“Art on the Wild Side”
Fall/Winter Season | September 15, 2019 – January 15, 2020
Savanna Grill | Phoenix Zoo 

Supported by
Rose & Harry Papp

The Arizona Center for Nature Conservation/Phoenix Zoo is introducing a rotating art exhibit program to enhance our visitors’ experience and to help communicate its important national and international conservation efforts.  Exhibited Artwork will embrace the mission of the Phoenix Zoo: to advance the stewardship and conservation of animals and their habitats while providing experiences that inspire people and motivate them to care for the natural world.

Extraordinary artists will showcase their unique vision of wildlife and conservation via photography, paint and mixed media. Through this exhibit, guests can engage in the Zoo’s mission to care for the natural world while being inspired by nature and animals. Art will be available for purchase and Zoo admission is required to visit the Savanna Gallery.

The Savanna Gallery is located in the Savanna Grill. A portion of the proceeds benefits the Zoo’s conservation initiatives.

~ Featured Artists: Fall/Winter ~


Do you use a camera?  This is a question I am asked rather frequently.  Absolutely!  Animals do not pose! But that being said, I do not copy or project an image.  I use a camera for reference and accuracy, and even inspiration.  I have taken anatomy courses, studied animals in the wild, sketched them at the zoo, and taken innumerable workshops and classes.  I feel very comfortable moving legs, twitching an ear or tail to create emotion and expression.  I have also found that my audience prefers correctness and precise drawing.  By utilizing my ability to draw, I can create the scene that I have visualized.

Years ago, when I was a little girl, I would ride my bike to the Hogel Zoo to visit Alice an Asian elephant.  I was enthralled with her.  I would always share my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with her, thinking to myself that one day, I would own an elephant.  Well, I may not own an elephant, but I can certainly draw one.  Painting an elephant or in my world today, painting a mule deer, or a coyote, bobcat, rabbit or burro, gives me the same pleasure I had as a child watching Alice.

I can’t imagine doing a painting without an animal or bird of some sort.  It has been a constant theme in my art, and it is foremost in my mind when I start a new painting.  Since, I can’t commandeer Noah’s Ark, I can love animals by painting them; leaving a legacy of their existence and hopefully bring to the viewer the same joy that I experience painting them.

I have had the honor of winning numerous awards for my art and pieces of my work can be found in the permanent collections of several libraries, museums and corporations.  The Phoenix Zoo has several Budge paintings in their permanent collection.  I designed the first stamp for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, created limited edition prints for the Colorado Ducks Unlimited and have had numerous Best in Show awards.  One of the highest honors was a painting commissioned in 1983 by the State of Wyoming as a gift to President Reagan.  This painting, depicting antelope hung for many years in the living room of the President’s California residence.  It was moved by the President himself to the Reagan Library in Simi Valley where it remains to this day.

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JENNIFER O’CUALAIN is a prolific painter of all things natural. Her popular wildlife paintings touch on the idea of illustrating the simple and honest physical characteristics of many species ranging from field mice to bison.

“I strive to make my paintings more like portraits than typical animal art. The feel of fur under your hand is a relatively universal goal, but I want my viewer to get a sense of the individual animal.”

After graduating from Arizona State University in 1995 with a Bachelor’s Degree in painting, Jennifer continued to attend figure drawing classes. As a people portrait artist throughout high school and college, she knew that one day her love of animals would need to become a larger part of her everyday life. Now she has the opportunity to continue developing her ability to capture a likeness with her desire to spend time with animals.

“Traveling has allowed me to get close to animals in the wild in a way like I’d never expected. Last year I stood 10 feet away from a mature Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep while visiting Glacier National Monument. He stood only briefly while I stared in awe. I could see deep into his big dark eyes. This majestic wild animal had no fear of me, in fact, I almost felt as if he were as curious about me as I was about him. I feel an absolutely real sense that there is much more communication between humans and animals than anyone really considers.”

Jennifer has won countless awards for her work including a full scholarship to the Art Institute of Southern California at Laguna Beach, a full scholarship to attend Arizona State University and a cash scholarship offered only once by critically acclaimed James Reynolds, CAA.

In 2010, Jennifer was honored by the Oil Painter’s of America for Animals Award of Excellence for Associate and Signature members.




SUSAN SCHMITZ is a photographer & digital artist that specializes in creating images of wildlife and domestic animals.  Over the past 12+  years. Susan has developed two separate bodies of work that portray her passions and compassion in unique ways.

A Dog’s Life Photography specializes in fun, whimsical and conceptual images of domestic animals. Most of the animal models used in her work were photographed through her Rescue Group Photo Program which was developed as a way to help animal welfare organizations to find homes for pets by providing them with high-impact photos that give adoption ads greater visibility. To keep this program running, these images are then licensed through her stock photography library to the pet industry for their commercial marketing needs.

A Wild Life Photography features a library of both documentary style and creatively composited images that are representative of her wanderlust spirit, awe of nature and devotion towards animals of all kinds. A portion of proceeds of print sales in this collection are donated to various nature conservation and humanitarian aide organizations worldwide.

Susan has recently partnered up with April Howland to launch Adventure Artists International, LLC. They provide photographers and artists with local and international art and philanthropic experiences that inspire global impact through creativity, connection and conservation.

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