...who “gave up the Seattle city life for the backwaters of Alaska” (his words, not mine!). No, I wasn’t overcome by an ether-induced brainstorm while undergoing a molar extraction outside Denali. I’ve never met the man, who also goes by “Ranger Doug,” harking back to his time as a seasonal ranger at Grand Teton National Park. I happened to be at Grand Teton several years ago while working as a consultant for the National Park Service (sort of following in my father’s footsteps, who worked many years for the NPS designing and building trails). I was perusing the goodies in the visitor center, as I always do (I’ve been to almost every national park in the continental US), searching for a bit of memorabilia that would knock my socks off. I’m not a souvenir/trinket kind of person, and I don’t go for mass-produced replicas (“no rubber tomahawks!,” as Doug would say), so I usually leave empty-handed. But that day, it happened: Artwork that took my breath away. I had stumbled upon reproductions of serigraphed vintage national park posters created in the 1930s under the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project, which put unemployed artists to work at piquing American’s interest in travel, education, theater, and other noble pursuits. Evidently, they crafted 35,000 designs and printed over two million posters, 14 of which were of national parks (the image of Zion at left is in the public domain). I loved the flat, bold shapes, saturated colors, and vintage vibe. Not only was Ranger Doug dutifully and painstakingly reproducing the original images, his company was also creating new ones in the same style, and they are fabulous. I bought every postcard design the visitor center had.
And I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be intoxicating to create my own poster designs.
But of what? Ranger Doug was doing a fine job with national parks, and other artists had begun creating their own interpretations, many of which are also quite striking. Some time later, I happened upon vintage-style posters of Colorado’s 14’ers (mountain peaks 14,000 feet above sea level) and thought, wow, that was a genius idea, too. I needed an idea of my own.
And then it hit me. I could create mountain biking posters of my favorite rides.
Thank you, Ranger Doug, for making people smile by reviving the WPA designs and carrying the torch, and by, you know, fixing their teeth. Very inspiring!