We Started Illustrating Every National Park In The US To Get Park Nerds Into Posters And Poster Nerds Into The Parks
This story could also be titled “How a DIY Side Hustle Became a Full-Time Focus.”
In 2015 we set out to illustrate every National Park in the United States. Our passion project has since become a full-time focus, and it has lead us to visit over two-thirds of the parks!
The series is a call to action to visit the parks, preserve nature, and celebrate the art of printmaking. 5% of every poster sale—before profit—is donated to The National Park Service. Through our prints—and our partnerships—we’ve been able to help donate over $100k to The National Park Service!
Our aspiration has always been to get park nerds into posters and poster nerds into the parks. We’ve been moved to hear so many stories about just that! Like the mom—the parks enthusiast—who got into posters with her son—the poster admirer. It’s so cool to hear that the two of them got to experience their first national park together! Our early days of eclectic music events were always about bringing people together with different interests. We’re so glad the series can help do something similar—even if in small ways!
Our ultimate goal is to celebrate the parks, give some shine to the art of printmaking, and bring people together in the process. Here’s to leaning into those aspirations even more for years to come!
The series is now archived by The Library of Congress and has expanded in ways we couldn’t have imagined!
Joshua Tree National Park Poster with Little Friends of Printmaking
We got our start designing and screen printing posters for DIY music events. That takes us all the way back to high school in 2001. Every poster in the series is screen-printed by hand here in the US.
Crater Lake National Park Poster with Dan McCarthy
It would have been much easier to use one of them newfangled laser printers to create our posters. We wanted to honor our background as DIY printmakers. We also wanted to honor the wonderful tradition of screen-printed posters that goes back to the WPA era.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park Poster with Chris Turnham
Our love of the parks also goes back to high school. Once we were old enough to drive, we visited so many parks while on road trips with friends or tour bands. Experiencing places like the Grand Canyon and Glacier National Park as naive kids was totally life-changing!
Grand Canyon National Park Poster with DKNG
We’ve been adventuring all over North America ever since those road trips in high school. We’ve even had the pleasure of hosting over 400 art and music events all over the continent! We’re fortunate to have shown in venues like The Library of Congress, Adobe HQ, Marvel Studios, and Disney Animation Studios. We’ve also done events in backyard sheds—101 to be exact—bowling alleys and defunct storefronts.
The series has been the world’s best excuse to take a 10-hour detour to visit a “nearby” park while on tour! Sometimes it works the other way around—tours and shows are set up as an excuse to get closer to the parks!
Grand Teton National Park Poster with Kim Smith
We’ve always believed in inclusivity. It goes back to our days of setting up DIY events. They were always of all ages and open to the public. They were typically free or $5, too. We’ve never set up a show that wasn’t (knowingly) open to everyone. We also did this work for decades without making a dime—nor did we intend to.
The series follows those same values of inclusivity. Our posters are open edition. We also work with artists from all over the world—regardless if they’re poster designers or if they have any printmaking experience. We figure the parks are for everyone, so the posters should be, too!
Zion National Park Poster with Dan McCarthy
One of the biggest challenges of illustrating the parks is capturing such a wonderful place with a static image, especially when there are so many iconic sites within each one!
Sometimes we revisit certain parks to create alternate versions. A park like Zion deserves to celebrate a spot like The Narrows *and* Angels Landing, right?! We often like to explore the parks at night, too!
Rocky Mountain National Park Poster with Rory Kurtz
We wanted to celebrate the diversity of each park with a unique artistic voice. The series features over 50 artists—a few of which may have made more than one poster. The strength of the series is in an eclectic mix of artists and a few consistent hands throughout. Working collaboratively is the best!
Yosemite National Park Poster with Dan McCarthy
We were committed to creating posters for every park—whether 10,000 people or 10 million people visit them. We knew there was a good chance we may go broke for a few years—and we did. For most of our lives—about 15—we worked 9-5 jobs and hustled on our passion projects on nights and weekends. We’ve spent plenty of nights sleeping under our desks at work and living off of peanut butter to see our poster work come to fruition. We’re super grateful to be self-sustaining—and focus on our poster work full time—after all those (awesome) years!
Yosemite National Park Poster with Strong Stuff
Detail of the Joshua Tree National Park Poster
The series features over 50 amazing artists from around the world. It’s been a total joy to collaborate with some of the most hard-working and inspiring artists out there!
Detail of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park Poster
It’s still wild that the poster work has led to new opportunities we never dreamed of. It’s meant we’ve been able to collaborate on board games, fun journals, and a new book!
Detail of the Rocky Mountain National Park Poster
The Art of the National Parks by Fifty-Nine Parks Book
We may not have pictured the series going on this long—or it being a full-time focus. We did, however, dream of a book that would compile the series once it was completed!
We’re incredibly fortunate to work with the brilliant folks at Insight Editions. They’ve helped bring this series to life in a whole new way. They’ve even allowed us to achieve a pretty huge dream! You can learn more about the book here.
Detail of The Art of the National Parks Book (Joshua Tree)
A book of pretty pictures would be fine, right? We also wanted to add an educational component to the book. That way, it had a little more value. Each spread includes facts about the park and some inspiration for planning your next trip!
Detail of The Art of the National Parks Book (Grand Teton)
Parks Notebooks with Field Notes
Collaborating with amazing folks like Field Notes has been a total joy! A big focus of anything we make is what value it can bring to folks and the world of conservation. That’s why everything we make must mark at least three of four simple checkboxes.
Does the work have a give-back component?
Is the work made in the USA and offers fair wages?
Is the work made of recycled material / is it recyclable?
Does the work have a long life span? Meaning: the work will ideally be kept or used indefinitely.
PARKS Board Game with Keymaster Games
Speaking of something we never pictured—a board game based around the series! We met the amazing folks at Keymaster Games during a show in Memphis. We loved their work and later asked if they’d be interested in making a game about exploring the parks.
We still can’t believe they said “yes”! It’s wild to see the game in the gift shop at Grand Canyon National Park, on the shelves of our local hobby shops, and in stores like Target! Bringing people together is a huge reason for so much of the work we do. That’s why we love board games. They’re such a great way to gather people around a table and share some memories! We’re all about anything that helps the world feel a little smaller.
Thank you so much for checking out some of the work from the series and reading through our story!
We hope you and yours are safe and doing well during this challenging year. All our best from Austin!
-JP & Team Fifty-Nine Parks
4KviewsShare on Facebook