For my birthday this year, I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) on a sketching trip. One of the great joys of going there in the middle of the week in the middle of the winter is that I practically had the place all to myself. I sat for long stretches in front of some of the most popular displays without feeling crowded, harassed, or like I was in anyone’s way. What a gift!
As you might imagine, I spent most of my time in the aviary and near the other bird displays. Drawing living, moving creatures is always a challenge. Observing animals in captivity, especially birds, gives me at least a fighting chance of capturing a likeness. This was particularly true in the aviary, which is more open to the elements than other parts of the Aquarium. The birds (and I!) were cold and so they stood still more than usual. The larger birds, in their various enclosures, were somewhat less cooperative, though I was able to get some general shapes down. You can see the results above. Whether I was successful in capturing likenesses is up for debate (as usual).
While I hold the ethical dilemmas around captive animals in my mind and heart always, I also deeply appreciate the opportunity to have such close encounters with animals that I may never see in the wild. I also can personally attest to the dedication the MBA staff have to the lives of every single one of the animals in their care, the ones regularly seen by the public and the ones behind the scenes too. The work the MBA does on behalf of animals and ecosystems is truly incredible. It’s an amazing resource, especially for someone like me, who needs all the practice I can get drawing animals in motion. It’s such an inspiring experience every time I go!