[Photo: Jane Kim in a lift while painting the Wall of Birds: From So Simple a Beginning mural]

[Hugh Powell, standing in front of a wall] Well hi there, folks. Uh thanks for joining us this afternoon for a special broadcast from our mural project here in our visitor center. Uh my name is Hugh Powell, I’m senior science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology uh and I’m standing here in our visitor center with Dr. John Fitzpatrick uh and Jane Kim, the artist who’s painting the mural. And we’ll introd—introduce them in just a few moments.

Uh just wanna give you some notes while people are still coming in to the broadcast, and um give you a little idea of where we are. 

Uh I’m in the visitor center of the Cornell Lab. Um, outside we’re in Sapsucker Woods Sanctuary outside of Ithaca, New York in the Finger Lakes region. Outside it’s a beautiful late summer day, with about 70 degrees and um, the woods are full of uh fledgling catbirds and wood thrushes, and there’s swallows circling our pond. 

And uh we really love the grounds here and always wish that all of our fans and members would be able to visit our, our visitor center and our grounds. But that’s not practical for everybody, so we are excited at least to be able to show you this part of our visitor center over the next hour.

So to get here you could, you would just walk into our front doors and you’d be in the atrium, with a nice view out over our pond. And if you were to take a sharp right, you’d come around uh past our auditorium and you’d be at the foot of this giant wall. 

[Photo: Jane Kim in a lift while painting the Wall of Birds: From So Simple a Beginning mural]

[Text: Image captured previously]

Uh where Jane Kim is painting this enormous mural. The wall is about uh 40 feet um high and 70 feet wide. And uh it’s basically a giant map of the world with one member of each living bird family painted on that. 

Um so it’s an enormous project. Jane is spending more than a year of her life uh working on all of those birds. And it’s a project that we’re very excited about because we’re really inspired by the beauty and the diversity uh of birds in the world, and many of you are as well.

And so uh, thanks for joining us. Um, I just wanna say before we get started that we are really interested in answering as many questions as we can from you

[View changes back to Hugh Powell]

over the course of the hour. And to do that all you have to do is type your question into the chat window on the screen. And uh you’ll have to login just as a, just choose a username and login as a guest, you don’t have to make a, an account or, or register uh beyond that. And just type your question in and we’ll put it into a queue and we’ll ask as many as we can.

Um great, so let me introduce Dr. John Fitzpatrick, 

[View pans left to show Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim standing in front of the South American section of the Wall of Birds mural]

who we all call Fitz, executive director of the Lab, and Jane Kim. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Fantastic to be with you this afternoon. Thanks for joining us here, on the, with a uh, one of the projects that uh I’m most excited about uh in this amazingly exciting Lab of Ornithology. The Cornell Lab has 180 passionate, active people working at it. Uh and in 2003 we moved into this uh spectacular 90,000 square foot building, science center basically, at the edge of Sapsucker Woods Pond. 

And honestly the day we moved into this building, uh coming up these stairs, looking at this wall. Uh this wall, which at that time was an olive, drab, uniform olive drab. It’s been screaming to be a mural. 

And so literally for ten years we’ve thought about what to put on this wall, and sort of began to have an idea about this uh, that we might, given what we are. We’re a citadel for studying birds and bird evolution, that we might be able to portray something about the evolution of birds.

And the idea uh began to crystalize when we met this young lady, who’s now, we refer to as Michelangela, 

[Jane Kim laughs]

uh Jane Kim. Oh, and we’ll tell the story of uh, of Jane’s uh, uh, uh taking on this project in a few minutes. 

But first we thought we’d uh give you uh actually a big, kind of panoramic view. So we’re gonna take a brief tour of the world, and we’ll focus on a few of its very special birds, because about three quarters of the birds that are going on this mural have already been painted, and we’re gonna visit with a few of them. 

So we’re gonna start down in the uh, freezing, icy waters of Antartica, uh

[Hugh Powell] And Fitz, maybe we can also tell folks where we are right now, which is halfway up the mural

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Good point.

[Hugh Powell] We’re in a lift, about 20 feet off the ground.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah, good point. If we jiggle too hard we’ll uh, we’ll knock the paint buckets over.

[Jane Kim laughs]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So, we’re gonna stay here, and uh, and let the cameras and the uh, and the stream uh travel around to different parts of the world.  

[Camera pans to the right and down, toward Antarctica]

So we’ll start with uh, with, in Antarctica where you’ll see the spectacular painting of the largest of the penguins,

[Photo: Emperor penguin painting]

the emperor penguin. This is the species that nests by the tens of thousands in very dense colonies, uh and uh feeds their single, each one of them feed their single young fish that they caught hundreds of miles out to sea and brought back to the uh, to the uh colony as they’re, as the young are growing up.

Very famous, very famous, iconic bird, and a family that’s restricted to the southern hemisphere, and of course its concentration is Antarctica.

The next bird we wanna focus you on 

[View changes to mural, showing Wandering Albatross and part of the extinct Elephant Bird]

is one of the most amazing birds in the world. I can’t believe Jane did as good a job as she did painting this bird. It’s the bird with the largest wingspan, longest wingspan of any bird in the world. That’s the wandering albatross.

[Photo: Wandering albatross painting]

And by the way these are all life-size, as close to life-size as we could possibly make them. 

The wandering albatross, ten and a half to eleven feet on the wingspan. Absolutely beautifully adapted to living on those southern oceans, which are basically constantly roiled with huge winds. Uh blowing around the southern, the south pole. 

And so there, that bird is, as, as all the albatrosses are, [coughs] made to use these wings, these winds with these long, pointed wings for gliding. They can glide for hours and even days at a time without flapping.

I wanna move you next uh, over to New Zealand,

[View changes to wider view of the mural, showing parts of Oceania and Asia]

where we’re focusing on one of the strangest and weirdest and rarest of all the parrot families in the world,

[Photo: Most of the New Zealand portion of the mural, showing the Kakapo, Yellowhead, South Island Wren, Great Spotted Kiwi, and North Island Saddleback]  

that is the kakapo. That’s a nocturnal parrot, it was actually believed right at the verge of extinction.

[Photo: Kakapo painting]

At one point there were only five males known left in the world. Uh and then fortunately a small population was rediscovered. And that population has now been moved to a place off of the main islands of south, southern New Zealand where there are no cats. And the ground predators of the uh, that are introduced into New Zealand have been a problem for, for uh lots of species there.

The kakapo is now on a slow but steady recovery, and uh, thankfully we uh, we, we, we are gonna continue to see that really amazing parrot uh in, on into the future.

[Photo: Most of the New Zealand portion of the mural, showing the Kakapo, Yellowhead, South Island Wren, Great Spotted Kiwi, and North Island Saddleback]  

Uh if we move up, away from New Zealand we’ll end up in Australia, and there are so many amazing things to talk about in Australia. 

Uh we just want to mention the most conspicuous of paintings uh, on that,

[Photo: Southern Cassowary painting]

on that continent right now. And that’s the cassowary, which is a relative of the emu. And the cassowary exists in the forests of Australia, and in uh New Guinea. And the cassowary is an ostrich, distant ostrich relative. Uh it’s one of these big, flightless birds. 

And one of the most amazing things about it is that really a good closeup of the face and neck,

[Photo: Close up of the head and neck of the cassowary]

it looks very dinosaur-like. And one of the themes of this whole mural is how ev—birds have evolved from dinosaurs. We’ll talk about that a little bit later.

Uh so the cassowary in a way actually reminds us of the uh, reptilian features that so many birds uh show us.

