Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Back to work...at the zoo.

Alas, my 3 months working at home is almost at an end for this year. On Monday I return to the zoo, where I work 3 days a week for 9 months of the year (April - December). I did use to work full time, the usual 9-5 Mon-Fri, but during 2003 I made the decision to lessen my hours to enable me to have more time to concentrate on my career as an artist. So after discussions with a very understanding boss, at the turn of 2004 I started my rather odd part-time schedule.
My job at the zoo is a very interesting one and in the UK, at least, quite a rare occupation. I know of only a handful of animal collections within the UK zoo federation that have their own 'in-house' illustrator/artist and at the zoo where I work... I'm that one of those fortunate people. My main preoccupation is the identification signs for the animals and, apart from a few cases, I not only draw/paint a picture of the species involved but I also get to compile the sign on the computer; adding in information to a template that has come from the animal and education departments and a map with the species distribution.
I have been doing this job for over 11 years now and have many tales of close encounters and 'special moments' watching the various animals that I have had to illustrate. I'm very priviledged in that sometimes when I sit near, or even in, an animal enclosure I get to spend more time watching the animals than the keepers do. Their trust in me to spend such time with their charges is something that I have never taken for granted and feel very honoured to have.
In my time at the zoo I have drawn or painted over 380 different species from corals, spiders, ants, crabs, lobsters, colourful reef fish, stingrays, large freshwater fish, lizards, snakes, frogs, tropical birds, vultures, small mice to Asian elephants. The variety is enormous and I get as excited at the prospect of drawing a mantis as I do a big cat. Every species is a fascination and I'm so lucky to be able to see many of these animals close up and in the flesh.
Over the next 9 months that I am back there, I shall endeavour to write posts explaining some of the jobs I do, as I'm not always drawing or painting, and give you an insight into another aspect of my work as an artist.

T minus 284 days and counting.....

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