Thursday, 9 August 2012

A one dimensional dog and a lot of animals who weren't there...

I recently bid on a job on People Per Hour.  It was to draw cartoon type illustrations of three different dogs - a greyhound, a lurcher and a scruffy stray.  I submitted my bid with a sample of some dog illustrations and received a reply advising that although they'd received bids from lots of talented artists none matched the image they wanted and in order to be considered I could do their drawing 'test' with rough sketches of the three dogs.  They wanted them to be able to show a variety of doggie expressions but at the same time wanted them to be one dimensional and very simple. 

A scruffy woebegone stray - pen and ink

Well,  I spent an entire afternoon trying to draw them in the simple, flat, style they wanted.  I discovered that I'm not very good at it(every time I thought one dimensional cartoon, the only image that popped into my head was Snoopy!)  Anyway, I sent them off but haven't heard anything back and it seems that the job has been paused. I don't even know what that means but I don't think my bid will win even if they un-pause it which is a shame as it's to raise awareness of dog adoption, but I thought I'd post them here so that my afternoon spent  Googling greyhounds and lurchers and rough sketching them wasn't a complete waste of time!

An 'elegant' greyhound - pen and ink

an energetic lurcher - pen and ink

In other news, we went to Belfast Zoo last week. If you read my blog at all regularly, you’ll know I’m not really a fan of animals being kept in captivity for human viewing pleasure. That said, I’m enough of a realist to know that because we’ve hunted so many of these amazing creatures to the brink of extinction, if we want them to survive on this planet at all then it’s necessary for zoos to provide a conservation role and adopt breeding programmes to help replenish the numbers. There are some amazing zoos that do just that and Belfast Zoo claims to be one of them.

A baby giraffe - such beautiful creatures.

Lion tailed macaque 

Lioness - she was actually mid yawn - probably bored of humans staring in at her.

Andean Bear


This penguin walked up and down for about 15 minutes deciding whether to jump into the water!

Let’s just say, we weren’t impressed. Half the enclosures were empty; those that did have animals in were situated so strangely as to make it extremely difficult to actually see the animals and none of them were big enough for the animals to exhibit their natural behaviours, in my humble opinion. Where there was glass to protect the public (or the animal, more likely) it was so dirty inside and out that it was hard to see through and there was a general run-down air about the place. The tiger enclosure had a moat across it that was so stagnant it was completely covered in bright green slime on which floated umpteen empty bottles and cans thrown in by a public that clearly couldn’t care less about the animals they’d paid to visit or the harm their litter may cause.

The moat at the Tiger enclosure - apparently the koi carp who normally eat the algae aren't big enough yet!
(Not sure who normally eats the litter!)

Prairie Dogs: 'I don't like to gossip but the tiger's enclosure is more like a pig sty!'

Needless to say I wrote a lengthy essay on the Zoo’s online feedback form expressing my disappointment with the level of care shown to the animals which did nothing to convince me they were better off there than in their own natural habitat. 

Amazingly, there was a big 3 page letter waiting for me when I got home from work on Thursday evening addressing all my concerns. I appreciate that they did take the time to reply to each of the issues I mentioned with reasons and explanations for why things were the way they were but, honestly, I'm not really convinced and I don't think it will make me ever want to visit the zoo here again.  The only good thing I learned was that the cockatoos which I was concerned about being in small enclosures by themselves are being transferred to Tenerife to be paired with mates so at least the won't spend their whole lives lonely!

My favourite critter of the day - such a friendly wee Cockatoo - just posing for me on the other side of the glass.

Who's a pretty boy then!

Leadbeater's Cockatoo - also migrating to Tenerife soon to find a mate!

A golden crested crane

Zebra head 
Zebra butt - I just thought they had lovely tails, is all!

We went there hoping to take some photos of the inhabitants – I needed reference photos to work from and unfortunately I’m not likely to see any of these creatures in their natural habitats so we tried as best we could to take photos that didn't show us reflected in the dirty glass and also left out the bars and fences keeping these beautiful creatures captive. 

