We caught up with designer and illustrator, Amber Share, to talk about her personal love and connection to the outdoors, how she came up with the idea for SubPar Parks and her latest collaboration with Rumpl: The SubPar Parks Collection.
First, give us a little background on the project and how you came up with the idea?
I knew I wanted to illustrate all of the national parks as a personal project. For a lot of people who consider themselves “outdoorsy”, visiting all 63 is a big bucket list achievement, and as an illustrator, it felt cool to instead make my goal to draw them all. I wanted to find a way to make my project unique and different from the many park illustration collections out there, and incorporate my sense of humor and my hand lettering. I wound up stumbling on a few one star reviews on Reddit, and it was like a lightning bolt moment!
Do most people understand your project? Or do people actually think you hate the National Parks?
I would say 99.9% of people understand it. I’ve definitely had a few people send me slightly agitated and confused messages about why I’d be degrading our public lands this way, but for the most part, people get it!
"I wanted to find a way to make my project unique and different from the many park illustration collections out there, and incorporate my sense of humor and my hand lettering."
Gotta ask, what’s your favorite review poster you’ve created?
Honestly every time I draw a new one, it becomes at least my new temporary favorite. But I always say it’s Arches, because it was the first one and it’s also got this second layer of humor. The review is about how Delicate Arch doesn’t live up to the license plate, which is an illustration of the arch, so it felt especially funny to be illustrating that one. A close second is Hawaii Volcanoes, because it was so fun to draw and I love how the colors turned out, and the review is of course hilarious! A few new favorites that I haven’t shared yet will be making their debut in my book based on the project, which came out on July 13!
Any parks on your bucket list that you haven’t visited yet?
So many! I’d love to do a tour of the Alaska parks, because that’s a landscape that’s just completely foreign to me - I mainly visit the desert. I also want to eventually do a road trip up the length of California, visiting all of the parks in the state along the way. I’ll be knocking the remaining Arizona and Utah parks off of my list on a trip this summer, so super excited about that.
Do you visit every park you review?
I wish! But sadly, no. I’ve visited about ⅓ of the national parks in some capacity, so the other ⅔ I just scroll endlessly through photos and imagine I’ve been there. My dream would definitely be to go on an epic year-long journey visiting all of them and taking pictures of my art in each one.
Any tips for people to have the best possible experience at National Parks?
My biggest tip is always to allow yourself more time there than you think you’ll need. I think most people’s disappointment comes from expecting to immediately check off all the “must see / must experience” items immediately, but many of these parks are massive, and the wonder of it all sometimes takes time to really sink in. Plus, if you’re hoping to see wildlife, it’s far less likely to happen if you just quickly visit the popular spots.
If you had to give something a one star review, what would it be?
If you mean anything at all, it would have to be cilantro. It’s just not for me. :) But if you’re going to make me pick a park, it would probably be Gateway Arch (and I can say that, because I’m a St. Louisan). It’s a perfectly lovely city park and a very cool structure, but as compared to most other national parks, it just doesn’t have what I’m looking for!
Most memorable one star park review you’ve come across?
This is such a tough question, because they’re all so good, but it has to be Voyageurs. I must have read that review 5 times just to make sure I had it right that they were upset about having the park completely to themselves, because that’s generally what I’m seeking!
I know you do a lot of research to find the best one star reviews – how do you decide which ones to go with?
Usually it’s a gut thing. A phrase from the review will just stick out to me and a funny juxtaposition with the illustration will pop into my head (for example, as soon as I saw the review about no cell signal in Biscayne, I knew I was going to draw a scene completely underwater) or how I can rebut the review in the caption. I generally avoid any that have commentary on park management or facilities, because this is purely about the audacity of criticizing mother nature, so beyond that I just try to find reviews that aren’t too long and that seem to be authentic.