We’re gonna migrate now north uh, northwestward towards Asia. And we could focus on many things there too, but we’re gonna look quickly at uh what I think is one of Jane’s most remarkable paintings, 

[Photo: Great Hornbill painting]

and that’s the great Indian hornbill. This hornbill, which looks basically like a Froot Loops bird, it looks like a toucan, but it’s in fact not related at all to toucans. The hornbills are a completely old world family of birds, uh that exist in Africa and Asia.

And the hornbills are the ones that make the, that famously wall in the female to protect her from external predators while she’s incubating the, and caring for the young.

[View changes to show Hugh Powell and Dr. John Fitzpatrick standing on the lift while Jane Kim paints]

But uh I think that that’s a painting that when you come here to visit the Lab you wanna bring your binoculars because you want to get a nice close up of the spectacular personality that Jane has painted into the face of that hornbill. 

[View changes to show much of the Asian part of the mural, including the hornbill, then moves across Asia and up to Europe]

So from the hornbill we’re gonna take a long trip now across Asia. We’re flying uh steadily uh westward across Asia, and we’re gonna stop in Eur—central Europe, uh where Jane has depicted the heaviest of all the birds that can fly. 

[View of Great Bustard painting]

This is the great bustard. Uh an amazing bird, and the bustard is a old world family that is very characteristic of the open country, the grasslands of Asia and, and Europe. And one of the most endangered habitats in the world. And you’ll see this theme repeated in several other species that we’ll focus on today. 

That is grasslands of the world are literally disappearing, and all of the characteristic birds of these grasslands are in some level of, of uh danger right now of extirpation.

Great bustard, this beautiful, amazing large bird. The males get up to as big as 40 pounds. They can be three times the size of a female. And uh they do this elaborate display which Jane is showing the bird at the very opening edges of.

Let’s move north quickly to 

[View moves up to the Great Gray Owl painting]

Scandinavia where you’re focusing on one of the owls. Remember we have one member, only one member of every living bird family on this uh exhibit. And the owl that we chose is the great gray owl. Which for birdwatchers worldwide is one of the great experiences to have. If you watch birds at all you always love it when you get a chance to see this enormous owl with incredible hearing. 

And what Jane has depicted is this owl coming down about to pounce on a mouse. And many times they’re pouncing on mice they can’t even see, because it’s either pitch black or they’re actually under a foot or two of snow and they’re hearing where that mouse is and coming in a grabbing it.

Amazing, beautiful owl.

So now we’ve, we’re gonna leave Scandinavia 

[View moves down to Africa and the Common Ostrich painting]

and migrate south with the birds, uh just as by the way this is uh mid-August, the birds are beginning to do that right now in Europe. So let’s come down south uh into central Africa, uh where again lots of stories to tell, but I want you to focus on the big one. Uh the ostrich, the largest of all the living birds.

And the ostrich uh

[View changes back to Hugh Powell, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, and Jane Kim]

is the only bird in the world that has only two toes. Basically the feet of the ostrich have turned into almost a hoof, uh like the hoof of a horse.

[View of ostrich feet and other birds in the Africa section of the mural including the Shoebill]

Because they are amazing runners. They’re run up to 40 to 45 miles an hour. Uh fast enough to get away, if they can, if they can escape the first ten seconds or so of a cheetah chase, they can keep on going and a cheetah can’t get ’em.

Uh an amazing bird, the male, which is shown here, actually cares for the eggs in the nests.

[View moves up and over to the Secretary-bird painting]

Okay quickly we’ll uh, we’ll look at the secretary-bird. Uh the secretary-bird also in the grasslands of Africa. Used to be thought of as a hawk that had turned into a ground predator with these long legs. It’s now known to be closely, more closely related to falcons and parrots, believe it or not.

But it’s a bird of the open country savannas of Africa, and very famous for eating snakes, including very poisonous snakes. Named secretary-bird because of the spectacular plumes coming out of its head, which reminded an early namer of the plume pens that secretaries had in their ears.

Okay, let’s come back home here to where we’re standing. And I wanna get back to looking at uh Jane, and she’s always working. And sure enough we have Jane here uh 

[View changes to Dr. John Fitzpatrick standing next to Jane Kim while she paints, then Jane stops painting and turns around]

working on the uh beautiful blue-and-yellow macaw.

[Jane Kim] Hello.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So let me get back quickly to the story of how this happened. We have at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology a really great program uh called the Bartels art internship program. So we uh encourage young artists, early in their careers who are interested in scientific illustration to come and spend three to six months here at the Lab. 

And four years ago Jane was, we were lucky enough to have Jane as one of these interns, and uh she actually while she was here won a contest uh designing a concept for an outdoor mural. 

And this made the lightbulb go off, and so I took Jane out here one day, and said you know we’ve always talked about doing a mural here. And the basic idea we kind of have is maybe a mural about the evolution of birds, um any interest in this, and Jane?

[Jane Kim] Yeah, and I said, you gotta be kidding. This would be an absolute dream come true, and uh I still feel that way every day as I’m working on this. And it has been an incredible project and process. 

And um, when we first uh talked about the mural as, as Fitz said it was focused on the evolution of birds. Um, gave him a concept that, that really was centered around that with some orders of birds um represented. And it has evolved into also including the great diversity of birds. So this is what you see today, and

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Right, so I really hand it to Jane for having taken the idea and run with it in several different ways, and then we suddenly got the idea, well, there’s kind of a new understanding of how many families of birds there are. Let’s illustrate them all.

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And uh we have a pretty big wall here after all. 

[Jane Kim laughs]

[Photo: Jane Kim in a lift while painting the Wall of Birds: From So Simple a Beginning mural]

40-plus feet high, and uh so what we decided to do is paint in color one member of every living bird family. And then you might have seen while you were looking at the kakapo that behind it was a grayed in image of a bird, big bird.

[View changes back to Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim]

In the case of New Zealand that’s a moa. Uh, an ostrich-like bird which is completely extinct. But it’s a bird that humans extinguished. 

And so we realized there are some modern bird families we should be seeing today, 

[View of Moa painting in the New Zealand area of the mural]

except that 10 to 40,000 years ago humans got to those places. Mostly the big islands of the world. And extinguished those families. 

So in gray, sort of ghostly,

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] uh Jane has also illustrated these amazing extinct bird families that should be here today but are no longer.

[View moves up and over to show the Elephant Bird, also in gray]

Hopefully none of these will ever turn gray. 

[Jane Kim] Yes, that’s what we’re hoping [laughs]. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] In fact, part of our whole intent here at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is to use birds to encourage people to appreciate, 

[View changes to Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim]

embrace, and save the natural world. And that’s one of your actual themes

[Jane Kim] Missions.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] of your whole professional career, right? 

[Jane Kim] Correct, yep, that’s um I wanna create art that will hopefully connect the audience to the natural world and spark some kind of uh relationship um with the natural world. So art is my voice.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] That’s a, that’s a, and you do it well. It’s a great voice.

[Jane Kim] Thanks.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So let’s talk a little bit about how you do these things. Um, what, what, how, how the heck do you start a project like this, and how do you uh…?

[Jane Kim] So you’re um…

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And how do you end up making something that looks so much like a bird?

[Jane Kim] So you’re seeing this at the very last phase. There’s actually a lot of steps that go into uh making this mural. And doing the final detail painting is really the las—the last part of it. 

Um, it starts with a preliminary drawing uh and then I meet with a um, an ornithologist. Her name is Jessie Barry, and she has really guided me through this entire project. And um, critiqued the drawings and helped me bring them to, to as accurate a representation as possible.

