The North Carolina creative who launched an online phenomenon offers a tongue-in-cheek look at our state and national parks.
by Addie Ladner
The daughter of a Navy chief, Amber Share and her family spent much of her childhood on the move. By the time she entered high school, Share had lived in Italy and five different states, and family trips took her all over the country. For Share, national parks became home. “Parks solidified a vacation in my mind,” she says.
Those experiences have stayed with her since, etched in her mind and soul. “Anytime I want a break in my life, I wind up in a park,” says Share, who studied graphic design and fine art at the University of Nebraska.
A few years ago, she began sketching all those national parks on her iPad, creating retro illustrations of places like Joshua Tree National Park’s desert landscape and the Grand Canyon’s rocky ochre horizon. She stumbled across a perplexing one-star review of a national park on Reddit that had her laughing out loud. “Save yourself some money. Boil some water at home,” said one visitor to Yellowstone — the landmark that spans three states and is home to the world’s tallest active geyser. That became her “aha” moment.
Soon, she found other strange, yet hilarious, reviews that provided the perfect amount of words to pair with her illustrations. In December 2019, she shared her illustrations on Instagram with the handle @subparparks — and they went viral. In March 2020, Share left her full-time job at a Raleigh creative agency to focus solely on Subpar Parks and other creative gigs. Her book, America’s Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors, debuted last month. It shows her illustrations of 63 national parks with 13 additional national monuments, seashores, lakes and national recreation areas.
As a nod to her resident state’s diverse and awe-inspiring state parks resting on mountains, sand dunes and dense forests, Share illustrated a North Carolina series of Subpar Parks, shown above, exclusively for SouthPark and its sister publications. Share’s illustrations are a reminder of how lucky we are to be surrounded by incredible state parks and recreation areas in North Carolina. Use them as inspiration to get outside this summer and reconnect with nature. SP