Artists Who Love Wolves: An Interview with Michael Czerniawski

In this series, we ask the artists behind the Join the Pack wolf art campaign what motivates them as artists and why they’re passionate about wolves.

"Join the Pack" submitted by Michael Czerniawski
"Join the Pack" by Michael Czerniawski is a piece of original artwork designed for the Join the Pack campaign, a partnership between Earthjustice and Creative Action Network. (Michael Czerniawski for Creative Action Network and Earthjustice)

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Last summer, Earthjustice partnered with the Creative Action Network (CAN) to launch “Join the Pack,” an art campaign that combats age-old stereotypes about the gray wolf and celebrates the species as an icon of the wild. Artists heeded the call to create a body of work that brings attention to the plight of the gray wolf. In this blog series, we interview the artists behind the beautiful submissions to the campaign to learn what inspired them to imagine a kinder, gentler Big Bad Wolf.

The following is an interview with artist Michael Czerniawski.

Miranda Fox: How did you get your start as an artist?

Michael Czerniawski: I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. I remember making comic books at age four! My parents always encouraged me to express myself through art, and now my wife and kids do the same. 

MF: What inspires you about wolves?

MC: What’s not to love about wolves? They are extremely intelligent, the way they care for each other is amazing and they ooze power. Wolves are one of the more beautiful animals around, too. 

MF: How did you come up with the idea for your design?

MC: This was intended to be a fun design, and because the campaign was about changing people’s minds on an important issue, I wanted to make something that had aspects of classic propaganda. I looked at probably hundreds of propaganda pieces to determine what makes the best ones work. I also wanted to bring in some elements of the Old West because it feels kind of wild and free, the way I imagine wolves should be. And there’s a bit of kitsch, which this piece called for.

From there, I tried out different compositions, techniques and color combinations. I had a trillion possible designs for this piece, but settled on the final one because it seemed to be the most majestic.

MF: Wolves are in the crosshairs now. What do you think needs to be done to protect them?

MC: Because we humans are the greatest threat to wolves’ survival, the only way to protect them is to convince us that wolves are valuable. Essentially, wolves need a great PR campaign. The approach that Earthjustice is taking to try to change public perception is a fantastic idea, and I’m glad to be a part of the Join the Pack campaign. 

MF: Do you think art can change the public’s perception of wolves?

MC: There is no doubt that art has the power to affect people’s beliefs. It’s happened over and over again. In fact, it’s reasonable to say that art—mostly in the form of stories—has led to most people’s fear of wolves. If art convinced us to fear the Big Bad Wolf, why can’t art convince us that wolves are an essential part of our ecosystems?

Want to take action to help protect wolves or submit artwork to the campaign? Learn more.

As a communications strategist, Miranda covers Earthjustice’s Mid-Pacific and California regional offices. She has campaigned to defend public water resources in North America and is a graduate of the Master’s in Global Studies program at the University of California, Santa Barbara where her research focused on climate change.