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The Art of: Brushing Up Katie Wall Podracky '05 painted the landscape of more than 40 state parks during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Dappled-KatiePodracky3-800x533 The Art of: Brushing UpKatie Wall Podracky poses with one of her paintings from The Carolina Collection. (Photo by Dave Podracky)

When the pandemic hit, Katie Wall Podracky ’05 wanted to focus on “uninhibited joy” — words she uses to describe her painting style, as well as her experience artistically documenting all 41 North Carolina state parks.

In 2020, the full-time artist decided to travel around her state with her husband and two children. What started as a mission to get her kids off technology and into nature blossomed into a professional challenge: make a painting of every state park.

“I needed a goal to get me through the pandemic, and the project became the tangible thing I could focus on. It was my way of clinging to a little nugget of joy,” said Podracky, who double majored in studio art and biology.

Katie-ChimneyRock-800x533 The Art of: Brushing UpOne of Podracky’s paintings, titled “Chimney Rock”

The project, which she named The Carolina Collection, ranges from large oil pieces (her signature style) to smaller watercolors that showcase the beautiful, diverse landscape of the state. The watercolors are a nod to her Spring Term course in Italy with Kathleen Olson, professor of art emeritus, where the group traveled the country and painted plein air.

While Podracky was hoping to also paint the Carolina Collection in the moment, that proved unrealistic with two kids in tow. Instead, she took referencephotos and collected snapshots of natural landmarks and personal moments, from Pilot Mountain to her children playing in the creek.

From getting locked out of an Airbnb cabin on Thanksgiving, to her daughter getting sun poisoning on a park trail, it wasnt all easy. But her series finds the beauty in the pain and uses art to focus on the bright side — in nature and in life.

View more of Podracky’s work at katiewallart.com or on Instagram @katie_podracky.