches of Asia in search of gems for her jewelry, Julie had one last stint as an illustrator in San Diego before retiring and setting off with her husband Larry on a grand expedition to see the west, from Mexico to Canada.

For five years Julie lived out of their Winnebago, traveling to parks and beautifully remote wilderness, and learning to paint outdoors with a limited and focused set of tools. She was fascinated by the way the light would change the mood and feeling of the spaces she was painting and would spend hours at one location altering her paintings to capture the light and color. Deeply in love with the desert and its vistas of unspoiled landscapes, Julie’s final wish was to set up a charity dedicated to preserving the beauty and nature of the southwest and making sure it remained a sanctuary for its wildlife and unblemished palette of Arizona colors.

Wild Arizona is deeply honored to help realize Julie Watson’s dream of a conservation legacy through offering her book Chasing Light for purchase. You can join in the adventure of more intimately ‘seeing’ Arizona’s wild places and wildlife, while creating your own visual diaries of wild nature, and even helping to protect what you love to see, as 100% of the proceeds will go to WildAZ to fulfill Julie’s wish to protect the lands in Arizona.

Julie loved the open spaces and was especially attracted to those wild places that edged on being desolate unless you look really carefully at them. She was deeply in love with the desert landscape.

—Timothy Matney (Julie’s cousin)

“I drew and painted all the way through this long life and used to say it kept me sane. It still does. What a fine adventure. I am grateful for all the cities, grateful for all the small towns. Most grateful for all the beauty of it.”

–Julie Watson