An Artist’s Stunning Tribute to Our National Parks

If these watercolors don’t evoke your sense of wanderlust, we don’t know what will

Paintings of Haleakalā (left) and Glacier National Parks by Sarah Coyne

A version of this article originally appeared on She-Explores. Find more like it here


Every week of 2015, artist Sarah Coyne dreams up and paints a watercolor inspired by a national park. She then packs the painting, a letter, a business card, and a few other little goodies into an envelope and sends it to the park. She calls the project “Post for the Parks,” and as of this August she’s 30 posts in to her beautiful tribute to America’s beloved natural lands.

To learn more, I chatted with Sarah about her inspiration, process, and what keeps her motivated.

What inspired you to start “Post for the Parks”?
I love nature, animals, plants, and wild spaces. I am so proud of the people who value wilderness and see it as something to be treasured and protected. Post for the Parks is a love letter to the National Parks. It’s a thank you letter to the people who work so hard to protect our public lands. It’s also an examination of the parks system, its history, and how people interact with the wild spaces set aside for them and future generations. I love the idea of furthering a conversation about the value of the parks, and if I help even one person learn about our parks system, I will be so pleased!

Which parks have you been to?
I haven’t been to many! When I was small I visited the Everglades with my family. That trip is one of my most vivid childhood memories. In 2010 I took an incredible 10-day trip to Alaska with three girlfriends I’ve known since our pre-teen years. We went to visit another friend who lives in Lake Clark National Park with her park ranger husband. It was a wonderful adventure, and before heading to Lake Clark, we visited Kenai Fjord National Park. So I’ve only been to three out of 59! This summer I’m hoping to add at least two more: Acadia in Maine and Shenandoah in Virginia.

parcel posting parts chart copy

What’s it like painting a place that you’ve never been to?
In part, it almost feels wrong to try and capture the feeling of a place I’ve never visited, but one of my goals is to get closer to the parks, even if I can’t see them in person. I do a great deal of research about each park before I paint it. I have the Internet and three books that I’m using to find both visual and informational inspiration. I was afraid that I would have a difficult time connecting to the parks without seeing them in person, but I’ve felt just the opposite—I feel like I have gotten to know them all. Aside from factual information and photos, I have been seeking out personal stories about the parks from friends, family, and strangers online. Learning about the parks through the experiences of others has been a truly inspiring research method.

Why did you choose watercolor as your medium?
For my business I work primarily in screen printing, but watercolor is my true love. I am drawn to watercolor’s organic and slightly unpredictable tendencies. I wanted to create quick, expressive pieces and watercolor seemed like the perfect medium.

How does the constraint of a weekly painting affect the work and your enjoyment of the process?
The weekly constraint, so far, is a great motivator. I work on the sketchbook for the project when I am inspired to do so and I work on the paintings the same way, but keeping their due date in mind. I have always painted best when working on multiple paintings at once, so I sometimes finish pieces ahead of their mailing date but I pack and document them on the week they go out in the mail.

Is there a way for other park lovers to purchase the prints?
Soon! I will post about it on the Post for the Parks Tumblr and Instagram accounts once it’s up and running. I plan to have some prints and other small parks-related items, the sales of which will help buy more stamps!

A Selection of Post for the Parks Paintings

Click to enlarge

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All images courtesy of Sarah Coyne

IMG_9730Gale Straub loves landscape and believes you don’t need to travel the country to see something new every single day. While traveling in a camper van, she started She-Explores, a site for inquisitive women in the outdoors, on the road, and besides.