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Jett: A Dolphin Artist

Updated on April 5, 2012
Jett posing for a picture and enjoying the attention.
Jett posing for a picture and enjoying the attention.

Profile And Background

Jett is a twelve year old, sub-adult, Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin (tursiops truncatus) who lives at the Indianapolis Zoo. His mother is Ripley and his father, now deceased, is Sundance. He weighs about 194 kg (427 pounds) and has a scar behind his blowhole as a distinguishing mark. He was born on February 2, 2000 on Groundhog's Day. Some of his favorite pastimes include playing with toys, chomping on ice, chasing the girls around and trying to be dominant within the pod.

Jett being fitted with his painting ring.
Jett being fitted with his painting ring.
Patiently, so patiently awaiting his appartus.
Patiently, so patiently awaiting his appartus.
Here he is working on his brush strokes.
Here he is working on his brush strokes.

A Unique Brush Technique

My niece, Alicia, who trains and works with Jett, gave me one of his paintings for Christmas this year. I was intrigued and enthralled with the painting as she shared how Jett uses a brush to paint. The photos at right show the process and how he uses a custom made apparatus to create brush strokes on canvas. The paintbrush is attached to a ring that fits around his rostrum. Alicia dips the brush in the paint for him and then attaches it to the ring. You can see how patiently he waits while she prepares the canvas and tools for his use. He really gets into his paintings and attacks the board with excited vigor that shows in his art work. This activity stimulates him through the interaction with his trainer and the praise received in his work. Alicia says that after several strokes he gets so excited that he will take off around the pool for a victory lap as indicated by the picture below without him in it.

Once the world renown artist, Wyland, visited the Indianapolis Zoo to observe the marine exhibit. He stopped by to visit the dolphins and saw firsthand the talented works of Jett. Jett did a few brush strokes on canvas for him and Wyland completed the picture to create a beautiful painting.

Alicia waits while Jett takes off on a victory lap!
Alicia waits while Jett takes off on a victory lap!

How Jett Spends His Day

Just like the other dolphins in the pod, Jett eats a good amount of herring and caplein in his diet. Although he has a lot of sharp cone-shaped teeth, he uses them for grabbing and not to chew his food. He swallows his food whole. Dolphins in general can't drink the saltwater they live in and have to resort to getting their water source through the fish they eat.

Playing with toys is a big part of his day and he has tons of them to stimulate his interest. Because dolphins are such intelligent and curious animals, they need a good deal of stimulation through play. He receives supervised play where a trainer must be present for safety reasons and unsupervised play time so that a trainer can observe behavior. Jett in particular, LOVES balls: basketballs, footballs, anything in a ball form. When he plays with balls it requires supervision because they may pop and pose a safety hazard to him. Each night his toys are rotated and consist of anything from buoys to giant hoops for him to swim through. He even gets to play with Little Tykes toy pieces because they provide a rare enrichment activity.

Earlier I mentioned that Jett chomps on ice and the reason for this is quite interesting. As explained by Alicia, ice is not a part of his diet but it is considered a play item. He seems to enjoy the temperature, texture and shape in his mouth. This is similar to the sensory activity enjoyed by young infants and toddlers as they learn to eat a variety of foods.

Another interesting fact about Jett is how he sleeps. Dolphins are able to turn half of their brain off while the other half remains awake or active. The awake half will tell them to go to the surface for air and it also alerts them to predators. Once the sleeping half is completely rejuvenated the active half will rest. I find this a fascinating feature and one that I could use myself at times! I should add on that Jett has excellent vision both above and below the water and keeps an watchful eye on his surroundings. In fact, when he sees a trainer approach he vocalizes their presence. Believe it or not, he can tell the difference between a trainer and a veterinarian because he will use a specific vocal sound to announce their entrance.

The Final Masterpiece

In the photos above, this is actually Jett painting the picture I received at Christmas. My personal observation of his artwork is that Jett is simple but expressive with his brush technique. I can see how he used the brush to make firm and wispy strokes to create a masterpiece. If you look closely you can see a dolphin in the picture. I believe he was doing a self-portrait.

