Jen Richards

Wildlife artist




I decided to take a little break from the acrylics and dedicate myself to some pencil work. It’s been a while since I spent so long on something that wasn’t a painting, but I really enjoyed the process and it definitely brought back my love of working in graphite. Though I delight in the ease of being able to pick it up and put it back down again without having to wash brushes and pots, I actually find pencil work far more challenging. If I make an error with acrylics I can “easily” paint over it (not without excessive grumbling, I’ll admit), but a mistake in the middle of a complicated piece with its layers of tones is a lot more difficult to fix – it can terribly mess up the flow and will stick out like a sore thumb… at least in my experience. So I really took my time with this one, stopping when I got too tired or began to get distracted (my biggest curse). Here’s a look at the progress:


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Throwback Thursday: A long time ago in a country far, far away…

You may have seen the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday, #tbt, or however the internet masses like to shorten it floating around recently. It’s quite a fun idea, and I’ve had many a giggle seeing things from my friends’ archives. I’ve got mountains of dreadful art and pictures of embarrassing hair and fashion choices that I could share, but the other day I stumbled across this absolute gem that combines all of those. I had to share it.

Back in 2001 at the tender age of 14 I entered Junior Wildart, a competition held by my “home zoo”, Paignton Zoo Environmental Park. Kids were encouraged to create images of their favourite animals so it’s no surprise what I ended up submitting. There were three different age categories and I won in mine; I was also the one who got to have their photo taken for the local papers. Hooray me!

So here I am, being 14 and awkward, in front of my orcas and holding my certificate and art supply voucher prize:

Hiding behind hair, sleeves covering hands... yep, that's a teenager.

Hiding behind hair, hands in sleeves… yep, that’s a teenager. I have no idea why I did that top painting either – it seemed original when I was 14, guys.

I can (and probably will) poke fun at myself forever, but this was the first time I’d entered an art competition (except for my awesome manatee rescue story – I wish I could find that)┬áso this certificate and little newspaper clipping do hold a special place in my heart. I drifted away from drawing and painting animals for a while when I hit 16 and didn’t return to it seriously until about eight years later, and I’m so glad I did. It’s really nice to see my progress. I wonder if my fellow Junior Wildart winners kept painting?

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Why I paint

Today brought an experience that reminded me why I do what I do. I love marine life (surprise!), love to paint marine life, and hope that my work can inspire people to care about marine life just a bit more. I also hope that through sharing my art more people can experience the joy that can come from painting the things you love.

I was recently told by a family member on my husband’s side that she’d shown my paintings to her animal-loving niece, who has special needs. She said that her niece had loved my work and that it had inspired her to start painting, which is a huge compliment for any artist. I was actually able to meet this girl today, and she presented me with this:

A gorgeous painting of Keiko!

A gorgeous painting of Keiko!

I was beyond touched. To have inspired someone to pick up a paintbrush is one thing, but to actually be given something they did as a thank you is simply wonderful. Not only that, but Keiko was an orca that was close to my heart (as he was for a lot of us), and being able to bond with her over our connection to this particular animal was especially lovely. This will be going up on the wall of my studio for those occasions – us arty types all have them – when I may need reminding of why I paint. Thank you, Elaine!