I'll leave you with an actual conversation S overheard between a young boy and girl at the elephant enclosure -

Boy – ‘Look at that elephant dipping its beak in the water’

Girl – ‘That’s not a beak, that’s a snout’
Me when S told me -'Sigh'

Don't forget to visit Paint Party Friday - There's no actual paint on my blog this week so I hope the bouncer's don't refuse me entry ;0)


  1. How sad to see the pictures of neglect! The animals all seem to have such day eyes, too. But good for you writing to the zoo, and I'm glad they didn't ignore your letter, which is often the case. Love your doggy cartoons! Valerie

  2. Very interesting post, and yes, that moat is disgusting!
    I wonder if people in that city could gather together and find the funds to keep it clean? It is probably the cost of living that is keeping them from having more people to do their job., It least that's my first guess.
    Thanks for sharing!

  3. SO sorry I missed PPF last week, but sill read your interview and loved it!!! Thanks for sharing:-) Your doggies are wonderful - the contrast between the emotions of scruffy and lurcher really shows that you know how to capture different emotions. SO sad about the state of the zoo... I a proud of you for writing - that may just make a difference in the lives of those animals! But the pictures are INCREDIBLE. I cant wait to see your creative renditions!

  4. You have made me appreciate my local zoo. It is fabulous and they have worked very hard to get as large an area for the animals with as close to "natural" as possible. I used to take the kids there when they were little. We NEVER would have seen trash like that or the green moat anywhere.

  5. Loving your wonderful sketches and am sure you will hear back at sometime in the future. The zoo pictures you've shown are disturbing and pleased to hear the zoo actually took the time to respond to you. Happy PPF, Annette x

  6. I love your puppy sketches. :) First one looks so sad. Awesome photos as well. I wouldn't think fish lived in that pond apart from frogs maybe. :) Don't they have people to clean up that rubbish?

  7. The sketch I like best is the running dog with his tongue hanging out. It reminds me of my now-deceased Mitzi. And your photos of the zoo are wonderful. I hope you will be doing some paintings from them.

  8. Wow you've covered a lot of territory here. First off Fantastic photographs taken at the zoo. The littering is abominable; how can people be so disrespectful and such slobs. I loved the Zebra's ass and the giraffes is a great reference for a painting. Your scruffy dog did look scruffy and sad, but maybe the background should have been an alley cluttered with garbage? As for the other two they look like nice dog drawings to me. After what I just wrote, I'm thinking maybe it is the background that tells more about the dog than the dog itself?

  9. I like your dog drawings, you definitely did not waste your afternoon. Creating is valuable time spent. I hope you hear something back on your submission soon.

  10. I really love you dog sketches! Particularly the first one - he looks constipated, lol! I hope you do get it if they 'unpause'! My fingers are crossed anyway.
    I'm with you on the zoo thing. It's bitter sweet visiting. That said, we went to Longleat Safari Park which was spotless, not at all run down and as far as enclosures go, they couldn't be better. You should try there one day :0)

  11. Your drawings, your words, and your photographs all convey so much emotion. I really hope that you will hear back about your drawings. They evoke so much emotion I can only believe they will help a lot of animals.

  12. What a shame. It does make me sad. I also have a thing about litter. I was at the park with my son this afternoon and we picked up a load of empty cans and wrappers that thoughtless people had just abandoned.

  13. I think your dog sketches are very good, whether they are selected or not. The practice is always worthwhile. Love your animal photos! Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

  14. I agree with you...zoos should make the animal's habitat as close to their real environment as possible. I can't stand to see neglect!

    Also can't stand when you put all your time and effort into creating something only to get back a standard response "While your work is good, it doesn't fit our needs at this time." Arghhh! Don't let them get you down. I think your work is awesome!!!

  15. Your dog pen and inks are lovely. I especially like the greyhound. Good for you for writing to the Zoo and telling them what you saw and your concerns. We do need to be a voice for those who have no voice. Well done. Happy PPF

  16. Your sketches are A-1! Photos just awesome. That moat really looks unkempt. Why do they let things go like that? Beautiful creatures, all of them. Thanks.

