The Story Behind My National Park Map Art (Art is a Process!!!)

The Story Behind My National Park Map Art (Art is a Process!!!)

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen some of my artwork displayed on my website, Etsy, Instagram, TikTok, or maybe even hanging up in your own house. 

When you see my art, hopefully you’re thinking something like “Aaah, how nice is that painting!” (Tbh, I’m not really sure what you’re thinking, but at the very least, you’re looking at a finished illustration, all framed up or plastered along the side of a coffee mug.)

Aka, it’s a finished piece. 

Us artists usually only show our final product, so you might not get a sense for the whole backstory of a particular piece. Each painting, each illustration had to start somewhere. Someone had to come up with that idea and then go through the process of refining it, making mistakes, redoing it, editing it, and finally finishing it. 

Whether I come up with the idea for my next project or I get commissioned work, the creative process usually begins with a sketch then transitions into full-blown execution style. And this is when the real hard work begins. 

For example, take a look at this recent painting I did of the U.S. National Parks. My client asked that I design a U.S. map with all of the National Parks. So, I sat down and started cracking away – gulp! – 63 parks! I had no strategy when I started painting, except to just. keep. going. 

About halfway through the parks, I realized I was going to have a major problem on my hands! Most of these parks are out west, with eight of them being in Alaska! How was I going to make my art look balanced when all of the artwork is heavily concentrated on the lefthand side of my painting? Yikes!

I decided to pivot and took my artistic license to paint other lesser-known parks in the midwest and east coast. Some of the western parks were going to have to settle for name-only. Yup, that was a total artistic move on my part, and not one that is data-driven by the National Park Service’s “Most Visited Parks.” Art can be subjective, my friends.

So, now the challenging part kicked in for me to place all of these parks in a balanced setting on my map. After many tweaks (and taking many liberties), I ended up with this lovely composition (you can check it out here) showcasing 43 of our 63 National Parks. 

Obviously, there will be people out there who question why I painted one park over another, but I remind myself that this wasn’t the Sistine Chapel. Besides, if I can get someone talking about my art and having fun thinking about it, isn’t that the whole point of making art anyway?