Friday, July 1, 2016

Donkeys Around Town

If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook you've probably seen some photos of the latest project I've been working on, Donkeys Around Town.

Here's a description of the project from :
The Donkeys Around Town program is a civic initiative of the Philadelphia 2016 Host Committee for the Democratic National Convention. In celebration of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, fifty-seven fiberglass donkeys will be painted by local artists to represent the fifty states, Washington, D.C. and the six U.S. territories. The donkeys, the symbol of the Democratic Party, will be displayed from July 1 – 31, 2016 at popular sites and attractions throughout Philadelphia.
The Donkeys Around Town program will include a social media campaign as well as a scavenger hunt - facilitated through an app that will be created specifically for this program - in order to engage residents, delegates and visitors in the excitement around the Convention and make everyone feel like they are part of the action in Philadelphia during Convention week.
I applied for the project through ArtJawn, and was one of the artists chosen to paint two donkeys. I was assigned Alaska and North Carolina.  Each artist was given 6 ideas from their states' delegation, and had to use at least three to represent the state or territory.

Here are the originals sketches I submitted for the donkey plans:

Alaska asked for Mt Denali, salmon, northern lights, a moose, forget me nots (the state flower), and their flag (the big dipper). The black rectangle is where the state name goes.
North Carolina wanted mountains, a lighthouse, BBQ, cardinals (their state bird), and dogwood (their state flower). The BBQ design was changed because they decided they would like long leaf pines to represent the middle of their state.

If you would like to see pictures of the donkeys in progress, please take a look on my Instagram.

Here's the finished Alaska donkey:

This is before the letterer painted the state name.

All of the artists worked together in a warehouse. You can see Vermont's donkey behind mine. We had under a week to finish the donkeys; it was a very tight timeline, but a lot of fun!

Here are some Alaska details:

 Here's the finished North Carolina donkey:

I added a woodpecker and fox squirrel to represent a longleaf pine forest. I also thought a rainbow was appropriate for North Carolina democrats.

Here's a detailed look:

 You can see the texture of the donkey here. They are made out of fiberglass; it was a challenging surface to paint on, but donkeys do have fur.

Here's a close up of the cardinals from instagram:

A photo posted by Sarah Ryan (@sarahryandraws) on

The donkeys have been delivered to their location all around the city. I'll get more pictures of the donkeys when they are out "in the wild".  Here's the official map with the donkey locations for all of the states:

The North Carolina donkey is at the Jim's Steaks on South St (yum!), and Alaska is hanging out at the Sofitel Hotel near Rittenhouse (fancy!).

A photo posted by Sarah Ryan (@sarahryandraws) on

I'm going to try to get a photo of Alaska this Sunday, so check my Instagram.

This project has gotten a lot of press coverage! I tried not to make eye contact with any cameras, but you can see me at the very end of this clip: 57 Painted Donkeys to Decorate for DNC

I want to end with photos of some of the other artist's donkeys; I'm linking from Instagram, but you can find a listing of all artists on Also, keep checking out the #donkeysaroundtown tag on Twitter and Instagram to see all the donkeys.

A photo posted by Brian Cesario (@briancesario) on

A photo posted by mrgnthomas (@mrgnthomas) on

There will be a scavenger hunt with PRIZES in Philadelphia starting July 21. A listing of the prizes is here:

Have fun finding the donkeys!


  1. What an amazing honor! Congrats on being selected:) I'll bet you never thought you'd paint on a donkey !!! Laura

  2. Thanks for this blog. I love the donkeys. I've photographed 40 of them and hope they are still out there after this heat wave, so I can see the rest. Your donkeys look fabulous - I did see AK in person but haven't gotten to Jim's to see NC. Love your wildlife painting.


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