[Jane leans down and picks up a plastic sleeve, then pulls a drawing of a macaw out of it, unfolds it, and holds it up]

Um I then create a more detailed drawing and now this has been scanned and blown up to represent sort of the, the life-size, which I also work with the Lab to make sure we can uh get it as accurate as possible.

[Jane holds the drawing of the macaw next to the macaw painting]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So this is one of the stages where a number of us come in and kind of look at it and, and make little fine-tune suggestions. 

[View of the head of the macaw drawing next to the head of the macaw painting]

And we also check the size and, 

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] and uh more times than I can think about, 

[View changes back to Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim]

and I’ve said is it really that small?

[Jane Kim] Yeah, that, that’s 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Or that big, so.

[Jane Kim] that’s true. And um it’s fortunate to be in a, in a place like this where they have an immense collection, and so we can actually compare a lot of these drawings to the actual specimen. Which has been a useful tool, not only for that reason, but for me to study what the birds look like. 

Um so this is the next phase, um, and then I work with um a team of artists. There’s about, anywhere from one to four artists who also help me throughout this process. Um, and they transfer with carbon paper this drawing onto the wall, and stencil it um in these sort of graphic colors like you see here.

So like the blue and the yellow. And there’s another uh representation 

[View moves up to show stenciled, unfinished Red-legged Seriema painting]

of the stenciled version that my wonderful, hardworking artists have done for me. And then the final step is for me to come up and begin painting the, the detail.

[View returns to Jane Kim and zooms in on the head of the macaw]

I like starting with the head and the eye, and working my way out. Um, just cuz I think when I get the eye right it gives the bird a lot of life, and uh that’s sort of my point of reference for getting all of the proportions correct, too. Because you can really gage how everything should feel based on the eye.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm. And you mix all of your colors here, sort of custom-built for each bird, right?

[Jane Kim] Yes, that’s right. Um, I don’t know if you guys can see the bucket of paints down here, but they all um have been mixed.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick picks up a small paint bucket]

[View changes to show dozens of small paint buckets on the lift]

And that, this is latex house paint.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Shoebill light body.

[Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick laugh]

[Jane Kim] That’s right. And so whatever bird I mix it for initially is the name that it gets,

[Hugh Powell picks up a paint bucket]

and um we create just like paint chips, we create these sort of draw downs. And then the, my assistants will come, and I will have them map out what color goes where. And then they’ll be able to um

[View changes to Jane Kim holding a macaw drawing with writing on it then zooms in]

transfer that onto the wall for me.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] One of the points that Jane made is that, is about starting with the eyes and working out,

[Close up of Dr. John Fitzpatrick, then view zooms out]

and one of the amazing features of these paintings, when you see them tightly. As our visitors will be able to through binoculars from the window right up there, is that every one of these birds has amazing expression. I wanna focus tightly if you can on the uh, on this amazing bird the common potoo.

[View changes to a close up of the Common Potoo painting]

Which is a bird uh, throughout the wet forest tropics of the Americas. Uh Central and South America. An amazing bird, and if you can see that face. Look at that incredible, how to you refer to it? Complacent?

[Jane Kim] Complacent and pleased to be looking like a tree stump [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] This bird makes a living trying to look like a tree stump during the day, and at night, it’s a nocturnal bird. And those eyes open to be enormous. And the huge grinning mouth here

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] actually opens wide and captures uh big beetles and other nocturnal flying insects, even small birds actually.

[Jane Kim] Yep.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] One other thing about the common potoo is that it has this remarkable haunting song, which I’m gonna see if I can imitate.

[View zooms out to show Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick imitates the common potoo song]

In the dark of early morning, nothing moving, a few insects trilling. Hearing that echoing across the forest is just unbelievable. So knowing that there’s a common potoo around is always exciting. 

[Jane Kim] That’s great.

[Hugh Powell] So, Jane, can you tell us how long it takes to paint one of these, uh birds?

[Jane Kim] So that, that um, how long does it take to paint one of these birds? That varies depending on the size and the complexity. Um, the potoo took about, well, this, you know of course this is just the detail of the, the process. So that took about half a day, I would say.

So something this size takes me about four, four hours or so. Um…

[Hugh Powell] And that, you say that’s after it’s been blocked in by the?

[Jane Kim] That’s after it’s been blocked in. And so that’s just the detailed painting part. Um something like the paradise tanager here. That takes about, anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours. 

Um and as you can imagine with as many birds as there are on this wall, I do stick to a pretty strict schedule and try to map out um how many birds I would like to get done in a day, and make small goals for myself.

[View changes to close up of Paradise Tanager painting]

And I chip away, and it doesn’t feel as overwhelming [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] This is, it’s hard to describe how big a project this is. You’ve been working on it. You were working for about a year

[Jane Kim] Before

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] before even coming here, right?

[Jane Kim] That’s correct.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] On the studies that would begin 

[View changes to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

to feed into the final uh drawings.

[Jane Kim] That’s right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And you’ve been here over a year now, right?

[Jane Kim] Yeah. Just over a year, and I’ll be here until the end of the year, um finishing up the rest of the project. So we have the Americas left, and the evolution that will be up the stairwell. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Right. And that evolution is another point. Painting does have a little timeline to it once it’s all done. It will be starting up

[View changes to the Americas, where the drawings have been taped on to the mural to test placement]

at the window up here, 375 million years ago. 

[Jane Kim] That’s right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Do you wanna tell them the story of the Tiktaalik?

[Jane Kim] Uhhh, well, it’s um [laughs]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

one of the largest lobe-finned fishes um to, to be described. And he’s pretty cool. 

[View changes back to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

He’s about nine feet long. Do you wanna add anything?

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Just that this is, this was in this group of fish that were the first fish to actually form limbs. 

[Jane Kim] Right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Uh which ultimately gave rise to the amphibia, which Jane will be painting on the wall. And then to the early reptiles, then to the protodinosaurs. There will be a couple of dinosaurs on the wall. 

[Jane Kim] That’s right, the Yutyrannus. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And then those early birds that were just beginning to learn how to fly and develop the uh capacity of flight. 

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick]  And a number of other amazing birds that are long extinct from the Cretaceous. 

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Uh a few birds, including when it’s finally painted, the bird that as far as we know has the longest wingspan that any bird has ever had.

[Jane Kim] That’s right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Uh and will be basically the entire Pacific Ocean over here.

[Jane Kim] Yep, yep.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Um. 

[Hugh Powell] Just to, and just to let you viewers know uh Fitz and Jane are look uh over here at one end of the wall 

that we actually can’t get in our camera because it’s too far away. This is a giant wall. But they’re, they’re gesticulating over there towards the Pacific Ocean where this sort of early ancestors of birds are gonna be painted. 

And then that’s gonna come across and I think you may be looking at North America right now.

[View changes back to North America]

Um, which Jane hasn’t birds on yet. Simply because she has to get another lift. 

[Jane Kim] That’s right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah.

[Hugh Powell] Do you wanna describe that process?

[Jane Kim] [Laughs] So I’m really grateful to everyone here who works at the Lab and has been uh able to withstand this lift, but we’ve got another lift coming in that’s gonna be even more cumbersome and take up a lot more room. It’s called a boom lift, and it has um, an arm that articulates 360 degrees. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Kinda like a cherrypicker.

[Jane Kim] Like a cherrypicker. Exactly. And that will allow me to reach um all of the Americas, and some of the evolution. But then we’ll also have to build scaffolding along the stairwell, which is where the mural ends. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So we’ll have to make sure to do a live stream some time with Jane 

[View changes back to Jane Kim, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, and Hugh Powell]

out at the farthest extremity of that boom 

[Jane Kim] That’s right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] uh lift.

