What shape are a robin's tail feathers? What precise shade of blue is the gleam in a pelican’s eye? Questions like these are what Jane Kim ponders while she works. As a science illustrator, Kim creates beautiful and painstakingly accurate portrayals of plants and animals. Her work helps educate the public about the natural world.
A few years ago, Kim completed one of her most ambitious projects yet: a three-story mural at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. It celebrates bird evolution—the process by which organisms diversify into new species over time. The Wall of Birds includes life-sized paintings of more than 240 birds—one from every living bird family, or category of related species. They stretch across a giant world map, with each bird depicted in its native region.
Planning and painting the mural took more than two-and-a-half years. Kim spoke to Science World about her process and why she focuses on nature in her art.