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A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: For the birds

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Jenny Defouw Geuder
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Jenny Defouw Geuder
Interior art from "Drawn to Birds: A Naturalist's Sketchbook"

Where else would we find Jenny Defouw Geuder but wandering the wild in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula? We might catch her in the woods to talk about her new book, Drawn to Birds: A Naturalist’s Sketchbook. It’s page after vibrant page of watercolor illustrations of birds, flowers, and insects. And there’s gardening advice. The long-time art teacher began collecting the illustrations when teaching her middle school students how to draw birds.

A conversation with Jenny Defouw Geuder

“It’s gorgeous up here,” Geuder says from the UP woods. “I’ve been walking around with my binoculars, a sketchbook, and it’s been amazing. I often do my sketching back at my campsite or my house.”

Geuder says the book was a labor of love that took her about two years to complete.

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Adventure Publications
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Jenny Defouw Geuder
The cover of "Drawn to Birds: A Naturalist's Sketchbook"

“It kind of has a backstory,” she says. “As an educator, I’ve been an art teacher for about 20 years, I do these projects with my students, helping them learn how to draw. And I kind of stumbled across birding. As I got into birding and bird feeders in my backyard, I added a project to their curriculum teaching them to draw birds, and I had this crazy idea: let’s make a book!”

Drawn to Birds has more than 120 watercolor illustrations of more than 50 bird species. It also includes sections on insects, wildflowers, gardening advice, and pointers on how and why to become a naturalist.

“Birds are my thing but they’re not everyone’s,” Geuder says. “So, I wanted to inspire people to look around them and get out in nature and find something that inspires them to look closer - to take an interest in it and learn more about it, whether it’s flowers or birds or maybe it’s rocks.”

Geuder got her bachelor's and master's degrees in art education with a minor in English. She lives in the country with her husband, two small boys, a dog, five cats, a hedgehog, chickens, and occasionally two ponies. She spends most of her summers at a rustic log cabin on a lake in northern Michigan, where she hikes, fishes, and enjoys the natural beauty of the area.

Geuder will be at Bookbug/this is a bookstore on Oakland Drive in Kalamazoo on Wednesday, August 10th, at 6:30 p.m. to answer questions and demonstrate painting birds with watercolors. The event is free but registration is requested.

Listen to WMUK's Art Beat every Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 4:20 p.m.

Zinta Aistars is our resident book expert. She started interviewing authors and artists for our Arts & More program in 2011.
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