Artist Jane Kim spent 16 months drawing 270 birds in exquisite, larger-than-life detail.
December 11, 2015
If there was ever a Sistine Chapel for worshipping birds, it would be the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Based in Ithaca, New York, the sleek wood-and-steel structure houses labs for 250 professors and students, sound recordings of more than 165,000 birds and beasts, and a glass observatory where visitors can peek through scopes into the Sapsucker Woods to spot real-life birds.
Now, this avian Vatican also has its own Michelangelo: This week San Francisco artist Jane Kim put the finishing touches on her 40-foot-tall, 70-foot-wide mural of every living family of bird in the world.The 34-year-old illustrator, who runs a studio called Ink Dwell with her business partner Thayer Walker, spent 16 months on the project—weekends included. “I haven’t really had a life since this began,” Kim says. “This was more passion-driven than practicality-driven.”
With only the aid of a scissor-lift and the occasional assistant, Kim hand-painted 270 birds onto shadows of all the continents—the birds' locations are set near their evolutionary birth places. The Saddle-billed Stork, for instance, has one foot planted firmly in southwest Africa, while the Great Spotted Kiwi squats down in New Zealand.