Step into the Homeland Center art gallery, and the outdoors await. Feel the breeze from the river. Refresh in the coolness of a stone stable. Breathe in the perfume of the lilies.
The spring 2019 exhibit from guest artist Julie Riker features works capturing the fleeting nature of nature herself. Done in the open-air style known as plein air, many reveal fresh perspectives on verdant scenes, as seen through Julie’s eyes.
Julie calls herself “an observational painter.” Whether painting outdoors or inside, she prefers “standing in front of what I’m painting, as opposed to painting from a photograph or making it up out of my head.”
“I like to respond to the place or whatever it is I’m looking at,” she says. “I don’t try to make the painting exactly like it. I have a bit of impressionist style, but I’m trying to be truthful to the colors and values that I’m seeing.”
Julie is the current artist featured in Homeland’s Florida Room gallery. Every quarter, the Art Association of Harrisburg offers an exhibit from a member artist, chosen through a unique program that puts the works of local artists in offices and lobbies throughout the region. Homeland, the only retirement community in the program, hangs the works in the hallway gallery near the Olewine Diner for residents, staff, and guests to enjoy.
Julie discovered her love for art as a child. After graduating from Cumberland Valley High School, she attended the Philadelphia College of Art – now the University of the Arts – as an illustration major. Her first job out of school landed her in the Pennsylvania Capitol, with a company restoring the landmark building’s spectacular Art Nouveau décor. The work involved meticulous cleaning of long-neglected artworks on walls and even ceilings, often done while lying on scaffolding and dabbing at paintings with cotton balls.
“I learned how to do a lot of the gold leaf,” she says. “I went from doing little pictures to doing largescale walls.”
She left that job to start her own business creating faux finishes and murals for private homes and businesses (www.julieriker.com). The springtime exhibit at Homeland was not Julie’s first connection here. She first helped brighten Homeland’s halls by painting a sky on the ceiling of the solarium.
Julie also has taught art groups in the region, including basic drawing classes.
“Drawing skills are so essential for painting,” she says. “If you look at my paintings, the foundation is a solid drawing.”
Julie’s travels often take her to plein air competitions across the country, where she is an invited or juried artist with several awards to her name. She enjoys a challenge, whether it’s working outside in bad weather or responding to light that changes every 15 minutes during a plein air session.
“You have to work quickly to capture the light,” she says. “You have to establish where the light’s coming from and the shapes of the shadows, because that’s going to change quickly.”
Recently, Julie established a studio, within walking distance of her Camp Hill home that will give her the option to offer classes, she says.
She hopes that getting her paintings out of the studio and into Homeland’s halls helps brighten the day of a viewer or two.
“If someone can think of me and enjoy passing them, that’s a good thing,” she says. “I hope people enjoy looking at the paintings.