8 Climbing Artists You Should Know

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Looking for the perfect gift for your climbing partner’s birthday? Want to decorate your house/apartment/van with mountain art? Need some inspiration to get outside and get up high? These eight artists and climbers are drawing, painting, and creating art of wild places and wild adventures.

1. Rachel Pohl

Courtesy Rachel Pohl

Courtesy Rachel Pohl

Rachel Pohl paints colorful landscapes in acrylic, often dragging her panels into the mountains to paint from life. She particularly enjoys murals because “massive mountains need massive walls.” A native of Bozeman, Montana, Pohl grew up with parents who “believed in the power of nature to make us better people, and also believed in my love for painting.” At age 15 she began climbing through a free youth mountaineering program, and between an “alarming number of days spent skiing and climbing,” earned a degree in Fine Art from Montana State University Bozeman. She describes her work as “expressions of the excitement we feel about rugged, beautiful places.” Though she recently bought a Mongolian Yurt, “I live out of my van more often than not,” she said. “It’s a Toyota Sienna, and I look like I’m ready to drop children off for soccer practice at all times.” She recently starred in the new IMAX film “America Wild: National Parks Adventure,” with mountaineer Conrad Anker and photographer Max Lowe.

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2. Hamdi Abdullah

Courtesy Hamdi Abdullah

Courtesy Hamdi Abdullah

Hamdi Abdullah resides in his hometown of Garut, population ~126,000, in south West Java province, Indonesia. He makes contemporary drawings and paintings combining various styles, including pointillism and line art, often in black and white with dashes of bright color. Though he has always loved drawing, climbing elevated his art to a new level; when he found the sport in 2013, he said, “I knew my purpose. The reason why I draw, to show the beauty of nature and climbing from a different side.” A year later, the Indonesian Climbing Expedition (I.C.E.) recruited him as an assistant rock climbing and expedition instructor. He enjoys multiple disciplines of climbing, from bouldering to big wall, and works to introduce climbing to his hometown, since “not many people know about the safety procedures” or even “dare to start doing it” in the first place. He is also currently establishing sport lines on leuwi tonjong, a stunning andesite mountain along the river in Garut. 

Buy Hamdi's art:

  • Hamdi works on commission (“commission orders are more interesting and challenging”); contact him via email at climb.draw@gmail.com.

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3. Lizzy Dalton

Courtesy Lizzy Dalton

Courtesy Lizzy Dalton

Lizzy Dalton tries to capture “that feeling of connection, or that draw we feel towards those places so special to climbers” in her almost spiritual drawings and watercolors. “It’s hard for me to put that feeling into words, which is why I try to capture it in painting,” she said. After earning a degree in Studio Art from Wesleyan University, she moved to New York City to pursue art. But she found herself devoting more and more time to climbing, at gyms and the Gunks, and soon realized the sport gave her a “means to connect with the natural world on a more intimate level.” She relocated to Portland a year ago for a change of pace and to be closer to the wild places she loves, and though she mostly sport and trad climbs, the Pacific Northwest has inspired her to try alpine climbing and mountaineering. Keep an eye out for a new painting she’s finishing of El Capitan, and her soon to be available hand-drawn pendant necklaces.

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4. Craig Muderlak

Courtesy Craig Muderlak

Courtesy Craig Muderlak

Craig Muderlak hails from the flatlands of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The son of an artist, he grew up drawing images from National Geographic magazine with his father. At 18, he moved to Colorado for college and immediately fell in love with mountains, climbing, and outdoor education, working as a NOLS instructor for eight years and a mountain guide in Boulder, CO, for four. “Throughout all this time, I continued to maintain an art practice, and even had art shows here and there,” he said. “I would journal and sketch while working month long NOLS courses.” He recently moved to Providence, RI, where he runs a small business selling his colorful, evocative and slightly surreal prints and illustrations. Though he worried about leaving the mountains, he’s “since grown to really love East Coast cragging and ice climbing.” He also works as a filmmaker and a musician (“I've been blessed/cursed with the creative bone”) and just finished raising funds for a film about a paraplegic friend attempting to climb El Cap next fall.

