As a child, Jan C. Porinchak would admire the dioramas of dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History. The artist and nature lover would then go home to draw and paint his own versions of the three dimensional models.
Today Porinchak shares his love of nature and art as a professional artist, illustrator, designer and instructor. He started a freelance business, Nature Works Natural Science Illustrations seven years ago and since then has been commissioned by several organizations to depict various ecosystems. His work was recently exhibited at the Cold Spring Harbor Library.
The Kings Park Resident, who doesn’t consider himself a fine artist, said of his work, “It’s artwork that has a special intent to educate.”
Porinchak, a graduate of Pratt Institute, started as a graphic designer and manager of a sign shop. After several years, he began teaching art at Jericho Middle School.
He never forgot his dream of illustrating natural history and started picking up work on the side. “It combines three passions for me – art, nature and education,” he said of Nature Works.
His first big break was with the New York Sea Grant which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He was commissioned to create a series of illustrations of the Long Island Sound and Great Lakes, requiring research that involved a lot of fishing.
Porinchak created “River of Life” a few years ago for the Regional Plan Association. The piece features 40 species of animals found in Long Island estuaries. The illustration also was used on the cover of the Hamptons’ publication Dan’s Papers and the original can now be viewed at Sweetbriar Nature Center in Smithtown.
Besides his work as a teacher and illustrator, the husband and father of three is a member of the Nissequogue River State Park Foundation and a hike leader for the Sierra Club. He also has worked on a series of natural history videos for the Kings Park Heritage Museum.
To keep up with his busy schedule Porinchak said, “You definitely have to have a system. You have to be organized.”
Out of all his illustrations, his favorite is one that was displayed last spring at the Seatuck Environmental Association in Islip.For this project, he created a six foot overhead view of a section of the south shore of Long Island. It is an interactive work where children can attach magnetic pictures of marine life to where they think is the appropriate environment.
“I hope my work will inspire the next generation of artists, and also encourage people to get out into the natural world,” he said.
Porinchak is currently preparing for another exhibit at Cold Spring Harbor Library for the fall as well as a presentation at Comsewogue Public Library on March 12 and a hike at Caleb Smith State Park Preserve on May 1.