[Jane Kim] And I’ll be painting that fish, that Tiktaalik.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And you’ll be painting the fish, yeah. And we’ll try to make sure that the Cornell risk management people are not tuned in on that day.

[Jane Kim] Right, right [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So I have another question if we have time to…

[Hugh Powell] Yeah, just to, to slip in that we are, we are happy to get um questions from all of you out there in the audience, and

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Right, what do you want to know?

[Hugh Powell] We’ve got a few coming in already. So I’ll ask you um, Elle, or Ellie asks um are you using oils or acrylics, or what kind of paints are you using?

[Jane Kim] So I’m using a combination of latex house paint and acrylic. And I use Golden Fluid Acrylics [leans over and picks up a bottle] and they’re really great paints.

Um, and [puts the bottle back down] super stable, and light fast, and um perfect for, for this wall. And I like to use the latex because again for the same reason. It’s meant to be on, on drywall, so it will hold up. 

And this room gets a lot of light, daylight, so anything that’s too sensitive would probably start to fade over time. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah, so one of the things we’ve talked about is whether when the project is finally done if it needs anything to be put over the top of it. 

[View changes to show just Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

And hopefully the answer is no. 

[Jane Kim] No.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So it should be stable for a good long time.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] This gives me a chance to say this kind of a project isn’t done anymore.

[Jane Kim] No.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] I mean this sort of harkens back to the grand days of museum creation in the early part of the 20th century when uh Jaques and other artists were doing these fantastic um mural paintings behind dioramas in museums.

[Jane Kim] Right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] But really big scale murals are pretty scarce these days. So we’re really happy to be resurrecting the…

[Jane Kim] Well I have to really be thankful to Fitz for that because we had uh talked about other applications for this mural, whether we should do decals, which of course would be a much faster process. Um there are lots of other ways we could have gotten this image up on the wall, but I absolutely loved that you said no, I’m, I think I’m a little old school. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Let’s do the real thing.

[Jane Kim] Yeah, let’s do the real thing [laughs], so you know I was right on board, and I was really excited that you wanted them all hand painted, yeah. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So I had one other question about, about the process. 

[Jane Kim] Yep.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Uh, and it’s best asked about if we can focus on the sunbittern. I don’t know if you could cut away down here, but a lot of these birds are incredibly intricately plumaged.

[View pans up and over to and zooms in on the sunbittern]

I mean really detailed plumage. So I just have the question of how, how you know without an actual sunbittern sitting here, how, how, how did you work up to the, to the knowledge and the courage of making every one of those tiny little reticulations in a bird like that?

[Jane Kim] Um, well it’s a lot of observation and study and feedback from uh these expert ornithologists. Um looking at the skins, looking at videos, looking at um a lot of different photos, and really rendering, and I wish I had the sunbittern drawing up here, but I do figure out most of the pattern 

[View slowly pans over various birds and back to Jane Kim]

in the drawing phase so that when I’m at the painting phase the line work is transferred for me so I can just get in there with the color

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm.

[Jane Kim] without worrying too much about the form.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm. And you keep a few of your studies here on a computer that you can.

[Jane Kim] Oh yeah, and I always have my draw, my drawing up next to the, the references

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah.

[Jane Kim] that I’m using.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah, neat.

[Hugh Powell] Yeah, that leads to a question that we got in uh from one of our viewers um, who has, it’s a two parted question. How’s the decision made? This is a big question.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

How is the decision made about which bird is gonna represent the family? 

[Jane Kim] I’m gonna let Fitz take that over [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Uh, that’s a really great. That’s a great question. And we had some really wonderful, fun, uh always good natured, but some knock down drag out discussions among a few of us. Because in some cases, like the seriema, which is the only bird in that whole order, you gotta do that one, that’s the only one.

But in other cases, I want to use the kingfisher as an example, where there are kingfishers on almost every continent of the world. And they are some remarkable birds. From the kookaburra to the teeny little, you know malachite kingfishers. And so um, the decisions generally were uh picking a representative to slightly more colorful representative.

In the case, oh and then, then it also overlays with design. Uh, geography, where we wanna make sure we have representatives of the birds that are there all over the world.

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And so, for example, one area, the Middle East, for example, we had to kind of figure out which ones are we gonna put in the Middle East, and that would help us determine which species to draw, to, to paint. 

Um, and then it was just a, then it was also some just favorite bird uh choices. The red-breasted nuthatch

[View of the White-throated Kingfisher painting]

that will go into North America, which is one of, one of, several of us have that as one of our favorite birds of all.

[Jane Kim] Oh, it’s great.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So it was a, it was a combination. We had one uh in fact some of you viewers may have participated in it. We had one family, namely the North American wood-warblers,

[View changes back to Jane Kim, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, and Hugh Powell]

where we had a little poll, a contest. Uh, and the prothonotary warbler uh won that contest. So we’ll be painting that bird once Jane gets to North America.

[Jane Kim] And I like the color that you describe for the prothonotary.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Egg yolk yellow?

[Jane Kim] Egg yolk yellow.

[Jane Kim, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, and Hugh Powell laugh]

It’s just really, really spot on.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] A really rich egg yolk, yeah.

[Jane Kim] Yeah, really rich.

[Hugh Powell] It’s kind of like that uh game that many birdwatchers play that’s what’s your favorite bird? And it seems like you always have to say well, what kind of bird, you know, and narrow it down to 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah, right. 

[Hugh Powell] your favorite group.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Do you mean my favorite big bird? Do you mean my favorite bird in Africa?

[Hugh Powell] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah, right.

[Hugh Powell] And I imagine you and some other folks had fun uh conservations and, and 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Definitely.

[Hugh Powell] were there deals?

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Oh yeah, we did make some deals, we did make some deals.

[Jane Kim and Hugh Powell laugh]

I’ll put that one in if you put this one in. 

Um, but one other point I want to make to that question, which is another, another aspect of the question is, is what families do we put up there? Because one of the things that’s happening right now, we’re in the midst of an amazing revolution, literally a revolution in understanding of the whole evolutionary origin and relationships of the family of birds, the tree of life basically for birds. 

And only over the last couple of years,

[Jane Kim picks up her palette]

using uh, very most modern DNA technology do we, sort of are we starting to get a pretty good crystalline idea of who’s related to whom, what the tree looks like. And so we’re actually working right now, uh specialists here at the Lab on a book that’s coming out next year on bird families of the world. 

And so we have the kind of reference book right here. And it was in the middle of this project, right?

[Jane Kim] It was.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] That the numbers turned, went from 230 to 243, right?

[Jane Kim] Yes, that’s right. So we had 12 new species added to the, to the wall. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] A number of species got added as the project was evolving, specifically because it’s now recognized, and this, by the way most of these are small birds in Asia, Malaysia, and Australia areas that are ancient in origins, and now with DNA technology we know that they are actually quite old, and therefore have their family status. So you got to paint a bunch more cool Asian birds.

[Jane Kim] That’s true, yep. I think there were four in, in New Guinea alone that got added.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Four, four families…

[Jane Kim] Yeah, four families added to New Guinea.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Added to New Guinea alone. New Guinea, uh Madagascar. These big tropical islands

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] have been uh homes to amazing evolutionary stories for, literally in the case of Madagascar 130 million years, so it’s really a little island continent. And that’s partly why they have these rich bouquets of endemic bird families.

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.  

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So, so, the dense, those islands got pretty dense

[Jane Kim] They did.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] for putting birds in.