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5. Stephen Brooks

Courtesy Stephen Brooks

Courtesy Stephen Brooks

Stephen Brooks’s art features mountain and desert landscapes, but “the depictions aren’t always true to life. I like to exaggerate the characters and their positions to mimic the feeling of climbing.” He uses both pen and watercolor, and often finishes his graphic illustrations in Photoshop. Growing up in inland California, he and his family spent vacations camping in the mountains. In high-school he began peak bagging and experimenting making “art with spray paint, wax, primers, or anything I could get my hands on.” He earned an art degree from Cal State San Bernardino, and now lives in San Luis Obispo, where he started climbing three years ago. “Climbing elicits a lot of genuine emotion,” he said. “Whether it is a dangerous situation, exhaustion, disappointment or being absolutely thrilled, I get ideas from those moments.” He also works as a substitute teacher for young kids, and is currently assembling an online zine of art and poetry by artists and athletes about the human experience in the outdoors.

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6. Peter Gilroy

Courtesy Peter Gilroy

Courtesy Peter Gilroy

Peter Gilroy makes titanium jewelry mixed with silver and gold in Taos, New Mexico. He began climbing 12 years ago. “Its great to go out climbing and be able to find inspiration in small details like the texture of the rock, or the silhouette of a mountain or desert tower at sunset,” he said, “and then be able to take that inspiration back to my studio and make something beautiful.” Growing up, he made jewelry with his uncle, a goldsmith who lived next door. After earning a photography degree in college, he worked as a machinist for a jewelry tool company, which inspired him to explore non-traditional metals like titanium. He has now been self-employed making jewelry for four years. When he’s not in his studio, he’s “climbing, sleeping, or doing something in the mountains.” Incorporating his love of the outdoors into his art was a “real turning point.” “I have so much energy to put into my work because it has so much more meaning,” he said.

Buy Peter's art:

  • peterwgilroy.com—“Or if you're in Taos give me a call and stop by my shop, and then let's go climbing.” He also enjoys creating custom designs for individuals.

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7. Nikki Frumkin

Courtesy Nikki Frumkin

Courtesy Nikki Frumkin

Nikki Frumkin visited Seattle on a road trip three years ago and couldn’t leave. “The mountains, the rainforest, the desert, the climbing and the people… I was already looking for a job on day three,” she said. The Pacific Northwest—especially the North Cascades—has inspired both her lifestyle and her artwork. Already a climber, she began mountaineering because “the volcanoes in Washington were calling me,” and “I wanted to figure out how to get to those high places.” She soon found her passion for painting outdoors and since then, she said, “It’s really important to me that most of the work I either start outside or do completely outside to capture that feeling of wonder that I get.” Her mountain artwork incorporates line drawings, ink wash, and watercolors, creating majestic landscapes of those high places she loves. She has a degree in art and a BS in Art Education, and previously worked as a preschool and middle school teacher, though she is currently transitioning to be a full-time artist.

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8. Sarah Uhl

Courtesy Sarah Uhl

Courtesy Sarah Uhl

Sarah Uhl is an entirely self-taught mountain artist of “whimsical and playful” commercial and fine-art illustrations. Though Pennsylvania-born, she moved to Colorado Springs in 2007 to cycle at the Olympic Training Center. After ten years as a pro-cyclist, she worked at New Belgium Brewery, and then finally, moved to Carbondale, CO, where she now lives. Her newest “Story Map” project tells stories through pictures for towns, organizations and businesses. Like mini-research projects, “There’s more depth to them than just being something pretty,” she said. The maps “piggyback onto a cause,” helping people appreciate nature, or protect plants and wildlife. Outdoor Research recently commissioned her to create a map of the U.S., featured at their Outdoor Retailer 2016 summer trade show booth. For the past three years, Uhl also worked as event director for the adventure film festival 5Point, but now pursues art full-time, which she says has given her the “freedom to be able to follow those things inside of me that I feel like I can’t not do.”

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