An Official Website of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
The Kentucky Society of Natural History recently named Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Artist Rick Hill its 2017 Naturalist of the Year for his lifetime of work.
It is a fitting honor for a self-taught naturalist whose artwork has been reprinted more than a quarter million times and graces the license plates of vehicles across Kentucky.
Hill’s life set its course the day his sophomore art teacher arrived at class with a gift: a boxed kit of professional watercolor paints. Opening the box opened a new world for Hill, as he experimented with applying color to his old black-and-white pen drawings. Just three years later, at age 18, this native of Jeffersontown, Ky., turned professional with his issuance of 11 limited edition prints of birds and mammals.
Hill next turned his talents to woodcarving, where he produced and painted fish and birds so realistic that he left the backsides unpainted to prove they weren’t taxidermy mounts. Collectors around the country quickly bought up his work.
In 1976, a Rick Hill painting first appeared on the cover of Kentucky Afield, the official magazine of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Hill joined the department as a fisheries technician a decade later. His job, which included pulling nets of fish, gave him access to the specimens he needed for his artwork.
Realizing his talent was better served elsewhere, Hill became the department’s first full-time artist in 1994. He soon began work on a limited series of four “Restoring Our Wildlife Heritage” prints sold to the public. His work since then has included a series of five aquatic ecosystems posters used by educators across the country.
Hill’s meticulous depictions of sporting scenes, animals and fish have graced the covers of Kentucky Afield magazine since 2000. Drivers will also see his illustrations on five of the specialty license plates issued in the state of Kentucky.
Both the National Association of Government Communicators and the Association of Conservation Information have bestowed Hill with national awards for his artwork. Hill’s works also appear in various publications for the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.