I plan to visit Jett this summer and look forward to spending some time with him. I will post another hub covering this trip to update his exciting story. After All, it is not every day that you meet a dolphin artist.


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    • ologsinquito profile image

      ologsinquito 3 years ago from USA

      I had heard that dolphins are intelligent, but I had no idea that at least one member of the species could actually paint. He must have been so proud of himself. :)

    • rdsparrowriter profile image

      rdsparrowriter 3 years ago

      I'm speechless, it's amazing. I really enjoyed reading it and waiting to know about the Jett and how you enjoyed the day... Voted up useful and awesome :)

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 4 years ago from South Carolina

      Wow! Never heard of a dolphin painting before. Enjoyed this hub and the photos of Jet and his paintings.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

      Dianna, very interesting hub. I bet you can't wait for your visit ti see Jett (maybe you have already been by now?). I also want the ability to switch off half of my brain :o)

    • whonunuwho profile image

      whonunuwho 4 years ago from United States

      A very unique look into the life of dolphins and how they use their intelligence to challenge even the human one. Nice job, teaches, and enjoyed.

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 4 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      You know, I looked at Jett’s painting before I read all of your hub and I just knew it was a dolphin!

      This was a really interesting, informative and worthwhile hub, teaches. Voted up etc.

    • profile image

      v1p3r 4 years ago

      Awesome

      Thank You

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      The Dolphin has always amazed me with their intelligence, but I never knew how they slept. Interesting Hub.

      Jett is a very talented fellow!

      I voted this UP, etc. and will share.

    • Mike Robbers profile image

      Mike Robbers 4 years ago from London

      what an adorable and "talented" dolphin ! Jeff must feel lucky to have your niece taking care of him and keeping him so well entertained,,

      Perfect Hub , voted up & shared

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      I think everyone is fascinated by dolphins but not too many have as much knowledge about them as you do. I would say this hub is 'artictically' done and throws education in as well. As others have said before me, your niece is fortunate to have a job she loves especially with a creature as fascinating as Jett. The painting is fabulous and yes, I can see a dolphin in it!

      Voted this up, awesome, and interesting.

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      An engaging hub! I have heard about animal artists. I like dolphins not only because they looked cute but also their keen intelligence and abundance of talents. It is nice to know that your niece Alicia is Jett's trainer. I admired the information concerning how the dolphin sleeps and responds and all stated by you. A fetching hub! Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Awesome & Interesting. Voted up & shared on Facebook

    • unknown spy profile image

      IAmForbidden 4 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

      Hi Dianna..that was one amazing story. Would really like to see Jett personally :)thanks for posting this wonderful story

    • Maralexa profile image

      Marilyn Alexander 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada and San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

      This is a beautiful story of a very talented dolphin. And what a prize - a picture painted by Jett. Thanks for sharing. I agree that dolphins are extraordinary animals. It was just great meeting your niece too. Thanks very much.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Jools99, thanks for your stopping by to read the hub. Yes, my niece is doing her dream job. She has worked with animals since her early teens and this just completes her career high.

      KDuBarry, thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I think dolphins are one of the most fascinating and enjoyable creatures made. I hope to visit Jett some times this year.

    • profile image

      KDuBarry03 5 years ago

      This is so beautiful! I absolutely love dolphins. Thank you for sharing!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      I love Dolphins and Jett looks like he likes to have fun. Is your niece doing her dream job?