[Hugh Powell] So that was a, a pretty, pretty good uh scope of a question, but that was only the first part of the question. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

[Jane Kim] Ah.

[Hugh Powell] The second part is also an interesting one, which is once you’ve decided on which bird to paint, how do you decide what posture to paint it in?

[Jane Kim] Okay, so that’s a, actually that’s a great

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Excellent question.

[Jane Kim] question. How do we decide what posture to paint the bird in? So this mural has definitely been um, a, just a bal—a real balance of um not wanting to, to make the birds stiff and all in profile portrait, um sort of feel. But to give them, give some indication of their behavior at, at times. 

And often we do that with their feet. Um, so if they’re birds that you find perched in trees we try to leave the feet clutched and perched. Um, wanna give it something, some kind of character, but something that’s also pretty general and, and for that particular species. 

Um, so we don’t want it, we don’t wanna characterize them in like a unique like, oh I captured this photo doing this weird behavior. It’s, we wanna try to keep true to, to their general

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Sort of typical

[Jane Kim] sort of typical behavior. So it’s always been sort of this balance of um creating something dynamic, yet recognizable and acting a bit more like a field guide. And they’re definitely illustrations of the bird, they’re, they’re not meant to be artist interpretations. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm.

[Jane Kim] Um, so there’s always that balance as well. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] But I think one of the things Jane has done really well in some, many instances around the world here is capturing specific behaviors. I think the hoatzin right behind Jane uh here is a good example. This bird spends a lot of its time with its wings out.

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm, yeah.

[View moves left to show the Hoatzin painting]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] It’s a really awkward, sort of messy looking bird. And uh, and so she’s capturing the uh, the behavior very much like the, like the wild bird is. 

But uh, you brought up a point about the feet.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Incidentally one really interesting design decision that I remember discussing early was no props. 

[Jane Kim] No props.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] No branches, no water, no mound for the mound-builders. 

[Jane Kim] Right, no insects, no berries, no food. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So just pure bird, right?

[Jane Kim] Pure bird.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So talk about the design…

[Jane Kim] Um… Well I think that it uh, wanted it to feel clean, and uh, very easily readable. And I think with this many birds having even just little bits of habitat would start to get really overwhelming and confusing. Um, and so that was the purpose,

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm.

[Jane Kim] the reason to keep it just strictly um, on the birds.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And I would say that one of the features of your art that really captivated us right off the bat, and is true of your other work as well

[Jane Kim] Sure.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] from around the country, and the world at this point, is uhis this very, very clean, uh elegant look that you bring 

[Jane Kim] Thank you.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] to all the design you have. Not just the surreal, the super real.

[Jane Kim] Thank you.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Um, but tell us about drawing bird feet.

[Jane Kim laughs]

I do a little drawing of birds so I know how hard it is [laughs].

[Jane Kim] I’m laughing because I have to say it’s still uh a huge challenge. And I uh

[View changes to close up of the feet of the Shoebill and Ostrich on the mural] 

I don’t know if I’ll ever say I, I, I can always feel 100 percent confident on feet. Because they’re so complicated, and every bird has different type of f—foot, 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Hugh Powell laugh]

and claw, and length um, colors, and scaling, and it’s all very, very unique to the bird, so. Um, that is, I think, one of the biggest challenges of birds. And beak shape. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah.

[View changes back to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

[Jane Kim] And actually, just birds are hard

[Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick laugh]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Birds are non-trivial things.

[Jane Kim] Yeah, they’re non-trivial things.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] We often see interns, uh again, we’re, we’re always working with people early in their career

[View changes to close up of the feet of the Secretary-bird on the mural]

and it’s often the case that interns come here and have become to draw birds, but they really still don’t get the basic shape, and layout, and how the feathers sit on each other.

[Jane Kim] Sure.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And how many feathers there are on a bird wing and things like that.

[Jane Kim] Yep, yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So it’s a, is it a complicated animal, isn’t it?

[View changes back to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

[Jane Kim] Right, right. And I’ve learned so much over the course of the year. I have yet to learn more, so this has been a real amazing experience. And I often get that question of um do you specialize in birds? And I, I’d say no.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] You do now [laughs].

[Jane Kim] But I, I feel [laughs], I have in this project, I think become more familiar

[View changes to African Finfoot painting]

with, with bird anatomy than in another even animal thus far.

[Hugh Powell] And that’s an interesting um, sort of place where art and science meet, in the feet, right? Because before DNA work a lot of, you know, orders of birds were, one of the ways that they were assigned was on the arrangement of their feet. 

[Jane Kim] Oh, right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm.

[Hugh Powell] Because birds have so many different uh, arrangements, two toes pointing forward, two toes pointing back, and, and so on.

[Jane Kim] Right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm.

[Jane Kim] And in fact they’re, yeah the orders are based on like

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] A lot of them, a lot of them are, although now we know that there’s more convergence

[Hugh Powell] Yeah.

[Jane Kim] Right, right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] than we, than we originally thought, so

[Hugh Powell] Yeah.

[Jane Kim] Right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Right, the DNA’s really beginning to sort out some of the, some of the stories.

What we’re gonna have a lot of fun with over the next, well, 

[View changes to Jane Kim, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, and Hugh Powell]

ten or 20 years, or forever for that matter is, is generating exercises, remember we’re at a university here, one of the world’s great research universities. We have fantastic students, uh coming through the Cornell Lab always, every day, every year.

[View zooms to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

We also have 60 to 80,000 visitors coming in. What we wanna do is be able to give them opportunities to have learning experiences that are novel, and uh unique to the place. Uh we have lots of games, and lots of exercises, and a lot of just plain lessons that we’ll begin to working into this display as time goes on after it’s all done.

[Hugh Powell] We have another question coming in, this one is from Maddie who is eight years old. 

[Jane Kim] Awww.

[View zooms out to show Hugh Powell next to Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim]

[Hugh Powell] And she would like to know what is your favorite bird that you’ve painted so far and was it hard to paint?

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Uh-huh.

[Jane Kim] Let’s see, what is the favorite bird I’ve painted so far? Um, I think it changes often [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

But when I look at the wall again I think I still have uh, a, a sort of a heart connection with the ostrich. Um, it was one of the first birds that I painted. It’s the largest bird. 

[View changes to show the Ostrich, part of the Shoebill, the Secretary-bird, and others on the mural]

Uh, it took me the longest, of course, so far.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] How long did that bird take?

[Jane Kim] Um, it took seven days of

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Wow.

[Jane Kim] just the detail painting. Um, so that one still remains one of my favorites. Uh, I do like the hornbill, um a lot as well.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm.

[View changes to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

[Jane Kim] And I’m glad that Fitz does too. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim laugh]

I actually have to say I think this one might be becoming another one 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Oh.

[Jane Kim] of my favorites.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] This is the one you’ve just been working on recently.

[Jane Kim] I’ve just been working on 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Can we get a tight shot on the, yeah, on the, this is a king vulture. 

[View zooms in on King Vulture painting]

Uh, which is the largest member, actually not the largest, the condor is in the same group, the new world vultures, which are quite distinct from the old world vultures, vultures. And this is the most colorful, 

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] spectacular of the new world vultures. This is a bird of the wet tropical forests of, in South America on up to Belize and southern Mexico.

Um and as most vultures do it has a bare face

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] uh because you don’t wanna cover a bunch of feathers with all the glop that they’re eating, right?

[Jane Kim] Sure.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Um, but this vulture has done something really amazing with its bare face, hasn’t it?

