This fall, incoming Illustration professor Jenny Kroik will bring not only her ongoing successful career to the core IL-264 course in visual interpretation. She also brings significant teaching experience. Working mainly in watercolor, she has three New Yorker covers published.
Prof. Kroik’s credits also include the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Town & Country, Time, HBO, PBS, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. For the past three years, she has been teaching at Bronx Community College, but has also taught at the 92nd Street Y, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and CCNY. It adds up to about 15 years teaching undergraduates and 10 as a freelance illustrator.
IL 264, with six lab hours a week, is the second course in a two-semester sequence that goes beyond image creation itself to encompass gesture, motion, and personal style, in all media.
Prof. Kroik offered a glimpse of her professional life, the places she frequents for inspiration, and how birds and urban nature have been a comfort throughout the pandemic.
“I love painting people and portraying them with kindness and joy,” she says. She uses pleasing and sophisticated color combinations. “I love the tactile qualities of paint, and seeing how it translates to print and screen.”
Bookstores, bakeries and museums frequently appear in Kroik’s illustrations. “These places are fun to paint,” she says. “They are all places that seem peaceful and warm to me. I love to paint those spaces and the people that occupy them.”
She seeks them out – easy in New York City. “I always love to find new spaces to paint. I guess the MET, MoMa and The Strand, as well as Book Culture are the places I go to most often. All the bakeries on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx are amazing.”
We asked what skills, aside from the technical skills of all great illustrators, are necessary to be successful. “The most important skill for me was to learn to deal with the stresses of the job,” she said.
“Learning mindful meditation was a big help, since a lot of the time we are waiting, worrying, getting rejections or just silence…or not even knowing what it is we’re supposed to do.”
Because illustration is a field that is constantly changing, things that worked a few years ago aren’t necessarily working anymore for getting jobs or visibility. “Meditation helped me to be comfortable with uncertainty,” she said, “as comfortable as one can get!”
[Regarding her second New Yorker cover, Prof. Kroik told art editor Françoise Mouly: “I saw this young girl glued to the window, fascinated by the [subway] tunnel. It got me thinking about how one’s imagination is always active when you’re a kid. I started wondering, what can she possibly see? Beautiful flowers? I tried to see the tunnel through her eyes.”]
Says Prof. Kroik, “Trusting yourself and your instincts is really key, and it’s a hill you have to climb over and over again throughout your life.”
It’s important, she says, to find something that gives you a sustainable balancing point, “beyond things that give you temporary comfort, such as a big slice of pie… though that’s good, too!”
Editors vary in how receptive they are to new talent that reflects a broader range of life experiences. “It depends, but the ones I know I believe are always looking for new talent and new voices. That’s what makes for awesome fresh artwork.”
Prof. Kroik does follow the news cycle, but not exactly to anticipate possible assignments.
“I respond to what is happening in the world because it’s often hard to ignore. Sometimes I feel like my work has a new perspective to offer on a topic so I will pitch that idea, or just post it on my social media to talk about what is happening.”
Art, she says, can be a form of therapy when one feels helpless against wars, disasters and injustice. “It is also a great way to organize and get people to listen,” she says. “Art is a powerful political tool.”
Prof. Kroik says she works pretty quickly most of the time, so deadlines are not usually a problem. “It can get stressful at times, especially when it’s midnight and the art is due the next day, and it’s still not quite right.”
That’s not unfamiliar to what students deal with, although Prof. Kroik says she can’t remember an assignment with a deadline that was less than a week.
A rush job did come in while she was traveling recently in Italy. “I made sketches on the train from Naples to Rome. I worried about not being able to work well while not in my studio, making do with the tools I had on me. But it was kind of fun and turned out well.”
Prof. Kroik recently led a bird-sketch walk for the Feminist Bird Club. “It was amazing. They are such a lovely team. All the people who attended were great to hang out with. It’s lovely to see people who are passionate about art and nature,” she said.
“These are also things I’m passionate about, especially urban nature. Birds have been a great source of inspiration and comfort for me during the pandemic. The birding community has been really fun to get to know.”
She admits to not being a morning person. “I usually work late at night, so mornings can be rough. My mornings are spent staring at screens…unless of course there’s a deadline,” she says.
To learn more about the Illustration and Interactive Media program go to Illustration at FIT.
All images used with permission.