Jen Richards

Wildlife artist

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International Whale Shark Day: A gift for YOU!

If you weren’t already aware, the largest fish in the world is SO awesome that it gets its very own day of recognition! International Whale Shark Day was declared in 2008 after the 2nd International Whale Shark Conference and is celebrated on August 30th each year. You know by now that whale sharks hold a special place in my heart. Last year I helped create some educational activities for Georgia Aquarium (check out this year’s event taking place on Saturday), and this year I wanted to share the whale shark love with all of you!

I noticed that the most popular post on my blog, and the most frequent search result that lands people here, is my colouring page that I created for Sea Otter Awareness Week in 2012. I’m so thrilled that people enjoy it so much, and excited to move forward with my plan of creating a full marine life colouring book in the coming months. Anything I can do to help kids get interested in marine life (and art)!

With that said, I created this colouring sheet for you to download, print and share with the children in your life (there is also no shame in colouring it yourself) in celebration of Whale Shark Day 2014! I’m offering this for free, and all I ask is that you do not use my artwork for any other purposes, remove my website link or claim it as your own. If you would like to host this on your website, please just let me know (jenrichardsart [at] gmail)! Thank you!PDF link for easy download

The image features a feeding whale shark (feel free to add your own plankton/krill/fish eggs) as well as a school of juvenile golden trevally and a yellowfin tuna.

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I really enjoyed working on my recent “Sharks!” piece, which allowed me to highlight a bunch of lesser-known species. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I want to keep doing these! As a cetacean nerd they were my obvious next choice, although I reduced the number of featured species and eventually decided to focus on just odontocetes, or toothed whales, for now. (I originally started this one with some mysticetes as well, but because I wanted to illustrate relative size differences, the proportions just wouldn’t work. Mysticetes shall get their own one!) My idea with these is to showcase the diversity of shape. When it comes to toothed whales, especially as you get into the families, there are a lot of very similar shapes that didn’t provide a silhouette distinct enough among the other species I chose – hence the smaller number on here. I also made a conscious decision to leave off the members of Physeteroidea, whose common names may not be appropriate to spread across a t-shirt. Know that they are wonderful animals, though!

The species featured here:

Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus
Beluga whale Delphinapterus leucas
Commerson’s dolphin Cephalorhynchus commersonii
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena
Long-snouted spinner dolphin Stenella longirostris
Amazon river dolphin  Inia geoffrensis
Orca Orcinus orca
Dall’s porpoise Phocoenoides dalli
Narwhal Monodon monoceros
Southern right whale dolphin (most confusing name ever?) Lissodelphis peronii
Long-finned pilot whale Globicephala melas
Cuvier’s beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris

Like the shark version, this is available as a print as well as on t-shirts, mugs, and phone cases!

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A Weakness for Wobbegongs

Anyone that’s heard me go on about sharks (which I actually do for a living, so… quite a few people) will know that despite my love for everything from the largest (that’ll be the lovely Rhincodon typus) to the cutest (I’ll argue for that role going to zebra sharks), I have a very severe weakness for wobbegongs.

Yes, hello. I make this face for all of them.

Yes, hello. I make this face for all of them.

I. Love. Wobbegongs.

I don’t even know what it is about them. I often joke that they’re my kindred spirits, or myself in shark form, or that I must have been one in a past life. Who wouldn’t want to spend most of the day lying around on the sea floor until food swims close enough to your mouth, am I right? Thing is, I’m not even an inactive person. I think I just like the idea of being a wobbegong. They’re such an underestimated family of sharks, and physically one of the least “sharky”-looking, so I love pointing them out to people as an example of elasmobranch diversity. There are twelve species and they’re all equally Muppetesque (for those wondering, I’ve always thought Uncle Deadly was the most wobbegongesque.) They’re mostly found around Australia and Indonesia, although there’s also the Japanese wobbegong. Mostly nocturnal, you’re more likely to see a wobbegong draped over something rather than actively swimming, which they do like an area rug come to life. You shouldn’t underestimate those jaws, though. Whoa.

My original intention was to celebrate wobbegongs all week as a sort of anti-Discovery’s Shark Week. I’m really not a fan of the “event” and I especially dislike the focus on the few super popular species, but I also wanted to do something other than complain about the programming all week. I wanted to be positive about spreading the love of the lesser knowns, like wobbegongs! But of course August is always an insane month for me so I’ve only managed to do a couple of things. Here is one of those things though! Just a small cartoony expression of my love:One of my absolute favourite things about wobbegongs is their habit of throwing themselves down anywhere like a slightly toothier cat. I like this so much, in fact, that I rewrote Eleanor Farjeon’s famous poem “Cats Sleep Anywhere”:

Wobbegongs lie anywhere, any reef, any lair.
Top of staghorn, rocky ledge, in the middle, on the edge.
Table coral, sandy floor – all good places to lie some more.
Flopped down on the seagrass bed, any place to rest their head.
Anywhere! They don’t care! Wobbegongs lie anywhere.


Next year I’ll be sure to time things right in order to have a proper Wobbegong Week, but remember: sharks are amazing all year round, not just for this one time in the summer. And let’s not forget the flat sharks – how about we arrange for a Ray Week sometime?

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I really wanted to post new shark art all week, but I haven’t had much time to produce any! I did manage to get this piece done, though – it’s a stylised celebration of shark diversity. While I couldn’t even begin to represent all 400-odd species, I did want to highlight a few personal favourites as well as those with particularly unusual or striking morphology. Not all sharks are white sharks (even though I did include one – their silhouette is just lovely)!

The featured species are…

• Oceanic whitetip shark Carcharhinus longimanus
• Dwarf lanternshark Etmopterus perryi
• White shark Carcharodon carcharias
• Whale shark Rhincodon typus
• Spotted wobbegong Orectolobus maculatus
• Sand tiger shark Carcharias taurus
• Sandbar shark Carcharhinus plumbeus
• Atlantic sharpnose shark Rhizoprionodon terraenovae
• Scalloped hammerhead shark Sphyrna lewini
• Bigeye thresher shark Alopias superciliosus
• Longnose sawshark Pristiophorus cirratus
• Epaulette shark Hemiscyllium ocellatum
• Basking shark Cetorhinus maximus
• Zebra shark Stegostoma fasciatum
• Blue shark Prionace glauca

This is available as a print, mug, and phone case/skin! Hope you like it as much as I had fun drawing it. Look for more shark art from me in the coming days!