  17. Your drawings of the dogs are not in vein as I enjoyed seeing them all.
    Your photos are exceptionally good! Sorry the zoo is not in good state of affairs, yes nice you got a response and hope they follow through and make it better for the animals. So beautiful they are. HPPF sans paint!

  18. your dogs are adorable... i hope they unpause the bid soon and that you win!

    so sad to see the conditions at the belfast zoo. that tiger moat looks like a real hazard. i suppose it's good that the zoo got back to you so quickly... i hope the conditions improve just as quickly.

    lovely photos of the animals... i especially like the zebra butt...errr. tail! :-)

  19. Well doncha know it...I am out of pocket last week and missed you being the featured artist. Congrats on that, you deserve it.

    Sorry the visit to the zoo was so disappointing. If it makes humans feel bad, imagine what it does to the animals. Maybe you can start using your art to raise awareness and get some improvements made.

    Hope you hear something about your doggie designs. They are great, but sometimes postings like that go nowhere. It seems like the people have a really specific idea of what they want, I didn't even know what a lurcher was.

    Thanks for the Lieber award last week, I was so surprised! I'll let you know when I post the follow up.

  20. I am not a fan of zoos either, I always come away feeling a little sad. The litter in that moat was hideous, and that is a statement about the visitors who throw their rubbish in the moat, as much as the zoo staff maintenance people.

    But your photos are stunning. Great reference shots.

  21. Good for you for expressing your concerns for the animals in the zoo's Comment card. Let's hope they read it and take what you've written to heart...and make some necessary changes.

    I love your doggie sketches, btw. If they're looking for expressive 1-D dogs, you've nailed it. LOOK NO FURTHER, folks!

    Happy Weekend, amiga!

  22. Your doggy sketches are amazing and fun!! I love them!!Not a fan of zoos and refuse to go. I just abhor animals in captivity. I went once and was so upset by it I've refused to go every other time!! It's just me. I do agree with animal conservation by experts who truly care. Unfortunately some times it's the almighty buck that is the only motivator!..sad. Love your photos though. Glad you felt passionate to write on behalf of the vulnerable!!

    Hugs Giggles

  23. Your dog creations are excellent ~ photos are great too ~ (not a fan of zoos, pet stores or any animal in captivity ~ want to let them all out) ~ Great job ~ (A Creative Harbor)

  24. I think your dog sketches are wonderful. I enjoyed the animal photos too. I always have reservations about going to the zoo because I have a hard time with the way the animals are kept. I do prefer zoos that have a "natural" setting for the animals.

  25. The shape of the zoo is sad, but you did get some stunning photos! ... I have been watching the dvd" we bought a zoo" over and over with my son lately, it's a happy movie, and might make you feel better about zoos, just a little bit

  26. Oh my, I would adopt that stray right away. What a sad cutie! Love the greyhound too. Good on you for writing a complaint to the zoo! The more people that do that, the more pressure they're under to do something about it!

  27. Great post Nicola, as usual. Love the dog sketches :0)

    Did I tell you that my granddaughter dropped her SAVE THE ARCTIC MONKEYS campaign?

  28. Great blog and great post - I feel the same about zoos and would much rather see animals in their natural habitat but understand the conservation role they play - I live near Chester Zoo which seems to care very much about animals displaying natural behaviour etc and I do love going there as I don't get to visit Africa that often!!! (as in never!!) Your photographs are brilliant, some great close ups, look forward to seeing some artwork from them - off to add you to my side bar!!!

  29. The greyhound is my favorite! I would have a hard time drawing in that flat style too, but you did a great job. And way to go, putting yourself out there and putting a bid in for the job!

  30. I'd adopt that scruffy one for sure and the second one, too, Nicola. The third one has a little too much energy for me, though. Smile..... beautiful animal photos.


Your comments always colour me happy! Thank you for popping by.


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