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Audubon Helps People Get In Touch With Bird World Through Art



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Connecticut Audubon Society hosted the third of its five “Young, Gifted, And Wild About Birds” online presentations on March 3.

Jenny Kroik led “How Drawing and Painting Can Help You Get In Touch With The Bird World” to share about her work as an artist/illustrator and the impact drawing birds can have on people.

She also gave a special look into how she accomplishes her creations by doing two bird paintings while attendees watched.

According to Connecticut Audubon Society, “Jenny Kroik began to really love birds when she began to paint them. You might know her work from the cover of The New Yorker, or from Town & Country, Time, or numerous other publications, in print and online.

“She began painting birds — with a quick, light hand and impressionistic style — as a way to get to know them better. She used field sketching and studio paintings to familiarize herself with the characteristics of the species she came across in parks near her home in New York City.”

Kroik started off her presentation by sharing some images of the art she has done that are archived on her website, jennykroik.com.

“I love walking and being outside and exploring,” she said.

As a result, Kroik gains inspiration from people-watching — similar to bird-watching, she noted. Her art is generally based on observation and portraiture.

“I’ve been noticing what people are doing, noticing their behavior, and kind of imagining the stories behind the people,” she relayed.

She found herself painting many people holding their phones, because it is such a common sight to see.

“I started changing their phones into animals,” Kroik said, while showing a painting of a woman holding a mandarin duck.

In the last few years, because of the COVID pandemic, she found that her love of nature turned into her being addicted to bird-watching.

She spent time outdoors in south New Jersey, where her friend Annie Novak took her under her wing, so to speak, to start her proper birding journey. Kroik bought binoculars and set out with Novak on a morning bird-watching tour in Cape May.

The life changing experience launched her into going out on her own adventures, where she would practice identifying birds and sketch what she saw.

She eventually joined an urban bird-watching team so she could continue learning more and fuel her enthusiasm for birding.

Kroik showed a variety of images from her sketchbooks to show the progress she made and the work she put in to understand everything from the way the birds move to the narrative aspect.

She also highlighted how the online birding community was very influential in helping her with her art, as well as for educating her on bird conservation.

As for the tools Kroik uses while she is out in the world doing her art, she said, “One thing that I use is a brush pen. I find that’s a really good way to get big shapes quickly. I use that in the field. I also bring a minimum amount of color.”

Through her love of bird-watching and art, she has also shared that passion with her parents by drawing bird cards together.

“Birding is a really great way to connect with other people,” Kroik said.

She has even formed a connection with Wild Bird Fund, an all-volunteer group on the Upper West Side that rescues birds and urban wildlife. One of her first art shows was her paintings of patients and volunteers at Wild Bird Fund.

“While I was installing it, they had some gulls flying around outside of their cages and some of the gulls pooped on my art, which I thought increased its value. I thought, ‘Great! It was approved by the birds. They like it,’” she recalled with a chuckle.

Art Demonstration

After showcasing her mix of technical drawings and whimsical paintings that she has done, Kroik wrapped up her presentation with a special live demonstration while answering questions.

Her overhead camera showed sketchbooks and containers of paint placed on her desk as she searched on eBird.org, a site for birding worldwide, for inspiration.

While looking at a “hotspot” from Chernobyl in Ukraine on eBird, Kroik mentioned that for her next project she hopes to paint birds from Ukraine, then send them to people who donate money to different organizations to help the country during the war.

After a quick online search, she decided on drawing a Mistle Thrush.

First, Kroik created an outline using a Faber-Castell pen, then began mixing her paints to get the desired color.

She uses Gouache opaque watercolor paint because it dries light and can be layered.

“You can combine more traditional watercolor techniques, but then you can make mistakes and that’s okay,” Kroik said.

While she waited for the paint to dry, she answered participants’ questions. One inquired about the type of paper she was using.

She answered, “The paper I am using is a hot press watercolor paper, and I think this is 150 weight. Hot press is a little smoother, not as textured as cold press, which is the traditional watercolor paper.”

An attendee also requested she draw a Eurasian Wigeon, so she began rendering it with her Faber-Castell pen, then painted it in.

Kroik said that everyone can see the finished art on her Instagram @jkroik.

People can watch the entirety of her presentation by visiting youtube.com/watch?v=pKWyknQmKZE.

Upcoming Programs

The next installment of the Connecticut Audubon Society’s Young, Gifted, and Wild About Birds series will be “Grassland Birds Are Thriving In The Least Likely Place,” by Shannon Curley, PhD, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, and Jose Ramirez-Garofalo, PhD candidate, Rutgers University, on March 24, at 7 pm.

The final program of the series will be “Barn Swallows Under The Light,” by Murry Burgess, PhD candidate, North Carolina State University, on April 21, at 7 pm.

To sign up for the upcoming presentations, visit ctaudubon.org/2022/01/young-gifted-and-wild-about-birds-2022.

Reporter Alissa Silber can be reached at alissa@thebee.com.

Artist Jenny Kroik led Connecticut Audubon Society’s presentation “How Drawing And Painting Can Help You Get In Touch With The Bird World,” and she made two paintings live on March 3. The painting on the bottom left is of a Mistle Thrush and the one on the bottom right is of a Eurasian Wigeon.
Jenny Kroik shared a self-portrait she painted of herself with the many birds she would see in New Jersey.
During Jenny Kroik’s presentation for the Connecticut Audubon Society, she showed a variety of her sketches, such as this Baltimore oriole, with the real bird comparison.
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