[Jane Kim] That’s right, it has the um, the feathers, a little bit of that feathery head on the, um the dark, and of course the, I don’t know, he’s just I think the coolest bird head around. I don’t know that there’s anyone that really compares to the king vulture. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] No, that’s amazing, that’s a remarkable, remarkable animal. This bird comes in on, on dead animals. Basically it’s not one of the ones that smell the dead animals. 

[View zooms out to show Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

It’s actually following other vultures. 

[Jane Kim] Ah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] But it’s the biggest one in the tropical zones of South America. And so it comes in and, basically comes down and dominants the, the place. 

[Jane Kim] Mmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Kind of sends the other ones out to the side while it uh

[Jane Kim] Finishes off

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] takes uh, takes part.

[Jane Kim] Yeah [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And no doubt this face has something to do with just giving kind of a scary look. 

[Jane Kim] Yeah, definitely.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] But presumably there’s some um, mate choice uh things going one with this elaborate a face. 

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] When you see that much color in a bird, it almost always means there’s some stories having to do with mate choice.

[Jane Kim] Mmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Or male-male competition, things like that that uh, are selecting for really elaborate colors. 

[Hugh Powell] Um we have another question about the birds on the wall. 

[View zooms out to show Hugh Powell next to Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim]

And again, I just wanna say thanks to everybody who’s watching, and who are typing in your questions. We’ve still got about 20 minutes left here. Um, and we’d still love to answer all your questions. We have a few more that we’re still uh working on, uh getting uh worked in here.

Uh Jane, the next question is are all the birds here um, adults or are some juveniles? And I guess a follow on is are they are males or are some females?

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm. Um, so all the birds are uh depicted as adults,

[View zooms in on Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

and most of the time they’re males. But sometimes uh we decided to choose the, the female version. For example the uh, the saddle-billed stork, that’s right behind there um has a yellow eye, and that is a female. And the males have a black eye. 

[View changes to show the Saddle-billed Stork painting on the mural]

Otherwise they look identical. So we just thought it would be fun to make that distinction. So it, sometimes, a lot of times we, we choose the birds um in breeding behavior as well, so that usually pertains to the male.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm.

[Jane Kim] But uh really it’s been sort of a, for example the currasow, uh the black with the yellow ball on his uh, be—beak. We would have loved to have depicted that as a female because she’s spectacular.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] We talked a lot about that, the, the female is so beautiful.

[Jane Kim] Yeah. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah, yeah.

[Jane Kim] Yeah, but it would have been very competitive with that sunbittern. Uh with a lot of pattern, and similar pattern, so we decided to go with the, with the black bird.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Right so design…

[Jane Kim] Design does trump sometimes.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] is, does, does play a role in uh the choice of uh

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] even which sex to, to paint.

[Jane Kim] Yeah, yeah, for sure. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah.

[Hugh Powell] So I’m also curious, um, Jane, about um the 

[View pans to show Hugh Powell next to Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim]

life-like you know sort of attitude of all of these birds. And, you know, that’s something that seems like it takes a lot of observation, time spent. So I’m just wondering, and we can, you can answer this question too. Sort of how many of these birds have you seen,

[Jane Kim] Oh, wow.

[Hugh Powell] if not?

[Jane Kim] Not nearly enough [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

Um, the, that actually was a real challenge for this project. Um, because I’ve certainly not visited many of these places. Um, and I think

[View changes to show Peregrine Falcon and House Sparrow paintings on the mural]

that was a real collaborative effort with the Lab. For them to tell me, and share their stories of um, and experiences of the birds. Um, so and then watch—of course now in the digital era, there’s so many videos of, of birds

[View changes to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

and their behaviors, so. Um, it does take a lot of observation, but really nothing beats seeing them in person. So the answer is not enough [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm.

[Hugh Powell] You know I think that one of the really great things about your portraits, though, are that they seem to capture 

[View zooms out to show Hugh Powell standing next to Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim]

individuality of that bird and, and, like the self-satisfied-ness of the potoo, right? 

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Hugh Powell] Um and, so, I, I, do you have a way as an artist to um, sort of draw that out of a subject?

[Jane Kim] Umm… I mean there’s a little bit of anthropomorphizing, of course, as much as we

[View changes to show Cape Sugarbird, Cape Rockjumper, and Cape Grassbird paintings on the mural]

try to steer clear of that in biology, um I think as an artist for me I am def—definitely thinking about um personality while I’m painting them. And I think I sort of imagine myself as that bird. And so you know any of the observations that I’ve made of the potoo

[View changes to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

I’m just like man, he just looks so pleased with himself being a tree stump, and so I think that kind of comes across, and comes out as I’m painting. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] One thing about the, about these birds, and it’s especially obvious in the larger ones, uh, with the facial patterns and the eye, 

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] you really, and it’s true for humans, too, right? We focus on the eye, and, and nailing the eye is absolutely vital

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] To, to having a good bird painting, right?

[Jane Kim] Yeah, yeah. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] If you get the eye wrong, it just messes up the face. Uh and right down to where the glint is, the little, little reflections on the eyeball. So there’s little

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[View changes to close up of the head of the Great Hornbill painting on the mural]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] tricks that are really tiny and we don’t even notice as viewers

[Jane Kim] Right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] necessarily but you can see the personality because of that. 

[Hugh Powell] Right, so.

[Jane Kim] Yeah, yeah, and I actually um to, to your point too, um. When Jessie does look through my drawings um a lot of, one of the more common uh, suggestions

[View changes to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

might be the placement or size of eye. And sometimes I, even, even a millimeter off, um

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Tiny little errors like that.

[Jane Kim] tiny little errors like that change the whole feel of the, the

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Mmhmm.

[Jane Kim] drawing and of the bird.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah.

[Jane Kim] So eye’s really important.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Eye and feet.

[Jane Kim] Eye and feet.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah, when we’ve gone through the first drawings it’s often the case, uh the feet are too big, or the feet are too small.

[View changes to the Eurasian Hoopoe painting on the mural]

[Jane Kim] Right, right.

[Hugh Powell] So you can tell, uh, the viewers can bear that in mind uh when you’re leafing through your next field guide, or comparing field guides, and just thinking about how those artists decided, made those choices, and whether you think they got those expressions right or not.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Right.

[Hugh Powell] So let’s turn the question to you, Fitz. Um how many of these birds have you seen?

[Jane Kim laughs]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Aha, I’ve seen a fair number. I’ve been around, uh, I’ve been on all the continents now. 

[View changes to Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Hugh Powell]

Uh, so I’ve had a change to uh, to get to around the world. 

[View moves to show Jane Kim next to Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Hugh Powell]

And I will say that uh, for 18 years of my life, earlier in my life I spent a lot of time in South America. 

Uh months and months at a time working in South America.

So I have had a chance to see pretty much all the species that are here. Not every last one. Uh a couple of these are actually described only relatively recently.

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Um, uh, there’s one in uh, in Ecuador, amazing the uh, the antpitta. Uh which is, which was just discovered a few years ago. And it’s just a big antpitta. 

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] It’s a crazy, um.

[Jane Kim] Goofy looking bird.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah, very goofy. So uh, but most of, most of the South American birds I’ve seen, and uh that played a role a little bit for which birds went in there.

[Jane Kim and Hugh Powell laugh]

I can tell you for example that the blue-and-yellow macaw I’ve always thought since my very first trip into the Amazon in 1972 that when you see pairs of blue-and-yellow macaws flying overhead.

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] They’re always in pairs. All the macaws fly in pairs. And when you see blue-and-yellow macaws flying overhead that to me, to this day, that defines being in the deep American tropical forests.

[Jane Kim] That’s great.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] There’s nothing like it. So I’ve always said that’s the, kind of the, for me the, the emblem of the uh, the Amazon. 

