Jen Richards

Wildlife artist

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J27 Commission

j27_wmRecently I was commissioned to create a tattoo design of the southern resident orca J27 (Blackberry) as a stippled ink piece. This is a style I absolutely love doing, and have been doing small-scale orca pieces using it throughout the year (these have mostly been shared on my Instagram). Needless to say, I was particularly pumped up about this project and had a great experience working through the design with the client. The original drawing is on its way to her and her tattoo artist will take it from there – I can’t wait to see the final-final version!

Here’s a look at some of the work that went into it, from initial sketches to the ink itself.

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I really enjoyed working on my recent “Sharks!” piece, which allowed me to highlight a bunch of lesser-known species. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I want to keep doing these! As a cetacean nerd they were my obvious next choice, although I reduced the number of featured species and eventually decided to focus on just odontocetes, or toothed whales, for now. (I originally started this one with some mysticetes as well, but because I wanted to illustrate relative size differences, the proportions just wouldn’t work. Mysticetes shall get their own one!) My idea with these is to showcase the diversity of shape. When it comes to toothed whales, especially as you get into the families, there are a lot of very similar shapes that didn’t provide a silhouette distinct enough among the other species I chose – hence the smaller number on here. I also made a conscious decision to leave off the members of Physeteroidea, whose common names may not be appropriate to spread across a t-shirt. Know that they are wonderful animals, though!

The species featured here:

Bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus
Beluga whale Delphinapterus leucas
Commerson’s dolphin Cephalorhynchus commersonii
Harbour porpoise Phocoena phocoena
Long-snouted spinner dolphin Stenella longirostris
Amazon river dolphin  Inia geoffrensis
Orca Orcinus orca
Dall’s porpoise Phocoenoides dalli
Narwhal Monodon monoceros
Southern right whale dolphin (most confusing name ever?) Lissodelphis peronii
Long-finned pilot whale Globicephala melas
Cuvier’s beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris

Like the shark version, this is available as a print as well as on t-shirts, mugs, and phone cases!

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Beluga sketches

A few rough belugas drawn while in the kitchen waiting for rice to cook. Exciting! It was also a race against time to fill the page before my 6B pencil devolved into a useless nub. Don’t you hate it when the lead is broken all the way through and it keeps snapping off? It was a new pencil last week. Sadness.

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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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(Spy)hopping to it

Now that our wedding has happened and life is finally settling down again, it feels amazing to be able to dedicate some time to painting. This is a little peek at something I started about a month ago but haven’t had time to work on until this week, and I’m having some fun with it. The colder weather makes me crave a beautiful stormy sea and there’s never a time when I don’t want to paint orcas, but the finished piece will also feature something I’ve never painted before. It’s a good learning process!

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Humpback whale featured on deviantART!

As I was idly checking my messages on deviantART on my phone this morning from the comfort of bed (aren’t seasonal colds just the best?), I noticed I had a lot of them. Like, five hundred times more than usual.

It turns out that my humpback whale piece from over two years ago had been selected as a Daily Deviation – suggested by a user, chosen by an admin and displayed on the site’s opening page. You can see the day’s selections here. In August of last year, my manta rays were featured in the same way. To have my work chosen like this not just once but twice is a real honour; the increased exposure is amazing, and that so many more people have been taking the time today to view my art and leave comments is very much appreciated. I just wish that I had more time to work on some new art at the moment, but finding the time outside of work and wedding planning is proving just a bit difficult!

As for the image itself, it was both drawn and coloured entirely digitally, using my tablet, in a program called OpenCanvas 4. I had a look in my art folder on the computer and found some in-progress screenshots I’d taken while working on this one, which you can see just a bit further down on this post. It was a way of challenging myself to draw a mysticete, or baleen whale, as it’s quite apparent when looking at my portfolio that I tend to focus on the smaller, smooth-skinned odontocetes (toothed whales). I distinctly remember wanting to get across a real sense of depth, as footage of humpback whales rising from deep, dark blue waters had always captured my imagination. Creating the knobbly texture on the head and the pectoral flippers was fun and certainly different for me at that point. Colouring art digitally is something I relied quite heavily on for a couple of years, as my rather unexpected move to the United States meant not having any of my traditional supplies, but I’ve really found myself moving away from it in a big way.

In progress: working out the lines and fleshing out the whale.

I look at this image now and see dozens of ways I want to revisit it using acrylics, but it remains a landmark in my development as an artist, and again, I really appreciate the feedback on it. In my studio there’s definitely a baleen whale work in progress that I started last week, by the way… only(!) two years after this first attempt.