Jen Richards

Wildlife artist

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Adventures with iPad speed paintings

Swellsharks are quite good at staying still for me.

Swellsharks are quite good at staying still for me.

I’m lucky in that I get to be around animals a lot. I try to never take this for granted – being in the presence of so many creatures can be exciting, fascinating, and humbling all at once. I’m constantly inspired by them, and wish there were enough hours in the day to draw and paint as many as I can. One thing I’ve been able to do recently is spend a little bit of time throughout the week doing some digital speed paintings from some of these real life subjects. I’ve sat with these animals and used my Bamboo stylus and my iPad to do a quick rendering of them using my favourite digital art app Procreate (I also recommend SketchbookPro). It’s proving to be a good exercise in working more quickly, and an added bonus is that I get to represent more species in my work. Here are a few I’ve done recently, each taking between about 5 and 15 minutes. Looking forward to doing lots more of these!

Swellshark - About 5 minutes


African penguin - About 10 minutes

African penguin

Beluga whale - About 15 minutes

Beluga whale

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Adventures with auctions… and penguins

The 7th annual Aqua Vino took place last Thursday at Georgia Aquarium. It’s a very large, very fancy event featuring some of the best food and wine to be found in Atlanta, and proceeds from it go directly into supporting the aquarium’s Correll Center for Aquatic Animal Health. This year, the focus was on African penguins.

In December 2011 I went back to visit my former coworkers! Macaroni penguins at the front, African penguins mostly hanging out in the top right.

African penguins and I go way back. When I began my professional journey in environmental education, I worked at the UK’s only coastal zoo and became quite good chums with several dozen of them. In addition to giving plentiful penguin presentations to the public (try saying that three times fast) I assisted our animal care team with daily cleaning and food preparation duties and even fed the little guys myself. But life hasn’t been all too easy on wild African penguins for the last few decades, largely because of human impacts – commercial overfishing, oil spills, habitat loss, the harvesting of guano – and in 2010, they were downgraded on the IUCN Red List from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered”. In 2009 it was estimated that the global African penguin population was only 25,262 pairs, meaning that their numbers have dropped to less than 10% of their population 100 years ago. It’s this alarmingly rapid decline that makes conservation efforts like the AZA’s Species Survival Plans all the more urgent. Information gained from working with these precious birds directly supports those struggling populations in the field; I personally know several animal care specialists, on both continents, who have traveled to South Africa to help rescue, rehabilitate, and release oiled or injured birds. This January saw the hatching and rearing of Georgia Aquarium’s first two African penguin chicks – wonderful news for the SSP – and Aqua Vino’s support will go a long way in ensuring that this success continues.

My giant Pacific octopus alongside prints by Wyland and Guy Harvey.

That’s why I was so excited to have two framed prints of mine (Murphy the loggerhead sea turtle and the giant Pacific octopus) in the silent auction. To be featured alongside such renowned marine life artists as Wyland and Guy Harvey was an honour, and I was proud to be contributing to such a worthy cause. I’m very pleased to say that both of my pieces received a number of bids and together raised a few hundred dollars for penguin conservation efforts – an amazing thing for an emerging fine artist to be able to say! Painting is such a passion of mine so it’s very fulfilling to know that both of them have gone to good homes.

“Murphy” on display.

If you’re interested in learning more about African penguins and how you can help, I recommend checking out SANCCOB, an organisation dedicated to saving South Africa’s incredible seabirds. For less than $60 you can adopt and name a penguin – ensuring it can be rehabilitated and released! What a bargain!