Did you know that there’s such a thing as World Monkey Day? I didn’t until I was having a think about what to write about today. Once I discovered Monkey Day, I knew that I had the theme for this post! And, who best to illustrate it? 

I recalled that Rita Kirkman had done a series of paintings for a collection known as the Alphabet. And, I remembered that there was a baboon among them. So I reached out to Rita to see if she’d say something about “B is for Baboon” and to ask if she had more paintings of monkeys. Happily, she did!

So let’s get to Rita’s Monkeys. (You can read more about the origins of World Monkey Day here.) 


Monkey Day-Rita Kirkman, "B is for Baboon," pastel, 8 x 8 in.
Rita Kirkman, “B is for Baboon,” pastel, 8 x 8 in.


B is for Baboon was painted for my Animal Alphabet series back in 2016. This was a time I had a painter’s block and decided to cure it by copying the idea of an alphabet series from another artist. 

My personal challenge with the series was not to paint anything I’d already painted before (so no “buffalo” or “black sheep” for “B”). Instead, I had to gravitate to the wild side! I was also determined to use only my own photos.


Rita Kirkman - reference photo and the start of "B is for Baboon."
Rita Kirkman – reference photo and the start of “B is for Baboon.”


As I have visited dozens of zoos over the years, the research was fun. This baboon was my best shot for a simple portrait painting. She was sitting right at the glass of the enclosure. The sunlight through the fuzzy cheeks was irresistible! You can see the whole process of painting this pastel here.


Monkey Day-Rita Kirkman, "Golden Tamarin," pastel, 6 x 6 in.
Rita Kirkman, “Golden Tamarin,” pastel, 6 x 6 in.


This little sunny monkey was done as a workshop demo. I absolutely love the vibrancy of Golden Tamarins: The fur perfectly matches my favourite underpainting colours, so pastelling this one was a breeze!


Monkey Day-Rita Kirkman, "Monke," pastel, 6 x 6 in
Rita Kirkman, “Monke,” pastel, 6 x 6 in


My son named this one Monke (the “e” is silent) because he thought this little monkey looked like a wizened old monk wearing a furry cowled cloak. I have no idea what kind of monkey this is, but I was thrilled to catch him in the light!”

These monkeys sure make me smile Rita!! Thanks!

And, if you’re like me, you want to do what you can to support charities that defend these wonderful animals. You can find a list of charities that do just that here.

By the way, Rita Kirkman was on our Pastel Live faculty last year and blew the audience away with her demo. Why not join us for next year’s Pastel Live event?



Speaking of Monkeys….Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait With Monkey


Artist Frida Kahlo painted a number of self-portraits with monkeys.  According to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery website where this painting can be viewed, Kahlo “was haunted by a desire to have children and looked for comfort in her many exotic pets. They roamed the house and garden of her childhood home in Coyoacán, Mexico, where she lived with her husband, artist Diego Revera from 1929 until her death in 1954.”


Monkey Day-Frida Kahlo, "Self-Portrait with Monkey," 1938, oil on masonite, 16 x 12 in (40.64 x 30.48cm), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, USA.
Frida Kahlo, “Self-Portrait with Monkey,” 1938, oil on masonite, 16 x 12 in (40.64 x 30.48cm), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, USA.


In this painting, Kahlo depicts herself with her pet spider monkey Furlang-Chang “whom she adored for his childlike and playful nature.”

And that’s it for this time!



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here