I used to colour with crayons on the floor in the pediatrician’s office, followed by drawing cartoons, stick people engaged in a range of activities, and finally some intense years of painting only one subject – my dog. My high school art teacher, Mrs. Grimsdick, eventually forbade me to paint, sculpt, sketch or embroider anything resembling my dog.

Without any other subject matter that interested me, I dropped painting and went on to do all kinds of other things.

Fifteen years ago, having recovered from Mrs. Grimsdick’s draconian directive, I began using watercolour to paint our three dogs, and Stuart, the cat. I stretched myself further by painting our sons and their friends.

In November 2014, what began as “My Year of Learning to Paint with Acrylics” became, “My Year of Learning All about Elephants, Whales and Chimpanzees”. My world has been enriched beyond measure by connecting with the organizations, and people within them, who toil against terrible odds to make the lives of other species much better. While I sometimes stray into the land of other subject matter, I paint predominantly animals, and very often the creatures that are helped by the following organizations:

  • The Centre for Whale Research, Friday Harbour, US
  • The Jane Goodall Institute, Canada
  • The Fauna Foundation (Canada’s only sanctuary for primates retired from biomedical research), PQ, Canada
  • The Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Kenya
  • The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya
  • The New England Anti-Vivisection Society (NEAVS), Boston, USA

 Dr. Jane Goodall made a brave stand when she gave the subjects of her research names instead of numbers. She showed us that animals most definitely have emotions, enjoy complex lives, communicate in ways we cannot. I think that if we know about an individual animal – where they have lived, what has been their journey, their struggle, their joy – then we might extend ourselves more compassionately to other species. It’s my great pleasure to paint the animals that inspire me the most, including my dogs.


Valerie Rolfe
Victoria, BC

Email: valerielouiserolfe@gmail.com