To find one’s own style, in an art world that values creativity over all else, is no easy feat. However, Jane Kim, cofounder of Ink Dwell Studio, manages. She works as a muralist, depicting primarily wildlife, with uncanny realism. Further adding to this sense of realism is her “migrating murals,” which follow the migration patterns of the animal she illustrates.
A former artist-in-residence at the deYoung, and boasting fifty thousand Instagram followers, Kim has garnered her fair share of critical success. Beyond that, however, her art provides viewers with an intimate connection to the natural world which surrounds them, in downtown Redwood City, and in the Cornell lab of Ornithology.
In your own words, how would you describe your art?
[Ink Dwell’s] art is built around accurate depictions of the natural world, which tell allegorical stories about people, culture, and humanity as a whole. With that being said, my work is heavily inspired by the discipline of scientific illustration.
As an extension of that, how has your particular training contributed to your art style?
I have a background in printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design, and I have a masters in scientific illustration from [Cal State] Monterey Bay. The style is definitely more technical, but, compositionally, there’s influence from my background as a fine artist.
Did anything, in particular, make you want to pursue scientific illustration?
I was really attracted to the role that scientific illustration plays in communicating. It’s kind of a universal language, which has the ability to communicate both ideas and responses, and can incite reflection. It’s just a nice skill set to have.
Typically, scientific illustrators work for textbook publishers, scientific periodicals, etc. Why go in this unconventional direction?
I went in this direction with the hopes of having a greater impact. You need artists for textbooks, museums, signs, and so on; but, in the more public realm which my art occupies, there is a greater capacity to engage more, to reach people who otherwise would not have been seeking out that particular information or image. To be able to bring nature to a community or to the public, in this way, is incredibly appealing to me, and more importantly, incredibly effective in the way of reaching a wider audience.
Could you explain the idea behind the “migrating mural?”
The migrating mural is a flagship project for Ink Dwell that is ongoing. Essentially, it is a series of art installations painted along certain migration corridors that wildlife share with people. Our first series was around Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, which is a pretty localized population in the eastern Sierra. It runs along on highway 395 from Lee Vining, to Lone Pine – about 120 miles – and there are six unique external murals that celebrate the bighorn sheep.
We have now moved on to our second species, the monarch butterfly, which is really special, as we get to connect practically the entire country through this insect. Currently, we are in year two of that campaign, and we hope to create new monarch murals in San Francisco this summer.
Is your work fine art, scientific illustration, both, or neither?
It is sort of neither, as it isn’t one or the other, and I don’t know if it really falls into a category that can be described with a single label. So, when I do talk about my work, I introduce myself as a visual artist, and as a science illustrator. I can kind of take on many roles, as there are times that lend themselves to me wearing a scientific illustrator hat and then times where the opposite is true. My favorite place to be, though, is when I get to wear the two hats simultaneously, though I don’t know exactly what that descriptor is yet.