Taronga Wild! Rhinos

Taronga Wild! Rhinos was a Wild in Art event running in Sydney, Australia from February to April 2014. My rhino "Unicorn Horn" was part of the mass public art exhibition to help raise awareness and valuable funds for Taronga Zoo’s world leading Black Rhino breeding program and in-situ conservation projects. A spectacular world-class sculpture trail was created, rhinos could be found in the Sydney Harbour foreshore through the Blue Mountains to Dubbo and the Central West region of NSW. (Mine was in Darling Harbour) After the event, the rhinos were sold at auction with the net proceeds of $461 000 going to support Taronga’s rhino conservation efforts. "Unicorn Horn" was bought by Mr and Mrs Bradley for $15 000 (who had previously sponsored it for $7000) and donated to the children's ward in the Prince of Wales Comprehensive Cancer Centre.

"Unicorn Horn"
I wanted to depict the rhino as a vulnerable creature that needs saving - the exact opposite of the tough impression we get when looking at this beautiful beast. I imagined how if the rhino were to become extinct, its horn might become mythical like that of the unicorns, to future generations. This is something we can not allow to happen. This unicorn rhino needs our protection and action if we want to continue admiring it amongst its fellow African friends in the bush : the Meerkat, Snake, Baboon and Tortoise playing happily around its legs.
After wiping down the rhino, I start drawing on the design with blue chalk, which is easier to rub off than pencil.
I created templates for the stars and butterflies to keep the shapes consistent. Ipod Nano kept me moving!
Playing around with the butterfly placement, I wanted both unicorn sides to differ slightly in composition.
Using high pigment Matisse acrylics, I carefully painted around the edges of shapes with a smallish brush.
I then blocked in the rest of the blue colour with a much wider brush. My unicorn is starting to take shape!
Two to three layers of paint were needed to make it opaque. Now the fun begins...
Masking tape was used to make perfect crisp lines for the rainbow, I wanted to achieve a really graphic effect.
The masking tape is peeled off and the rainbow comes to life, albeit in alternate rows only.
The sculpture was awkward to paint at times, the detail down low was back breaking!
My workspace... The design I submitted and the Matisse Structure Formula Paint in vibrant colours.
Working in the warehouse provided for the artists was a wonderfully social experience. 
Detail of the little tortoise character on one of the grassy legs. One of four African animals I chose to depict.
Many hours spent listening to music and smelling acrylic paint... I was in my element! 
 
My little baboon emerges, using two different size brushes at the same time to get into tricky corners.
Work begins on the butterflies, colours are matched with the rainbow to make them bright and beautiful.
All the paint work is finally completed and I start to outline certain shapes to make them pop.
For the outlines I used a black Posca marker, an acrylic paint pen. This was faster to use than a small brush.
 
The sculpture was surprisingly light for a rhino - so up on the table he went for all the leg detail!
My unicorn finally completed and awaiting varnishing. What a pleasure it was to work on this project!  :)
Taronga Zoo's chief executive, Cameron Kerr, gave the opening speech at the Wild! Rhinos Launch.
Graham and Charlene Bradley were the generous sponsors of my rhino, it was a real pleasure to meet them!
(They also made the winning bid for him at the Taronga Auction held at the Star Casino, Darling Harbour.)
The launch was held at a Kennards Hire warehouse in Artarmon on Sydney's North Shore.
The plaque underneath my unicon detailing the project's purpose.
Unicorn Horn happy in her new home next to the childrens playground in Darling Harbour.
My rhino amongst others, featured in "Wild Life" magazine, Autumn 2014.
The auction held at The Star in Darling Harbour, was run by Anne Phillips from Art Market Works and the MC for the evening was Channel 7's Simon Reeve. Here fellow illustrator Georgia Perry's rhino "Safari Party" goes under the hammer.
A massive turnout for a worthy cause. $461 000 was raised for Taronga Zoo's rhino conservation efforts. Up front is rhino "Heavy Weight" by Marty Routledge, one third of The Hours collaboration.
"Unicorn Horn" was sold at auction for $15 000!
Back to Top