Jen Richards

Wildlife artist

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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?


Orcas past and present

Orca sketches in 2012…

In little snippets of spare time lately I’ve been picking up my sketchbook to draw orcas. They’ve always been my favourite subjects; beyond their endlessly fascinating behaviour, there’s something about them I find so compelling and beautiful. If I’m doodling, whatever the canvas, you can guarantee there’ll be one in there somewhere. After so many years they’ve kind of become my trademark. I can’t help it.

When I went home to England over Christmas last year I rediscovered my very first orca drawings. Literally. I had just turned eight years old when I first encountered them at SeaWorld and could draw little else. I’m impressed with Little Past Me’s

… orca sketches from 1994.

ability to remember all the correct markings, moreorless (with a small exception – white on the upper jaw? What was I thinking!), and determination to draw as many different actions as possible. I should take notes.

I have a few more from the years between then and now – including some rather dramatic scenes of predation(!) drawn when I was ten – that I’ll put here in future posts. It’s a lot of fun to be able to track your artistic development.

This 1994 orca was on the back of the others. I like his attitude.