Jen Richards

Wildlife artist


Art Gone Wild

I’m so happy to announce that I’ve been selected as one of the participating artists in Zoo Atlanta’s Art Gone Wild event! I’m beyond thrilled at this unique opportunity and can’t wait to get started. In the first week of June (2 – 6) my fellow artists and I will be creating works “en plein air” on the zoo grounds, with no shortage of inspiration from the animals that call Zoo Atlanta home. Following the Paint Out Week, on June 14th an art show and silent auction featuring our works will be held to raise funds for the zoo, whose conservation efforts include gorilla field conservation and ecological restoration in the Galapagos.

I’ve mentioned my interest in non-marine species before (it’s shocking, I know!), and am very excited to be able to expand my horizons with Art Gone Wild in such a stimulating environment. I’ll keep you posted as I prepare for this adventure!

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The Western Australia shark cull

In January of this year, the government of Western Australia began to roll out the world’s largest shark cull. Baited drumlines have been set about 1 km (0.62 miles) from several beaches with the intention of catching great white, tiger, and bull sharks – the suspected “maneaters” – greater than 3 metres (9.8 feet) in length, which are then shot and killed. The policy is a response to an increase in fatal incidents involving sharks in the region over the last ten years, but it’s proven to be an extremely controversial one: before it even went into effect, more than 100 shark scientists vocally opposed it. Previous efforts to control shark populations have been largely unsuccessful. Though large sharks of three species are the targets, the drumlines are catching smaller sharks and putting other marine animals at risk (not to mention the possibility of drawing large sharks closer to beaches because of the bait). There is great concern that the killing of long lived, slow maturing great white sharks, a federally protected species in Australia, will affect the breeding stock. A large great white was spotted this week and is now on the government’s hit list, a particularly uncomfortable notion.

What’s even more disturbing is that this week the WA government applied to extend the cull for an additional three years. This means that the drumlines would continue to be set, and sharks caught and killed, from January to April until 2017. It’s a decision that has further outraged the thousands of scientists, conservationists, and citizens that oppose the policy. Shark expert and lecturer at the University of Sydney Christopher Neff recently conducted a poll that found 87% of those surveyed said that sharks should not be killed, and that 69% believe education is key in avoiding shark-related incidents. Protests against the cull have drawn thousands of concerned people to Australia’s beaches.

I find the numbers in this whole debacle to be unsettling, and wanted to create something to help visualise some of these. One of the most significant figures I found is that 104 sharks have been caught since the cull began in January and that 40 had been found dead or destroyed. 101 sharks out of those 104 caught were tiger sharks (the drumlines have yet to hook a single great white). I wanted to represent that number of confirmed animals that have been affected by this policy and wanted a tiger shark to represent them, and drew this on my iPad using Procreate and my stylus. It’s nothing special but I was moved to draw after learning of the WA government’s intention to extend the policy. I hate thinking about the dozens more sharks that will be affected by this misguided, unscientific effort.

If you’d like to join the voices against the cull and stay up to date on the latest news, here are some highly recommended links:
@NoWASharkCull on Twitter
• Christopher Neff on Twitter @christopherneff
• David Shiffman on @WhySharksMatter
• Australian Marine Conservation Society


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Saddle patch heart

Have you ever noticed that an orca’s saddlepatch is heart-shaped when viewed from above? I’ve wanted to explore that idea for a while and finally got it out of my head with this quick little iPad painting done during breaks at work over the last couple of days. Hooray for being productive! I used my Bamboo stylus with Procreate as my app of choice.

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Sepia bandensis: A Love Story

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t think cephalopods are fascinating creatures. Who doesn’t enjoy watching an octopus change colour, figure out a puzzle, or even just crawl across its habitat with its eight sinuous arms? I’d always been interested in this unusual group of animals, but something changed a couple of months ago when I was introduced to a species I hadn’t met before. At first I was excited to see them, and eagerly watched them feed and adjust to their new surroundings. Days later, I found myself wandering back to them and watching them a bit more. I took a few photos. And then I found myself making a point of going to see them. I started to film them going about their little lives. And then before I knew it, I was going to see them every chance I could, and waxing poetic about them to anyone who was interested.

And then I realised… I love dwarf cuttlefish.

I am truly enchanted by them. They aren’t the first cuttlefish species I’ve seen, but getting to spend time with these little guys and observing them interact with each other and grow has me absolutely smitten. Their mantle tends to measure only about 2.8 inches (7 cm) in length, but there’s a lot packed into this tiny package. They’ve got eight arms, two tentacles, three hearts, a beak, and absolutely fascinating eyes. And, like other cephalopods, they can rapidly change the colour and texture of their skin using chromatophores. So. Awesome.

Please excuse the bumpy start, but enjoy 46 seconds of cuteness.

charcoalcuttle02_wmI knew I had to paint one, but that presented a challenge. They’d shown me so many different behaviours and appearances I couldn’t settle on just one, so… I did three! I’ve had quite the busy year so far so I didn’t have much time to dedicate to painting, but I did begin to explore cuttlefish by doing some pencil sketches. I even ventured into using charcoal for the first time since secondary school! The variety of textures they can present on their bodies is amazing, so I wanted to have some fun with different mediums. When I finally found some time to start painting them, I kept the same mindset: I wanted to retain the joy I feel when I watch them in person, so I let loose with a bunch of different things. I used sponges, laid paint on thickly, and even flicked watered-down paint on them. It was a lot of fun! Each canvas measures only 5 x 7 inches. Here’s a closer look at each one:


If cephalopods are your thing, I hope you enjoyed this lengthy post! If this is your first time hearing about dwarf cuttlefish, I hope you’ve fallen for them too.