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Sgbrown. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. I am glad that you actually got to play with one of these sweet animals. Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Kelley. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. They would be really fun to see and to paly with for sure. Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Becky. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. Yes, I think it would be great to work with these animals. Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
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      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Chris. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit, supportive vote and comment. Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Sky. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. Glad you enjoyed Jett's story. Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Anaya. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. She is an incredible woman who loves animals. Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello justmesuzzne. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. You take care now.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Debby. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. I am so glad that someone else could see the portrait! Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Magdelene. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. I hope that you get your wish, that would be awesome! Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Eiddwen. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. You made me chuckle, I'll bet you can paint pretty good. Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Ann. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. I will have to get up there to see Winter. Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello Millionaire. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. Jett is a well pampered dolphin. Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello ahorseback. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. I appreciate your comment and the added quote, it is true! Take care.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello James. I didn't get this email alert and just found your comment as I was in this hub. So sorry. Thanks for your kind visit and comment. Yes, the dolphine is amazing! Take care.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Dolphins are amazingly intelligent animals. I was fortunate enough to get to "play" with one in the past and it was a very unique experience. This is a wonderful hub, voted up and interesting. Have a great day! :)

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Great story about Jett the painter. I wish I lived closer to dolphins. My boys love them. thanks for sharing!

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      This was a wonderful tale about Jett. It would be so fascinating to work with intelligent mammals like dolphins. I enjoyed it very much and will watch for the rest of the story about Jett when you visit him this summer.

    • Chris Achilleos profile image

      Chris Achilleos 5 years ago

      amazing story, voted up :)

    • Sky9106 profile image

      Sky9106 5 years ago from A beautiful place on earth.

      Beautifully done , they are fascinating animals and you have done them some great justice here .

      Heep up the good work. A great piece.

      Bless.

    • Anaya M. Baker profile image

      Anaya M. Baker 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow, what an interesting story. Your niece seems like a fascinating young woman, and Jett is quite a character!

    • justmesuzanne profile image

      justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

      Fascinating first-hand account! Voted up and awesome! :)

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 5 years ago

      Hi Teaches ~ Absolutely fascinating facts about this playful mammal, his habits, needs and artistic skills. yes. I saw the self-portrait right away. Many animals have been trained to do paintings. Blessings, Debby

    • Magdelene profile image

      Magdelene 5 years ago from Okotoks

      Hi Teaches

      Jett is totally awesome, love them to pieces. Swimming with the Dolphins in open ocean is on my To-Do list, this is something that I truly want to do before the end of my time here.

      Great Hub, voted up!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      What an amazing artist;wow how I would live to be able to paint;oh well can't have everything I suppose. ha ha!!

      Take Care And Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • anndavis25 profile image

      anndavis25 5 years ago from Clearwater, Fl.

      Those sensitive creatures seem to know us humans well. You know...we have Winter, the dolphin right here in Clearwater.

      Wonderful hub and fun. Alicia is a lucky girl.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 5 years ago from USA

      That is amazing! He is a very talented artist. I think it is great that your niece and others take the time to play with him and keep him entertained.

    • ahorseback profile image

      ahorseback 5 years ago

      This is awesome , I love it and surprisingly it reminds me of an abstract that a waitress near here painted , what do the minds share ? Man , animal !?!Voted this up , because ? Its a perfect hub!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

      I surely enjoyed being introduced to Jett, the dolphin artist. Your article is lovely and so is your niece. I would be as proud as you are if my niece worked with Jett.

      "After All, it is not every day that you meet a dolphin artist."

      You can say that again. :-)

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      RTalloni, thanks for the visit and your comments on Jett's hub. Yes, I have learned a lot about this wonderful creature and hope to learn more on my visit.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      What a neat look at dolphin habits and talent! Thanks for sharing what you've learned about them.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thanks for your visit and comment, Peggy W. Yes, my niece is fortunate to work with dolphins. This is her passion and was a childhood dream come true. Glad you enjoyed Jett's story.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 5 years ago from Houston, Texas

      This was an interesting hub to read and I enjoyed learning about your niece's first hand interaction with the dolphin named Jeff. Must be a thrill for her! Thanks for sharing this with us! Up and interesting votes.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thanks for the visit, ChristyWrites. I appreciate your read and leaving a comment. I am planning a trip soon to visit Jett and will update his story.

    • ChristyWrites profile image

      Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I like learning about Jett and the amazing ability to paint. Great hub!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Blawger, I never thought of it that way but dolphins are a type of water-dog. They are playful, intelligent and love their masters. Thanks for stopping by and I do appreciate your comment.

