Maria Coryell-Martin is a bit of an anachronism: she’s a modern woman, typing away on an iPad when I meet her in an Anchorage coffee shop on an overcast afternoon. But her choice of profession is definitely one that’s gone out of style. Maria is an “expeditionary artist,” documenting the natural world, tagging along on scientific research, drawing and painting relevant flora, fauna, and locales.
The title isn’t one you’ll find around much nowadays. “I like to tease that it’s great to make up your own job title in college,” she said.
It may be a little outdated, but Coryell-Martin’s art form has a rich history, even within Alaska. One of the world’s best-known naturalists, John Muir -- for whom Alaska’s Muir glacier is named -- left behind a huge collection of drawings of places and wildlife from his many travels.
Coryell-Martin said that she drew particular inspiration from an exhibit of the work of Thomas Moran, known for his huge oil paintings of the American West, like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. But when Coryell-Martin visited an exhibit of Moran’s work in her home city of Seattle in the late 90s, she paid particular attention to his field sketches, smaller drawings done on the fly.
“They felt really immediate,” Coryell-Martin said, “and I really felt like I was sitting next to him as he sketched those landscapes.”
Read more about Maria Coryell-Martin and her most recent expedition, here.