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So.

[Hugh Powell] And you have uh, an artistic side as well, Fitz, right?

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] I do uh, I do a few bird paintings, yeah.

[Hugh Powell] Are you gonna paint some, paint some of the birds, or one of the birds?

[Jane Kim] Yay, we have it on camera, so [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Hugh Powell laugh]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] I am uh, I’m committed. Am I gonna be on the boom up there?

[Jane Kim] Yeah, you will be on the boom.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] I’m committed to painting the uh, the scissor-tailed flycatcher.

[Jane Kim] Yes!

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] I did my PhD thesis on um flycatchers, and uh I’ve always loved the scissor-tailed flycatcher. That went in, we chose that bird out of the 400 flycatchers we could have chosen.

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Uh partly because we really needed more, uh birds to populate North America. Cuz North America doesn’t have a lot of endemic families. So uh, so it’s gonna be right there over Oklahoma where uh, where it is the state bird. And yeah, I’ll be up on the boom painting the scissor-tailed flycatcher. 

[View zooms closer to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

And so I can’t wait for Jane to mix for me what will be called scissor-tailed flycatcher peach [laughs].

[Jane Kim] Yes, that’s right. That nice flank.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Beautiful salmon color on their flanks.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Right. 

[Jane Kim] Beautiful.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Looking forward to that.

[Jane Kim] Me too.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Now is, Jessie is also painting a bird?

[Jane Kim] Yes, and Jessie will painting the red-breasted nuthatch. And now I have that on camera too [laughs]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

So [laughs].

[Hugh Powell] And that’s Jessie Barry, the

[Jane Kim] The, yes.

[Hugh Powell] expert that you were referring to earlier.

[Jane Kim] Yes, correct. My mural consultant [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So one thing I wanted to make sure to say before, I don’t know how much time we have left, but I uh…

[Hugh Powell] We have about 12 minutes.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] I, we’ll do a few more of these as the project gets completed. And we’ll have a beautiful website about this mural. Um and you can get some good close ups on the web, but there’s nothing compares to seeing this project in its full life. 

So this is our sort of opening chance to tell everybody who’s looking at this, and tell your friends. 

[View changes to wide view of the mural showing the Middle East and much of southern Asia, then pans left through Africa, and up through Europe]

If you get a chance to come to Ithaca, um, get to this place and see this project. We’ll make sure there are binoculars available, and you can focus in. Because it will be very much like birdwatching around the world. Uh and unlike the forests of China or the savannas of Africa and so on, they’re not flying away.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] They’re just right there for you, so.

[Jane Kim] That’s right.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So it will be a, a great thing. It’s uh, I hope you make it a destination to get here and see this project in life, because it’s, it’s beautiful. 

[Hugh Powell] Yeah, we had a question earlier that was um, how are you gonna protect the painting from sort of peoples’ fingers and things like that. And I think if you come visit this site you’ll see that most of it is already protected. 

[[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

[Jane Kim] That’s right, yeah. There’s um

[View changes to Jane Kim, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, and Hugh Powell]

just a few birds at the, at the bottom um, that people will be able to reach. So you can’t touch these, uh when you’re here, which you’ll see. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] By the way,

[View changes to show part of the mural with the Wandering Albatross next to a doorway]

there’s going to be one animal in color, right? That is not a bird.

[Jane Kim] Oh, yes [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

I was like, oh no [laughs].

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

Is he throwing something else in?

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Do you wanna talk about that?

[Jane Kim] Um, well we’re gonna have at the base of the stairs, uh which is where the evolution is going to end. Uh and right under South America is going to be the black caiman, which is a crocodile. Uh, or in the family of crocodiles, which is the, the other split of, of dinosaurs. 

So it’s the closest living relative to a crocodile is actually a bird.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] That’s right.

[Jane Kim] Which is a huge conversation starter. And if you would like to add um

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah,

[Jane Kim] more to that.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] so that uh, crocodile—crocodilians, the caimans, crocodiles, and alligators are part of the archosaur lineage that gave rise to birds and dinosaurs. 

So there were, uh, in the 60 to 120 million years ago, the early birds, the earliest possible birds were living side by side with a huge fauna of crocodiles and a pretty big fauna of, of a huge fauna of dinosaurs

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] and a pretty big little repre—radiation of crocodilians, all closely related to each other. So when you see a crocodile, or in this case a black caiman, you’re seeing something that’s more closely related to a bird than it is to a lizard.

[Hugh Powell] Hmm.

[Jane Kim] Yeah, it’s really wild. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Which is an amazing thing, and we want to get that lesson into this program

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] so we decided let’s go color on the,

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] on the caiman. 

[Jane Kim] So he’ll be peering around the door of the auditorium if you get to make it out here.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And we also in the early evolutionary uh time at the top of the stairs there’ll be uh the animal that is thought to be kind of the basal lineage that gave rise to all of these um archosaurs, so.

[Hugh Powell] Great.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Pretty fun.

[Hugh Powell] We have a question now um from Linda um who asks what would you do if one of these birds that’s in color now does go extinct? 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Phewww.

[Hugh Powell] Would you change the mural?

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] That’s a good question.

[Jane Kim] Yeah, I don’t know if we have an answer for that.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] That’s a really good question. What would we do if one of these goes extinct? And I have, I have to say we have talked about that. Mostly we’ve talked about it sort of tongue in cheek, sort of I hope we don’t have to do that.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Um, I hope we don’t have to do that.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Uh, our big, our big hope, one of our major purposes all together, for this project, and for this whole institution is to encourage the world to embrace, and enjoy, and protect all of their natural things that are so well represented by the birds.

Um, quickly running through my head, the birds that are closest to that

[View moves to just Jane Kim and  Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

uh that we’ve depicted. Uh, I would say, I mean one, one of them is the great bustard. Um not too long ago I actually looked at the numbers. The great bustard is down to about somewhere between ten and twenty thousand uh, birds.

[View changes to show Great Bustard painting on the mural]

It’s this bird of the steppes and grasslands of Asia and Europe. And in all cases, all those grasslands are being converted to agricultural uh uses and other uses. And the populations are rapidly declining. 

[Jane Kim] Mmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Uh there are a number of species of bustards, and so, and so some of them are unfortunately very close to extinction. Hopefully the great bustard won’t get there because that would be another big, gray bird.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Um, the honest answer to the question right this minute, I would say we would probably leave it in color. Uh, and then have some separate little display downstairs that talks about it.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Hugh Powell] So we’re, we’re coming close to the end

[View changes to Hugh Powell, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, and Jane Kim]

but we still have time for a few more questions if you want type them in. Um, there’s somebody that’s been watching that wants to know what your pen is, Jane.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Oh yeah.

[Jane Kim] I thought this might be

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] I was gonna ask that same question. Talk about that pen.

[Jane Kim] Okay, so [holding up brush] this is called a water brush. Um it holds water in the handle. 

[View zooms in on Jane Kim holding the water brush]   

And it’s a nylon tip. 

[View zooms in even closer on the water brush]

And uh, Pentel, in my opinion, makes the best version.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick laughs]

There’s actually lots of different water brushes out there, but it really holds up nicely. There’s different sizes. Um and for any water-based paint 

[View zooms out to show Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

these are great uh brushes to use. I don’t have to uh re-dip my brush in water um, you know in between colors or just to keep in moist because when you squeeze it [Jane Kim squeezes brush upside-down and water comes out] um

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Oh, wow.

[Jane Kim] water comes out of the.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] So you, okay. So you’re dipping it in the paint,

[Jane Kim] Dipping it in the paint.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] you’re regularly dipping it in the paint.

