Saturday, December 10, 2011

In my role as Wildlife Illustrator, at Bristol Zoo Gardens, I not only have the illustrations to do for the zoo’s animal identification signage, but the general up keep of them as well. Apart from painting and drawing, this involves a lot of computer work; where I have to have a basic working knowledge of the design software applications of Freehand, Quark and Photoshop (I have just recently started to learn to use Adobe Illustrator, as well, as we are switching over all IDs from Quark and Freehand). I also often do a lot of other little jobs, sometimes connected with the ID signage, sometimes not.

My work on the computer involves compiling new ID signs and editing information (putting distribution ranges on maps and dropping in animal information text, scanning in illustrations and editing size, blemishes, colour, backgrounds etc). After printing completed signs from the computer, they then need to be trimmed to size and after being sealed in laminate (which we have a machine for and I do myself), trimmed to size again, strips of adhesive put on the back and then putting the signs up on/by their respective enclosures.

This is an old pic of me (hair colour and length since changed) but it shows me changing ID signs in situ.

I do regular “sweeps” of the zoo to check the signage for missing, damaged or faded signs that I then need to replace. This year I have tried to do a “sweep” every 2 months to try and keep up with the ravages of weather, wear and mischievous imps.

So my work is really quite varied and far removed from just drawing or painting all day, every day.

To give you an idea.. This is what I have been doing over the last three weeks….

*Screwed ID holder to exterior of a bird aviary.
*Observing and taking close up anatomical detail photos of an Indian violin mantis – transferring details to drawing already done of the animal.
*Drawing a mega mantis.
*Painting a mega mantis – getting it checked and ok’d by animal dept. Scanned illustration on computer and picture file incorporated onto ID sign file.
*Learning to use Adobe Illustrator and rebuilding old Quark and Freehand ID sign templates in Adobe Illustrator.
*One morning spent sketching and photoing out at the Hollywood Towers Estate.
*Walking zoo grounds checking Christmas animal light shape displays for any that are bent and mis-shapen.
*Walking zoo grounds doing an ID sign check - “sweep”.
*Photoing and observing Madagascan blue stick insects ready for when I am to illustrate them.
*Several “Maintenance job request forms” done for work required on ID sign related stuff.
*Removed old sign board from an animal enclosure.
*Rescrewed into place an amenities sign blown down by wind.
*Overseeing rebending of mis-shapen Christmas animal light shapes.
*Painting background for Indian violin mantis.
*Hole punched and hammered in metal eyelets into laminate on some bird ID signs.
*30 ID signs printed, trimmed, laminated, trimmed and put up on respective animal enclosures.


Art On The Hoof said...

What a cool job, do most zoo's employ someone for this role ?

Su said...

The job is pretty special and rare, I must say. I am very lucky to have it as there are only a handful of zoo's in the UK federation of Zoo's and Aquaria that actually have someone hand painting the ID signage... and then of those most seem to be doing it as part of another job (such as education officer or marketing) rather than specifically an illustrator employed for that alone, as I am. Most zoo's use photos or a central ID sign bank (Chester zoo runs one I believe).