    • Blawger profile image

      Bahin Ameri 5 years ago from California

      This is a great hub. in my view dolphins are like water dogs. You and your niece are so lucky to be able to interact with such an intelligent and beautiful creature. I wouldn't doubt that Jett drew a self-portrait, they are one of only a few animals which are self- aware and can recognize themselves in a mirror (elephants can too!) I look forward to your update on Jett this summer.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Phoebe, it is similar to the elephant painter story. Isn't it fascinating how animals can express themselves? Thanks for stopping in for a visit. Take care.

    • profile image

      Phoebe Pike 5 years ago

      Oh wow! Jett seems like a very talented dolphin. It reminds me of the elephant who could paint nature scenes...

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Yes, he is very expressive and enjoys his ability to paint. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on the hub. Thanks for the vote up!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      That is great. And not too many dolphins gets to use this method of self-expression. Voting this Up and Awesome.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Hello mljdgulley354! I am glad you enjoyed the hub about Jett. I can't wait to visit him and catch him in action. I plan to post video along with his update this spring. Thanks for the visit and support.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thank you for your kind comments and support. I appreciate your stopping in to read about Jett. Dolphins are such intelligent creatures and they can process information and respond in surprising ways. Yes, I am very fortunate my niece works with dolphins and allows me to see them through her eyes.

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 5 years ago

      This was an incredible hub.I loved the photos as well as your story. Dolphins are fun to watch.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      I loved reading about Jett and his art, and I'm looking forward to your next hub about him. Dolphins are such fascinating animals. You're lucky to have a niece who works with them!

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Yes, it would be nice to shut off our brain activity. I wonder if this is what they mean by the old saying "she's only half awake". Thanks for the comment and support. Blessings!

    • sofs profile image

      sofs 5 years ago

      This is a fascinating story! I have heard of such but never first hand. I wish to that I could sleep turning off half my brain....I dream and think so much in my sleep...lol :) Thanks for sharing this gem! Have a wonderful day..God Bless :)

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Jacqui2011, my niece loves her job and she wanted to work with animals since she was just a little girl. She has worked in vets office as a teen and I guess her dreams have come true. Other than her hubby, dolphins are her world. I am looking forward to seeing Jett and will have fun writing his next chapter. Thanks for the support and follow. Have a great day.

    • jacqui2011 profile image

      jacqui2011 5 years ago from Leicester, United Kingdom

      This is a fantastic story. Your niece is so lucky to have such a wonderful job. Jett is fantastic and I can't wait to read the follow up when you visit him during the summer. Great article. Voted up/awesome and beautiful.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      His is a sweet story. Makes you just want to play with him and I'm sure he would share his toys. Thanks for the support, Movie Master. May you have a great day!

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      What an incredible story, Jett is awesome!

      Thank you for sharing and voted up, best wishes Lesley

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Thanks for stopping in for a visit and I am glad you all enjoyed Jett's story and his talented art work. I will be visiting him later this year and will write more about his lifestyle at the zoo.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Jett is a loveable dolphin and if I could I would have one for a pet but I don't think our pool is big enough for all of us. I haven't heard of them being agressive but it's something to look into for sure. Thanks for stopping in for a look.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      He is indeed a cool dude for a dolphin. He has his own personality and really enjoys painting. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 5 years ago

      What a fascinating story. I am so attracted to dolphins and amazed at their unlimited potential. I have heard that they kill for sport, so our trust should be peppered with a great deal of caution. The hub was wonderful. Up and awesome.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      I am in awe and wonder about Jett.He is really a cool dude. Jett seems to be real fun and the painting is really great, a masterpiece by a dolphin. I loved your hub and throroughly enjoyed reading it. Voted up.

    • teaches12345 profile image
      Author

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      His character shows he has some spirit and it makes him do adorable. Thanks for stopping by and glad you got a smile from the story.

    • profile image

      Sparklea 5 years ago

      WOW! What an incredible story! Melts my heart. THANK YOU SO MUCH! Blessings, Sparklea