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Artist Looks To Follow In Peterson’s Footsteps

Alex Warnick

Jamestown native and “bird artist” Alex Warnick has been painting since she was a kid but did not officially focus on only painting birds until she began her professional career.

Graduating from college with an art degree, Warnick began her professional artistry work in 2015. Often her work will be commissioned but she has also done work for scientific magazines or for educational purposes, fine art exhibits, magazines, guides and galleries. For the last eight years she has been painting only birds.

“When I was a kid in elementary school I was obsessed with birds,” Warnick said. “I learned about Roger Tory Peterson and he became a hero of mine. My passion for birds stuck. I had a lot of other hobbies but this is the one that stayed with me. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an artist but not that I wanted to focus specifically on birds until the end of college.”

Warnick said the idea to become what she refers to as a “bird artist” came from one of her teachers telling her to combine what she loves and what she knows. That’s when Warnick decided to combine her love of art and birds and said she “hit the ground running”.

Last year, Warnick was the Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s inaugural artist-in-residence, an experience she said meant a lot to her.

“It felt to me like going to Disney World,” Warnick said. “With my interest in art and birds, Roger Tory Peterson has always been on my list of heroes and it was great to be able to go there and see his collection and work first hand. I got to study his technique and design and see his historic guide and the effect that has had on society.”

Warnick said her time at RTPI showed her what art can do, and she spent her time there taking a lot of notes and doing research, though she personally did no art while she was on site. She devoted her time to learning and researching and learning about her heritage as someone who paints birds and does work similar to Roger Tory Peterson.

Warnick’s work has been featured in places such as the cover of Bird Watcher’s Digest for the September/October 2022 issue. This painting was of a tricolored heron which she was commissioned to do by a private collector after a trip she took with her sister — another bird artist — to Florida. While there they took photos of birds and a lot of notes, along with making plans for future paintings. Warnick said she was then commissioned to do the painting and write an article for Bird Watcher’s Digest about the experience.

“It was special for me because I have always been a fan because I knew Roger Tory Peterson wrote for it,” Warnick said. “It was exciting because it was the same year that I was at the institute and I was following in his footsteps.”

Since her time at RTPI, Warnick has been working on revising a field guide for birds of Costa Rica. She has done a few other painting exhibits and shows, including an upcoming one in New Hampshire. Her work has also been featured in other magazines and works, and Warnick said it has meant a lot to her.

“If I could go back to when I was a kid and tell myself the career I have now, I always say it would be better than saying I was a princess,” Warnick said. “My work contributes to science and makes a difference, and connects people to science. I am living the dream.”

Warnick’s future plans include the book and a few more exhibits, but she is hopeful of doing another residence soon. She encouraged everyone to take the time to visit RTPI.

“It is a gold mine and my time there was delightful,” Warnick said. “There’s something for everyone. People I don’t think realize how huge of an impact Roger Tory Peterson made not only on the area but the world. It’s fun to see and learn about him and I count myself very lucky for having that experience.”

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