Jen Richards

Wildlife artist


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Art Gone Wild 2015: Art Show and Silent Auction

I know I wasn’t the only artist feeling sad as Art Gone Wild 2015 came to a close last night. This event has become a highlight of my year, and last night’s show was a brilliant example of why: seeing everybody’s fantastic works all finished, chatting with fellow artists and guests, eating a lot of those amazing cucumber hors d’oeuvres … and even meeting some special guests! The added bonus was seeing our hard work over the last two weeks paying off as lots of our art went to their new happy homes.

I was personally thrilled to see my rhino painting “Utenzi” with its new owners – the couple that won my wreathed hornbill last year! The racket-tailed roller also went an awesome new home, and my clouded leopard painting “Suhana” will now be living with one of the zoo’s incredible volunteers – it’s so rewarding to me when I know my work can be cherished by those that know and love these animals too. (The lanner falcon painting “Savanna” will be available in the online auction coming soon – stay tuned!)

All in all, I want to say another huge thank you to Zoo Atlanta and the events team for putting this adventure on for a second year running! It was lovely to see so many familiar faces from 2014 – Art Gone Wild feels like a real community. We already can’t wait for next year!

Three of those familiar faces: Natalie Huggins, Ashley Bates, John Trotter, and me!

Three of those familiar faces: Natalie Huggins, Ashley Bates, and John Trotter!


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Art Gone Wild 2015: Paint Out Week – Days 3, 4 & 5

Wednesday: Because I only had a couple of hours to paint on Wednesday morning I decided to focus on my racket-tailed roller piece to get it closer to completion. On the way to my chosen spot, though, I happened to lock eyes with a favourite resident and instead spent a good 30 minutes drinking my coffee while he and his mother stared back at me as they had breakfast. Again… can you blame me?

Good morning, Andazi and Jabari!

Good morning, Andazi and Jabari!

After my rhino detour I focused on my roller and got a lot of detail done. I still have the back and wings to go as well as defining the branch some more, but overall I’m liking how it’s coming along. Never thought I’d enjoy painting lots of tiny feathers.

Detail of my racket-tailed roller.

Detail of my racket-tailed roller.

Thursday: Earlier in the week I’d been able to finally get a good look at Suhana, the zoo’s beautiful young clouded leopard. I’d been planning on painting her this week but hadn’t caught so much of a glimpse of her on previous visits, so with my own long-awaited references I set Thursday as my Suhana Day. I had picked up a new canvas especially for it, as the composition came to me as soon as I saw her! What an utterly captivating species this is. A few years ago I saw Zoo Atlanta’s previous clouded leopard, Moby, who passed away in 2013 at an impressive 16 years of age. It’s wonderful now to see Suhana settling in.

Slow, difficult-to-photograph-properly progress on Suhana.

Slow, difficult-to-photograph-properly progress on Suhana.

I spent all day working on this piece but still have so far to go! It was a lovely, productive day though, much of it spent with fellow artist Natalie Huggins as she worked on her own clouded leopard painting. I also took time to watch the bird show and managed to get over my toucan-related geek out just enough to get photos of Friday’s subject.

Whoops.

Whoops.

Friday: Not everything went to plan today, as illustrated brilliantly by my poor car over there. Luckily it happened while I was right by the zoo, and thanks to the help of event coordinator Julia Knox and Tommy the maintenance guy I was able to get home safely at the end of the day! (… and later ended up having to use up a lot of painting time getting all four tires replaced. Womp womp.)

Savanna!

Savanna!

Anyway, I had a later start and a shorter stay than planned but I made headway on what will probably be my final Art Gone Wild piece. It’s a portrait of Savanna the lanner falcon, an absolutely stunning bird I stumbled upon on Monday while carting my equipment through the zoo. I thought she was one of the most visually striking birds I’d ever seen, so when I saw her in action in the bird show I knew I had to paint her too. I’ve got a huge soft spot for raptors and currently have a broad-winged hawk painting in progress, so I’m excited to be working on my first falcon. Coincidentally, I made a good t-shirt decision today.

Painting a falcon. Wearing the Falcon.

Painting a falcon. Wearing the Falcon.

This weekend will be spent finishing all my pieces before dropping them off in time for the Art Show and Silent Auction event on Saturday June 13th. Please come if you can! The variety of artworks that will be available is fantastic, and you’ll be able to bid on them all and take them home. Proceeds support both the zoo and the artists. If this week’s been any indication it’s going to be an incredible show!


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Art Gone Wild 2015: Paint Out Week – Days 1 & 2

My favourite week of the year is in full swing! Yesterday was the first day of Paint Out Week at Zoo Atlanta, and I’m one of several artists creating works en plein air celebrating the zoo’s animals and exhibits for the next few days. It’s brilliant to see so many familiar faces from last year, and just like before, the diversity of styles is astounding! I can’t wait to see everyone’s completed works at the Art Gone Wild show on the 13th.

