How we Craft the Centennial Posters

Actually, the question is really: “How the heck do we make, print and send our Centennial Posters while living and camping full time on the road?” Considering we don’t have an RV and many parks are quite remote, among other challenges.

First, the quick answer:

The Centennial Posters begin with exploration in the park, followed by research, photography, and sketching; then we illustrate digitally and spend several days in this phase before working with a partner who handles the printing and shipping of each print.

End of story?

Not at all – the process is a complex story for each park. After all, there’s so much to see and so many things to illustrate. So where do we begin?

Follow along below for a visual journey of the process broken into 3 steps. We’ll use our most recent poster as an example.

Read on to discover how this went from idea to final print.

1. Explore the Park

There are a few things to accomplish with every visit:

  • See the visitor center to research and discover the park.
  • Go on several hikes and excursions, sometimes by boat, bike or backpacking. Isle Royale was unique in the sense that it was a very long 5 day hike.
  • Join ranger programs. We’ve gone on ranger-led hikes and attended talks about wildlife, park history, and other topics unique to the park. Our ranger program for Isle Royale National Park was actually a talk on loons given aboard the Ranger III ship.
Hikes help to absorb the essence of each park and see wildlife.
Taking time to reflect, sketchbook at my side.
We visited the Isle Royale visitor center after our backpacking trip – tired and overwhelmed by what we discovered in the park.

2. Sketch and Photograph

This is by far the most important stage:

  • Carry sketchbooks around to jot down notes and make sketches while hiking or taking a break.
  • During this stage we talk about what the poster should depict, usually chatting it up on a hike.
  • All of our illustrations are based on sketches and photographs, so what we see with our own eyes and through a lens reflects the subject of the poster. Often there’s an idea of what we hope to depict before visiting a park, but this changes depending on the wildlife we see. Our recent search for the moose on Isle Royale ultimately determined the final illustration.
Some artists have the opportunity to spend weeks in a park - this is the cabin for the artist in residence program on Isle Royale.
Some artists have the opportunity to spend weeks in a park – this is the cabin for the artist in residence program on Isle Royale.
Whoever we find might be the star of the poster.
The moose who inspired the latest print.
One of our rough moose sketches, preparing for the poster.
One of our rough moose sketches, preparing for the poster.

3. Final Illustration + Print

We spend a week to 10 days in each park, breaking up the days between exploring, working, and beginning the centennial poster.

  • The final illustration is painted digitally using traditional techniques and brushes. We divide up the duties and work as a team, Andres often sets the direction and mood while Karla focus on typography.
  • All color choices and layout are based on what we discovered in the park.
  • During this stage we typically work in a library near the park, so far having found one even in the most remote parks.
  • Once complete and reviewed, we work with our California-based partner who handles the logistics of printing the poster whenever someone orders one. Each poster is printed on archival matte paper using rich inks that leave the final print looking quite painterly and vibrant. We also print on canvas and mount to wood frames for an even more rustic look.

This is what it looks like:

The moose poster is based on the abundant oranges, greens and dark hues we saw throughout our time in the park. Seeing the moose in person made him the star of the print, which is available in our shop Hike & Draw.

In the end…

We hope to shed some light on the natural wonders our parks help to preserve. The Centennial Poster project is a goal to capture places, species and histories many people don’t have the chance to learn about. Maybe we can inspire you to get out and explore too! Check out our shop Hike & Draw to see more on the series.

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