JANE KIM: The wall is 70 by 40 feet. It spans two floors. And on it, there are 243 modern families of birds. There are five extinct modern families of birds, one black caiman, and 21 extinct evolutionary species.
So it obviously starts at a small scale. And I received blueprints from the lab to work with the dimensions of the wall to create the composition. And once we had that figured out and laid out, everything gets then blown up to scale. One of the other challenges was that when you blow up your small drawing, everything that was inaccurate about that small drawing gets blown up and everything is visible. So all your mistakes are amplified.
And this kept happening to me over and over and over again on the albatross. And I couldn't make the proportions feel correct and so I actually had to draw that particular one to scale. So my preliminary drawing for the albatross was a 10 foot bird. And that was frustrating but fulfilling once I nailed it because I think I do. I think it is actually one of my favorite birds on the wall.
You know, I think it was a really cool opportunity to show things life-size because you don't really always see these birds next to each other. So the relative scale is something that you don't see in the wild-- really ever. I mean, sometimes you do. But for the most part, you see these birds isolated. And to be able to see them next to each other and that penduline tit that's just right next to the ostrich's head, that's such a cool relationship.
I do consider myself a scientific Illustrator. I also consider myself an artist. And there is definitely balance because I think that the two disciplines hope to get two different reactions.
When you have just the science, it runs the risk of being dry or unemotional. It's just informative and then that's it. Or if you stay too close to the artistic edge, then you're sort of missing the mission of especially this institution, which is to educate and engage. Yeah, when I refer to myself as both science Illustrator and artist, I pay attention to both.
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Science illustrator and artist Jane Kim discusses her mural “From So Simple a Beginning: Celebrating the Evolution and Diversity of Birds,” which graces a 70-by-40-foot wall in the visitor’s center of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Birds and Biodiversity.