I definitely got a few curious looks.

I definitely got a few curious looks.

Monday: I started the first day off in the Living Treehouse, one of my favourite spots whenever I visit. It’s home to a stunning collection of birds and I knew already that I wanted to paint a racket-tailed roller, so I set to work. The birds and I seemed just as interested in each other so it proved a distracting painting location for me, but it was still a fun experience. I forgot, however, that even though it wasn’t raining it was still a stupid idea to try to paint under a large tree whose rustling leaves provided the same effect at random. That plus the humidity of the morning prompted me to move inside the treehouse, which was freezing but at least allowed me to get my base colours on (and my paint could finally dry!). I’m going to finish this little guy tomorrow.

Racket-tailed roller in progress.

Racket-tailed roller in progress.

In the afternoon I set up in Scaly, Slimy, Spectacular, the awesome new reptile and amphibian building. I quickly established the base of an emerald tree boa painting, but the light wasn’t ideal for it and I’m not sure if I’ll continue with it. Love this species though.

Very much a messy work in progress.

Tuesday: I’d said last month that because I had painted two rhino pieces for the show last year I’d branch out a bit (despite my love of painting rhinos). And yet… this is where I found myself this morning. Can you really blame me?

Zoo Atlanta's adult male rhino, Utenzi, had his horn removed earlier this year due to concerns about the cracks he'd had in it since his arrival.

Zoo Atlanta’s adult male rhino, Utenzi, had his horn removed earlier this year due to concerns about the cracks he’d had in it since his arrival.

After spending most of the day with the lovely Utenzi and chatting with guests while I worked, I took some time to gather more inspiration for my other paintings this week. While doing so I stumbled onto a snake presentation and got to be just a foot or two away from a green anaconda without barriers – super awesome for this snake nerd! Looking forward to returning tomorrow to tackle some new subjects. (Not literally though.)

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pbbbttt


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Art Gone Wild 2015

Remember when I shared my experience with the brilliant Art Gone Wild event at Zoo Atlanta last year? It was absolutely one of the big highlights of 2014… and I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been selected as a participating artist for Art Gone Wild 2015! This June I’ll be once again joining my fellow artists in creating works “en plein air” inspired by the zoo’s animals – the best part being that we get to hang out with those animals all day too. Last year I painted several rhinos, a wreathed hornbill, and a red panda. There’s no shortage of fascinating subjects to choose from, so my only challenge will be trying to narrow my ideas down. I can’t wait to begin!


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Art Gone Wild: Art Show and Silent Auction

My four acrylic paintings on display at the show.

My four acrylic paintings on display at the show.

Zoo Atlanta’s Art Gone Wild event came to a close last night with a spectacular art show and silent auction. From June 2-6, myself and 36 other artists became a temporarily invasive species at the zoo as we created artwork inspired by the animals, horticulture, and exhibits, and I had an excellent time tackling subjects I’d never done before. If you missed my Paint Out Week posts, you can see them in this tag.

It was wonderful to see the dozens of finished pieces at the art show! There was such a wide variety of subjects, styles, and mediums that it was truly a joy to walk around and see everybody’s work. It was definitely an honour for me to be showing my work among such talented people. I had wanted to create five pieces in total, but because of a long-anticipated and busy dive trip from June 5-8 (which I’ll post about very soon!), I only had time to complete four. I had chosen to focus on Betelgeuse, the stunning male wreathed hornbill; Andazi and Jabari, the black rhino mother and calf; Idgie, the red panda; and Utenzi, the male black rhino. These five animals are some of my favourites to see whenever I visit Zoo Atlanta and they were, naturally, a lot of fun to paint. What made all my efforts worth it was the feedback from event guests and zoo staff and volunteers, particularly those that work closely with these individual animals.

I’m absolutely thrilled to say that all four pieces saw multiple bids and went to good homes at the end of the evening!

So happy this painting went to a good home!

So happy this painting went to a good home!

Knowing that my art touched a lot of people and helped to raise funds for the zoo made all of my hard work worthwhile. My hornbill painting was won by a lovely couple who bid on it for their young son who’s obsessed with birds; I made sure to sign and date the painting for him and I hope he loves it as much as I had fun painting it.

From the very beginning of this event, the zoo team have been nothing short of fabulous – coordinating staff, keepers, volunteers, event staff… This whole experience has been utterly fantastic and that’s largely because of their support, so thank you, Zoo Atlanta! I hope we can do this again!


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Art Gone Wild: Day Three

Idgie getting comfy.

Idgie getting comfy.

