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?


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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.