Daisy's First Day, Belfast Zoo
Daisy’s First Day, Belfast Zoo
This painting is depicting Belfast Zoo, but not as you know it. Using my imagination I’ve created a collective of images that the zoo represents to me. Fond memories from my own childhood and historic changes, which have taken place over the past eighty-six years. Before the zoo the site was used as a playground and pleasures grounds, it was a popular designation for day trips. Its was called Bellevue Garden’s, Bellevue means ‘good’ or ‘pretty view’. In my painting you see the name Bellevue where it previously was at the older entrance. This entrance is so familiar to me because I used to take the school bus to Glengormley high school everyday. We drove passed the high brick walls and the remnants of the previous entrance along the Antrim Road.
The elephant in the painting is called Daisy, she’s important to the history of the Belfast zoo, as she was the first ever elephant. Daisy arrived in Belfast on the 27th of March and it was the day before the official opening. She travelled into Belfast docks on the Heysham steamer with only a note attached to her ear saying “lead me with this” So the zoo worker at the time Manus Kane offered Daisy the stick and she wrapped it around her truck. In the painting you see the zookeeper-leading Daisy along with the stick. Daisy also made a memorable journey to the zoo, causing a lot of mischief, scaring a bakers carthorse causing it to bolt down York Street and scattering loaves of bread all over the road. When she got to Duncairn Gardens, the elephant decided she wanted dessert. She spied a fruit and vegetable display at a greengrocers and plundered straight in emerging with a large turnip on the end of her trunk!
This piece took me over a couple of months to plan and paint. I love the fact and fiction element’s to it. The Cave Hill is also depicted by ‘Napoleons nose’ at the top of the hill, this featured distinctive outline is probably the most recognized landmark, looming over the city. And in the distance over the Belfast lough another iconic image of Harland and Wolff cranes, also known as Samson and Goliath are painted in bright yellow. I’ve painted all my favorite animals in their enclosures and I feel the whole painting gives vibes of excitement and interest with lots of different stories going on all over the canvas. I painted this large canvas in both acrylic and oil, starting with the background colour's of the landscape. Then sketching with the oils and gently building on the colors and textures of the paint. I created all these characters and their personalities in both the animals and the people.
Doing a little animal research at Dublin's Natural History Museum in Feb 2019
Recently there’s been news reports about the possible closure of the zoo. I not able to comment on any reasons for that but from a personal point of view I would be so disappointed if this was true. I’ve so many happy childhood memories from there and I want to enjoy many more with my own family to. I have two young boys who also love a day out at the zoo. I really recommend an animal experience there; my husband bought me one for my birthday. I got to meet all the amazing giraffes up close and hand feed them, it was fabulous. But make sure your not to squeamish thou as the feeding bit can be a bit gross, especially the giraffe saliva. I ended up covered in it!!!!
Dawn Crothers Giraffe Enclosure Visit, Belfast Zoo 2018
I will be launching ‘Daisy’s Day Out’ as a limited edition Giclee print and also a very special small run of hand embellished canvas prints too, so please get in contact if you would like to pre-order one from me before the launch!
Many thanks and please Stay Home and Stay Safe during the Lockdown and once again I’d like to thank all the NHS Staff and keyworkers during these very challenging times we are living in!