Today was my last day of Paint Out Week, as I’m going out of state tomorrow morning and will be missing the final two days. I’ve had such a fabulous time during Art Gone Wild and I’m excited to get back to finishing each of my pieces so that they’re ready to go for the art show and silent auction next week!

As mentioned yesterday, I wanted to finish my little red panda painting. Did you know that the human brain is physically incapable of processing the cuteness of a red panda? It’s true. It was a lot of fun to spend a few hours with Idgie this morning and I got a lot of positive feedback from guests and zoo team members alike. This was my first time painting fur – and I actually enjoyed it! There are still a few bits I’d like to fix, but she’s near completion. I really liked working with such bright, warm colours.

A lovely friend of mine stopped by and snapped a couple of photos while I worked. Thank you, Linda!

One last thing… Over the last three days I’ve experienced the most wonderful treatment from Zoo Atlanta staff and volunteers. Everyone I’ve met has been incredibly welcoming and encouraging to the artists and it’s helped us feel at home from the get go. It’s a real testament to the team there, and I especially want to thank Julia for all of her hard work. 


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Art Gone Wild: Day Two

Today’s main subjects were much larger and less feathery than yesterday’s. I’ve felt the urge to paint a rhino for ages, so I got right to it when I arrived at the zoo early this morning – and didn’t just start one, but two! Last year Zoo Atlanta celebrated its first rhino birth in its 124-year history, and little (read: big) Jabari is too precious not to feature. Black rhinos are incredibly fun to paint and I’m hoping to do another piece (featuring dad Utenzi) before the art show and silent auction on the 14th. This one is far from being finished, but I did switch to a new subject later in the afternoon as a refresher. More to come tomorrow!

I must also add that one of my favourite things about Art Gone Wild is being able to meet and chat with other artists. The variety of pieces I’ve seen being created so far (across many mediums) is astounding, and I can’t wait to see everything at the art show. Being around so many fellow artists is definitely inspiring.


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Art Gone Wild: Day One

Today was the first day of Zoo Atlanta’s Art Gone Wild event! Since being selected as a participating artist a few months ago I’ve been eagerly anticipating a few days of painting alongside some truly wonderful animals – and of course stepping outside of my comfort zone. Not only am I branching out and tackling feathers and fur instead of fins and flukes, I’m also painting… in public. I’m quite a private person when it comes to the actual creation of my art, as I feel most comfortable losing myself in my work without being disturbed (and usually blasting Florence + The Machine), so the idea of putting my process on display was quite a terrifying thought at first. But after the first day of this simply awesome event, I can honestly say that I had a blast.

Shortly after arriving this morning I was shuttled straight to my most desired spot: a slightly shaded area in front of the wreathed hornbill exhibit. I was well into establishing some flat colours on my canvas when I moved away from my easel to stretch my legs, and realised that one of the Sumatran tigers was lounging at the window right behind me. Pretty much the coolest neighbour to have first thing in the morning before the zoo opens. I spent all day in this area, every now and again shifting my setup as I chased the shade. It was unbelievably cool to spend so much time with my subject as he went about his day, often providing his own soundtrack (hornbills make the cutest barking sounds). It was also fun to chat with guests as they passed through the space and provided feedback on my work. A little girl even told me she wanted “to grow up to do that.” Oh my goodness.

I’m not finished with this hornbill piece yet but wanted to share my progress! I’m going to work on him some more tomorrow, but I’m also looking forward to taking on a new subject. Unfortunately I can’t participate in the event on Thursday or Friday, but there’s a VERY good reason for that – I’ll be sure to share what it is when I return on Sunday!

With my fabulous subject in the background.

With my fabulous subject in the background.

If you’re in Atlanta, you should stop by this week to see us in action! You can also attend the art show and silent auction on Saturday 14th June, when you can bid on our creations to raise funds for Zoo Atlanta.


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Preparing for Art Gone Wild

Wreathed hornbill sketch with some coloured pencil touches.

Wreathed hornbill sketch with some coloured pencil touches.

As announced back in April, I’m one of the selected artists participating in Zoo Atlanta’s brand new Art Gone Wild event in a couple of weeks. In the run-up to Paint Out Week I’ve been thinking a lot about my potential subjects and spent last Friday at the zoo finding my muse. With the sun out and the temperature in the 70s, it was the perfect day to be outside observing and sketching animals for hours on end! Collected here are some of my quick zoo doodles (zoodles?) done from life.

I plan to paint a variety of subjects but definitely found myself gravitating towards a certain few – is anyone actually surprised that I’m focusing on hornbills? I don’t know what it is about these birds, but I’m just captivated by them. I was also thrilled to finally get to see Jabari, the zoo’s ridiculously cute eastern black rhino calf who was born last year. Watching him run around was definitely the day’s highlight for me.


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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!