Exmoor Zoo Artist Residency
For 2 weeks in January 2017, I had the incredible opportunity to work as an artist in residence at Exmoor Zoo, North Devon. It was fascinating learning about their conservation projects and helping out the education department with a variety of activities, including feeding the otters, handling reptiles, helping at an outreach visit, and of course producing artwork that the zoo could use.
One of the projects I worked on prior to my arrival at Exmoor Zoo was designing a series of hand-drawn animal bookmarks, which children could colour in when they visit the zoo. These bookmarks feature animals which can be found within the zoo, and also have educational information on the back. They were great to hand out to volunteers on the outreach visit, and the kids loved them.
The majority of my time was spent sketching in the Encounter Zone, where I had the chance to get up close and personal to a wide variety of insects, reptiles, and amphibians. This included hissing cockroaches, a Chilean rose tarantula, millipedes, a panther chameleon, giant jungle nymphs, cane toads, giant African land snails, a boa constrictor, and a dead leaf mantis.
I also had the opportunity to meet ‘Kiwick’ the tawny owl, ‘Seemples’ the meerkat, and ‘Tallulah’ the tenrec – three of the animals that represent the education department and take part in displays run by the zoo. I was able to produce drawings of Kiwick and Seemples for the education department, but Tallulah is proving to be a real challenge!
Another project I worked on was designing colouring sheets for children who visit the zoo. This required a lot more planning than I’d anticipated, as I had to consider the composition, the size of the drawings on the page, and the number of drawings I could fit while still making it easy enough to colour in. In the end, I came up with a design that included the Exmoor Zoo logo surrounded by a variety of animals.
Throughout my stay at the zoo, I carried a watercolour book for producing small studies of the animals for when I had time to wander around. Sketching the animals from life rather than from reference photos was a struggle, but I enjoyed it and noticed an improvement over the 2 weeks.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Exmoor Zoo, and will miss being able to see all the amazing animals every day. I look forward to my next visit!