Jenny Kroik, illustrator, painter and University of Oregon alum, never expected to hear back from the New Yorker when she emailed the magazine her cover illustration ideas.
“I started doing fake New Yorker covers,” Kroik said. “I would just make a painting for fun and then I’d slap the logo on it. And people were like, ‘I thought it was real, you should send them stuff.’”
Two New Yorker covers later, Kroik can say she has checked that bucket list item off her list. Her illustrations, currently on display in the 2nd floor of the Erb Memorial Union, depict scenes of everyday New York City life. But, what makes her work worthy of the New Yorker cover is her playful, lively style. Not only is Kroik focused on people, but she is intrigued by city-goers’ reactions to life in general.
Kroik said art museums supply some of her best inspiration. “I really find myself interested in how people consume the art,” Kroik said. “[I’m] a painter so [I’m] curious to see how people react to paintings.”
Kroik said Soviet Art has influenced her style. Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, she said she draws from the angular, architectural forms of constructivist art of the early 1900s. Kroik combines constructivist ideals with children’s book illustrations — an unexpected but effective combination.
“I think in that era there wasn’t a distinction between illustrators and fine artists,” Kroik said. “So if you make art, that’s your job in society. That’s an attitude I drew a lot of inspiration from. In the industry, you’d say ‘I’m an illustrator,’ but I feel like it is part of the same thing so it doesn’t matter.”
Before coming to UO for graduate school, Kroik was immersed in her undergraduate studies at the Art Institute of Boston, Kroik began solidifying her illustrative technique. It was there that she also discovered her passion for animation. Kroik said that she still animates some of her illustrations into short videos or gifs because that process helps refine her illustrations.
“I definitely think like an animator,” Kroik said. “I’ll draw faster or do multiple frames or work differently, like with a storyboard, even for my one-off illustrations.”
After her time in Boston, Kroik said she was suddenly perplexed by a nagging question: why paint? For her, grad school was that exploration.
“I think that grad school was a really good place to deconstruct things,” Kroik said. “It was like operating on your art and seeing what’s inside.”
During her graduate studies at UO, Kroik experimented with different styles, mediums and procedures. Her work from grad school looked nothing like the figurative illustrations she produces today, as Kroik experimented with collage, installations, video — a virtual kitchen sink of mediums and approaches. One experiment has stuck with her, though: printmaking.
“I think printmaking is really great for everyone because it’s a surprise,” Kroik said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. Monotypes are something I love doing. I haven’t had too much access to printmaking studios since I moved to the city, but I like to do homemade monotypes with plexiglass and stuff like that.”
Kroik described her graduate school work as the emotion beneath the surface of her illustrations. She also considered the appropriate settings for displaying her illustrations.
“I realized that the gallery space is actually not the right outlet for my images,” Kroik said. “They work well as something more instantaneous, something you see like on your phone, something like a daily journal type thing. I love going to galleries, but I hate exhibiting in galleries.”
Kroik said she aspires to support herself primarily as an illustrator — a challenge all artists must face. But in the meantime, she does have a more immediate goal: befriending Tom Hanks.
“I don’t know why, but I follow him on Instagram,” Kroik said. “He takes these photos of gloves on the street. I think he lives in New York City, so it would be really fun if I could just befriend him and go for a walk with him and sketch him while he’s taking photos of gloves.”
A previous version of the story misquoted Kroik as saying Tom Hanks takes photos of globs. The quote has been corrected to say that Hanks takes pictures of gloves.
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