Originally Published: January 8, 2015 8:58 p.m.
"If having a soul means being able to feel love, loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans." - All Creatures Great and Small, James Herriot.
The love of working with "creatures great and small" is the motivating force behind local artist and wildlife biologist, Audrey Owens, in choosing a career with the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Audrey grew up living all over the world, as part of a military family. She became proficient in adapting to new environments, much like the animals she studies. One of the constants through the years of moving and travel was Audrey's love of nature, a passion supported by her family's engagement in hiking, camping and fishing. Audrey shares, "because of this I became fascinated with wildlife, especially amphibians and reptiles." Now as a wildlife biologist Audrey feels privileged to be working in a career that is truly not "just a job" but how she defines herself and her relationship to the environment.
Along with the love of nature, drawing/illustrating the wildlife she encountered started in childhood as well. Audrey's mom was an artist who painted and drew in her free time. She encouraged and mentored Audrey's natural talents for observation and illustration with a ready supply of art materials and instructions on what it meant to "see" your environment. Audrey recognized, from a very young age, that she would make the study of the natural world her life. Upon completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Florida in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, she earned a Masters of Science in Forest Resources at the University of Georgia. Although she was accepted into the Scientific Illustration program at UC Santa Cruz, Audrey decided instead to complete her dream of being a wildlife biologist. The side benefit would be the opportunity to gather inspiration and information for her wildlife portraits.
We can thank our own desert tortoise for luring Audrey to Arizona, from her Florida Fish and Wildlife job. She saw an opening for a position with Arizona Game and Fish in the study of herpetology (amphibians and reptiles) and she knew that was just what she was looking for. Although she had never visited Arizona, Audrey said she decided to follow her passion and make the move west, a decision she has never regretted. Audrey loves the diversity of the state's topography, climate and species composition. It's fascinating to her that in an hour and a half she can go from enjoying the warm lush deserts to walking through snow in a stand of Aspen on the slopes above Flagstaff. For her it's an endless exploration of wildlife habitats and working toward their health and preservation.
Audrey exhibits her work in a number of venues. Recently her piece "Guarded", a pen and ink drawing of a Sonoran Desert tortoise was in the Annual Five15 to the Fifth, a group exhibit at Five15 Arts in downtown Phoenix. Audrey's watercolor, "Waiting for the Rain" is published as the frontispiece for the book, "Frogs of the United States and Canada." She also creates logos for professional wildlife and fisheries organizations and symposia. Audrey actively explores opportunities to combine her love of wildlife with her love of illustrating. Art is not only a way to relax for Audrey but it's also a way to promote wildlife awareness. As she explains it, "Studying animals, in their natural habitat gives me an insight to the animals presence and personality. You have to be a keen observer to pickup and translate the "individual's" spirit into your art." Recently, Audrey switched positions at Game and Fish for an assignment of evaluating projects, all over Arizona, to ensure Arizona's fish and wildlife are protected through environmental compliance. Audrey looks forward to continuing her work with Arizona Wildlife as well as capturing them, for our enjoyment, in her continuing series of wildlife portraits.
Contact Shea Stanfield at email@example.com.