Jen Richards

Wildlife artist

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Whale Shark Weekend

Did you know that the 30th of August was International Whale Shark Day? Declared in 2008 during the 2nd International Whale Shark Conference (hey, I’ve heard of that!), it’s a good date for all things Rhincodon typus. This year, Georgia Aquarium hosted Whale Shark Weekend on August 30th and 31st to bring some special attention to the world’s largest fish through activities, presentations, lectures and even the premiere of Guy Harvey’s new film Whale Sharks of the Yucatan. It was exactly the kind of event I would have loved to have been present for… but I was unfortunately busy elsewhere in Atlanta and not appropriately dressed. But I got involved another way: I helped create the activities!

Additionally, the original logo design for IWSC3 (affectionately nicknamed "Bubba") served a new purpose as the mascot for the aquarium event.

Additionally, the original logo design for IWSC3 (affectionately nicknamed “Bubba”) served a new purpose as the mascot for the aquarium event.

One of my favourite things about whale sharks is the uniqueness of their markings: each individual has a spot pattern that is unlike that of any other, making photo identification an effective way to study them. As this research is something the aquarium is extensively involved in, I thought it would be fun to get kids to create their very own whale shark with a unique pattern of spots. I made a complete version with markings and one without, and was chuffed to see that both were put to some fun use! The “naked” version was blown up onto a big board so that guests could actually use their thumbs to apply dots of white paint, making it a nice collaborative effort. The complete version was given a background and made into a cute little jigsaw puzzle for them to colour and fit together. Though I wasn’t able to be at the event, I was so happy to see the photos and know that I did my own little part to get kids engaged with one of the coolest animals on the planet!

Photos from Georgia Aquarium’s Whale Shark Weekend gallery on Facebook


3rd International Whale Shark Conference

Sketches A couple of weeks ago, the lovely Dr. Al Dove appeared and asked me to do something awesome. The 3rd International Whale Shark Conference was to be held in Atlanta this coming October, and it needed a logo.

I did a very good job at not falling out of my chair. To have the opportunity to use my art for something so important to me – the Sketchesconservation and research of whale sharks, a species that has become a big part of my life – is quite literally a dream come true. After some chatting and discussing of ideas, I was sent off to sketch and came up with eight or nine scribbles. One of the ideas we’d mentioned was the trademark “swoopyness” of whale sharks, that huge sweeping caudal fin that creates a beautiful silhouette as they swim (and is one of my favourite things about them). As such, I doodled a few swoopies. The intention was to create a simple outline from one of these sketches, something that had a visual impact and was undeniably whale sharky.


The four on the sides here were my attempts at different angles of this swoopiness. The one above was an idea I’d had early on that was a bit different – something that showed a whale shark doing what they like to do best – eating things – while the reflection of the animal on the surface would form a world map, incorporating the whole “international” Bubbapart of the conference. But we ended up going with something quite different entirely: the one I had affectionately called “blimp.jpg”. Al and I agreed that this one was more interesting because it shows the face, and whale shark faces are the best. (Really, though.) It also offered a different angle, something a bit more abstract but still undeniably whale sharky, and did a better job of alluding to the size of a BIG animal than any of the others did. Success!3rd International Whale Shark Conference

So here we are now. With a bit of editing of the angle, some inking and colouring and letters and a map, he’s live on the website and will hopefully do a good job of welcoming some of the world’s top whale shark researchers to the United States this autumn.