The Tragedy of the Auk


Auks Tale, painted by Veks Van Hillik 

Acrylic on paper | 2014 


Veks Van Hillik

Veks Van Hillik was born in a small village south of France in 1988, his work was influenced by his older brothers and pop culture, he currently paints and draws surrealistic works of art.

The Auk is a three foot tall slow moving and curious bird that was declared extinct by 1844 due to over exploitation and a slow maturation rate. They were originally native to North America and once had numbers in the millions.

“It was the last of its kind to ever be seen on the British Isles. Four years later, the Great Auk vanished from the world entirely when fishermen hunted down the last pair on the shores of Eldey Island, off the coast of Iceland. The men spotted the mates in the distance and attacked, catching and killing the birds as they fled for safety. The female had been incubating an egg, but in the race to catch the adults, one of the fishermen crushed it with his boot, stamping out the species for good.”

The Smithsonian

I found this piece very breathtaking and important in todays time when we are currently at a battle with our own politicians to keep our national parks safe and wild. There are many vital species that need the protection from these sanctuaries to make sure their fate is unfamiliar to the Auk’s. Veks ability to play with color to draw your eye to key points on this piece really allows depth to resonate with the viewer.  He also uses natural elements to tell the story of the Auk.

This piece is most definitely something I would have displayed at my house, not only is it a beautiful piece but it is a constant reminder of I started in the field of conservation.

A few of the key elements of art that are present in this piece are:

Form – This piece shows value through shadows which make it look like the penguin (Auk) is being lifted up by the hook and also gives roundness to the body of the animal making it look more realistic.

Texture – Texture is shown in this piece by painting feathers and using water droplets to simulate the way the feathers repel water off the body when the penguin swims in the ocean.

Value – What shows value in this piece is the artists ability to use white with hues of blue and black to create a high contrast in the center of the piece. The artist then uses gray as a middle ground to compliment the main the focal point of the piece and draw the viewers eye back to the center.

Galasso, Samantha. “When the Last of the Great Auks Died, It Was by the Crush of a Fisherman’s Boot.” Smithsonian Institution, n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.
“| V E K S V A N H I L L I K A R T |.” | V E K S V A N H I L L I K A R T |. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2017.


  1. First off, Bridget this is one of the most unique paintings I have ever seen! The realistic element, as well as use of both cool and warm colors, while shading them to give you the sense that you’re in the painting. Is really quite beautiful, great choice! Bridget, you did a really good job of discussing the elements many of us forget to talk about, so thank you for that. I agree with just about everything you have expressed about this painting.


  2. Bridget, your post really hit a cord with me. The history behind the painting you showed here is heart wrenching. I am glad talented artists can use their work to bring awareness to current social, and political problems. I agree with much of what you said and am very glad you shared this piece with the class, it makes me wonder what I can do as a non-artist to accomplish the same things Van Hillik does in his art.


  3. This is such a great piece of art work because it has a story behind it which gives it more of that sorrow feeling of the painting. What I am saying by the sorrow feeling is that he really emphasized on the shading surrounding the Auk. He used a more darker color to show the sad emotion. But he also used some light colors to create the rain droplets which reflect sadness or sorrow. The emotion he shows through this painting is just amazing. You can really feel the sadness just by looking at it.


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