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.
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.
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!