Justin Hilden has been a GLAZA member for the past two years and can’t imagine a life in L.A. without a Zoo membership. A Minnesota native, he moved to Los Angeles with his wife, Autumn, in 2005. Five years ago, they moved to Burbank. Living less than five minutes away from the Zoo, they took the plunge and became members. The couple loves animals and themed environments, which makes the Zoo the perfect place for them.
“There’s something so nice about the [North America] area behind the gorilla exhibit that is the perfect way to escape a stressful day at work,” Justin answers when asked about his favorite sections to visit. His favorite time of day to visit the Zoo is the hour before closing. He loves seeing the animals relaxed and waking up from their afternoon slumber.
Outside of the Zoo, Justin is an illustrator and animator for the Jim Henson Company, and his wife is a novelist and works in publishing as an editor. (The couple is currently collaborating on a graphic novel.) The Zoo serves as a place of inspiration and observation for his work. “Oh, Possum!” is a project Justin worked on a couple years ago. In order to understand the movements of an opossum, Justin spent some time in the nursery section of the Zoo observing the ground squirrel. “It doesn't have to be the exact animal,” he explains, “as long as there's enough related biology to inspire me and keep me motivated.” He truly loves drawing animals, and whenever the opportunity arises, he enjoys finding a quiet area away from crowds where he can sit, observe an animal for a long period of time, and draw that creature in motion.
See some of his work here.