[Jane Kim] Yes.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And then when you need to change color you just squeeze.

[Jane Kim] Exactly.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Wow, uh-huh.

[Jane Kim] Exactly, so um, you know if, if I 

[View zooms in on Jane’s palette]

need to change colors.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Can we see you put a little paint on?

[Jane Kim] Sure. 

[Jane Kim loads her water brush with paint, then applies some paint to the chest of the blue-and-yellow macaw on the mural]

It’s um, and so now let’s say I wanna… change colors. Um, all I need to do is kind of squeeze my brush and wipe it on the rag,

[Jane Kim squeezes the water brush and wipes it on the rag she is holding]

and now I can pick up new paint without having to, to re-dip. 

[Jane Kim picks up more paint with the water brush]

And it keeps everything moist. And um, in case you’re wondering what this is, this is a stay wet palette.

[Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick briefly hold up the palette]

Um, which keeps all of my acrylic paints wet longer. And there’s a sponge, a wet sponge underneath this paper. So those are all my little tricks.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Great, and having painted with acrylics um I know that’s a big problem, right?

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] You’re painting and then all of a sudden your paint is dry.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Jane Kim adds more paint to the blue-and-yellow macaw and view zooms in on it]

[Hugh Powell] So, one thing that I didn’t mention um earlier.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] I’m holding my breath while she does that.

[Jane Kim laughs]

[Hugh Powell] Yeah, so we don’t shake.

[Jane Kim] The, the lift.

[Hugh Powell] Right, the detail work. I don’t wanna shake.

So I don’t think I mentioned earlier, um but the name of this mural is uh From So Simple a Beginning. And uh Fitz can you tell us what the meaning is?

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Absolutely. From So Simple a Beginning is uh, is a, is a, a, a famous, it’s a segment of one of the most famous little quotes, uh that was written by Charles Darwin in his book On the Origin of Species.

Uh, from so simple a beginning I can’t remember the total quote but uh, all this

[Hugh Powell] Endless forms most beautiful.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Endless forms. Um, and there’s a grandeur.

[Hugh Powell] In this view of life. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] In this view of life. 

[View changes to show more of the mural and the lift that Hugh Powell, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, and Jane Kim are standing on as Jane Kim paints]

One of the great phrases that Darwin ever wrote. That he himself, the discovery of the fact that life changes, that life evolves. That new species evolve from ancestral species. That, he, the person for whom for a while that was such a difficult thing to take on,

[Hugh Powell] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] recognized as he wrote those words what a grandeur 

[View changes back to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

that gives of the view of the world. That it’s ever changing, ever blossoming, ever evolving into these endless forms of new life. And that is one of the fundamental features that we are looking forward to having people enjoy, and take part in when they walk into here. 

Because, think of it, when they walk in down below, the first they see when they look up this direction is a fish.

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] A nine foot long fish here in the Laboratory of Ornithology.

[Jane Kim] That’s right. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And they’ll then see the transitional forms, and they’ll uh, without even asking questions, without reading anything the visual presentation will give the sense that I see the birds are actually coming from this ancestral origin.

[Jane Kim] That’s right. The connection, and the connectivity of all things,

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And we have, we

[Jane Kim] it’s pretty beautiful.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] embrace this view of, uh life, and we embrace the grandeur of it. And it also allows me to say that in, in ornithology, and in science all together, there is a huge, tight connection between art and science. The, the creativity of the human mind is expressed very similarly in both areas, and uh one leads to another. 

And in ornithology especially we think of John James Audubon, and Lear, and uh Wilson, and a number of, Gould, and a number of scientists were also artists, and worked closely with artists, and uh, so there’s always been this marriage of art and science within ornithology.

[Jane Kim] Mmhmm.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And if you are here at the Lab, you know,

[View changes to the mural and pans across]

if you ever come and visit, you know, we have bird art of various kinds all over the place. That’s true back in the behind the scenes areas as well. 

So this is really kind of a grand celebration of that wonderful connection between art and science that the, represented in ornithology and here at the Lab, so.

[View changes back to Jane Kim, Dr. John Fitzpatrick, and Hugh Powell]

[Hugh Powell] That’s great. And um, just to, as a quick, um, announcement, you know, we do have a website um that I think we can post in the chat room, that explains this project um and is a place to explore this in more detail. 

Um and there’s even a place where you can go and vote so for the next five weeks were gonna have um voting

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Oh yeah.

[Hugh Powell] uh sets, where you can vote for uh your favorites. So we’ve talked about some of our favorite birds.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] You can actually tell us what your favorite birds are.

[Jane Kim laughs]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Tell your friends to take a peek, and give their vote. And we will actually later in the fall be opening a site in which uh, the general public will be able to actually sponsor a species. 

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Uh, and at certain levels of sponsorship you can have your name associated with the species. And even if it’s a high enough number you might even get your name painted in the bird, so.

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Keep your uh, stay tuned for that announcement later in the fall, so.

[Hugh Powell] Great, well I think we just have one last question. Um, uh, before we go. Um, so just want to say thanks again to everybody. 

The last question is where’s the great blue heron? And I think this may come from a bird cams viewer.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim laugh]

[Jane Kim] In Ithaca, New York.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick and Jane Kim laugh]

[Jane Kim points up]

[Hugh Powell] Is there?

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Hugh Powell] You’re gonna paint the heron?

[Jane Kim] Yeah, yeah.

[Hugh Powell] That’s awesome.

[Jane Kim] And it’s placed right now, there.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah.

[Hugh Powell looks up] 

[Hugh Powell] Oh, there it is.

[View changes to show the drawings of the Great Blue Heron, the American Oystercatcher, and the Caspian Tern placed on the mural in the northeastern United States] 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] The great blue heron, that was a wonderful decision. 

[Jane Kim] Yeah.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Yeah, right. 

[Jane Kim] Cuz we had originally um chosen the great, or the grey heron. 

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] The grey heron of Europe.

[Jane Kim] Of Europe and then we switched it to the great blue, and it will actually be here in Ithaca, New York, um on the map anyway, to give um, I guess acknowledgement and celebration of the, the nest that was here for many years, um for that great blue.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] And hopefully will come back.

[Jane Kim] Will hopefully come back, yes.

[View changes to Jane Kim and Dr. John Fitzpatrick]

[Hugh Powell] All right. Well.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] It’s been really great to be with you guys. And uh,

[Jane Kim] Thank you.

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] look forward to seeing you right here at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology some time in the future.

[Hugh Powell] Yeah, thank you very much for tuning in. 

[Jane Kim] Thank you.

[Photo: Jane Kim in a lift while painting the Wall of Birds: From So Simple a Beginning mural]

[Dr. John Fitzpatrick] Now we go down?


[Jane Kim] Do we, do you want me, I guess you guys have to get off!


[Hugh Powell] You’ve gotta keep painting.

[Jane Kim] I’ve gotta keep painting. Down we go. 

[Hugh Powell] Bye-bye.

[Sound of lift being lowered]

[Jane Kim laughs]

[Jane Kim] Nice job!

End of transcript

Join artist Jane Kim and Cornell Lab director John Fitzpatrick during this livestream broadcast, and learn about the painting of the Cornell Lab’s landmark mural, titled From So Simple a Beginning. The mural is being painted on the walls of the Cornell Lab’s visitor center, and features a 4,000 square foot map of the world and one member of each of the world’s 243 extant bird families (plus some extinct forms)—all painted life size. The one-hour broadcast will explore the scientific and artistic challenges behind creating the mural.