One of my favorite memories of childhood were my days spent at to the Kansas City Zoo. It was like going on a trip around the world, seeing exotic animals that had only previously graced the pages of my encyclopedias. I loved all kinds of animals, still do actually, but I was particularly taken with the giraffe because of the impressive height. That, and their seemingly preternatural ability to remain standing on legs that were obviously meant for a much smaller animal. At the time, the giraffes were in what I remember being a large pit so you were standing above them (as in this little 2-color doodlewash of a younger one as that is all that would fit in my tiny sketchbook). Later, as the zoo would continue to be updated, the giraffes were given more comfortable quarters and you would have to stare into the sky to take them all in. But since giraffes spend most of their life standing, including during childbirth, I always felt a bit sorry for the babies as their first memory is being toppling out of their mammoth mother and dropping unceremoniously over five feet to the ground.

The giraffes and elephants were in the Africa section and were the last stop on the tour back then. Most of the animal exhibits that were there during my childhood have changed and the zoo has grown in scale, making a trip today, just as impressive as when I was little. Philippe and I visited the zoo earlier this year and it was my first time there in many, many years. One of the changes that I missed was the reptile house. It was creepy as hell, humid and dank, with small little windows to peer into and see strange scaly creatures, culminating with a walk under a large python. I’m sure none of this was up to modern standards, but today’s replacement feels more like a visit to a pet store. I miss the drama and theatrics, but it probably wouldn’t impress me in quite the same way now that I’m over six feet tall and no longer told to leave the room during horror movies. But I was a bit disappointed by the omission nonetheless.

A trip to the zoo wasn’t complete however, without a visit to the gift shop. I remember getting a large package of little figurines of all different kinds of animals and it was amazing. It was like being able to take a miniature zoo home with me. The giraffes always seemed a bit fragile, though, so I played more with the fat and sturdy little elephants. In that moment, I was certain that when I grew up I would work with animals in a zoo. This, of course, changed each time I visited a new location or learned something new, but for a day at least, I was a future zookeeper. Truthfully, I’m still not quite sure what I want to be when I grow up, and I’m not ruling anything out yet. But something tells me that I’d have much more fun drawing the animals than cleaning up their poop, so perhaps everything turned out just as it should. In the meantime, I’ll just relive those wonderful childhood memories that made me who I am today and satisfy any latent animal caretaking urges with just a simple visit to the zoo.

Join us for the January Doodlewash Adventure: Childhood Memories,
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About the Doodlewash

Sennelier L’Aquarelle: Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Deep. Lamy Safari Al Star pen with Platinum Carbon with black ink in a little red cloth hardbound l’aquarelle journal I found in a Paris shop.
 Day 2 - #WorldWatercolorGroup A Visit to the Zoo animal young baby giraffe on white background
Posted by:Charlie O'Shields (doodlewash)

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world!

26 replies on “A Visit To The Zoo

  1. Your baby giraffe is truly adorable with those gigantic eyes, stick out ears, and spindly legs that seem to surpass scientific logic in holding up the spotted boat of a creature. I like that you chose a challenging frontal pose to represent as profile is much easier. Your reminiscence of visiting the zoo as a kid are close to mine though I never willingly entered any area with snakes or bugs – still don’t.

    As for not being sure what you want to be when you grow up – don’t bother. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. This way you can always change your goals to match your newest interest.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I LOVE giraffes!! ❤❤❤ I think I told you how I drew, painted and created giraffes for a year in 2013! And I was so excited to actually feed REAL ones in the Colorado Springs zoo…(super weird though because there was snow on the ground at the time!) 😮❄️ I also have a large stuffed giraffe that my hubby gave me that year for my birthday. ❤ Giraffes are the best, Charlie – yours included! 🎨👍🌈💕

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Like your giraffe, Charlie….growing up in the wilds of W. Montana…no childhood trip to a zoo. Saw and lived with lots of wildlife on frequent forays to the mountains and both Glacier and Yellowstone Parks. I enjoy your blog posts and continue to enjoy the challenges of painting things for my journal from the Challenge list. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. He’s awesome, and so friendly-looking! It’s like he’s thinking about whether to come and say hello or not. My zoo visits were few and far between; I keep meaning to remedy that as an adult and see some more tigers (and giraffes, of course!), but never get round to it. This year!

    Liked by 1 person

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