Monday, 16 September 2013

Elephant No. 14: Carved Pencil Lead

I can't take any kind of credit for this idea. It was actually inspired by a pin on this Pinterest board. I tracked the original down to the lovely blog of artist Diem Chau, who made her pencil-lead elephant after reading that a well-known restaurant owner had killed an elephant on safari. To see the full story on her original creation, click here.

Pencil-lead elephant by Diem Chau

Closeup of pencil-lead elephant by Diem Chau

I had a whole box of wide-lead sketching pencils in the house, so I thought I'd try one of them for starters. Failing that, I'm sure I have a carpenter's pencil around here somewhere—which is what Diem Chau used for her elephant.

The pencil is a 6B, meaning the lead is very soft. I'm not sure if that will be a good or a bad thing when carving into it.

I started by shaving off the wood exterior with a heavy blade, careful not to cut into the graphite at this point.

I am a completely hopeless sculptor, unable even to carve fruit, so this was going to be interesting. I was very glad I had a whole box of these pencils.

I began by shaving away bits of graphite with a very fine blade. I also had a fine needle on hand, in case that proved to be a better idea. In the end, the blade was the better tool, because the needle tended to pop off little slivers of graphite, rather than shaving them away cleanly.

I kind of made a "sketch" by scratching out a light design in the lead. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to make an upright elephant, so I worked on the horizontal.

Working very carefully, I shaved gently at the contours, trying at the same time to create a bit of three-dimensional modelling in various spots. The lead is actually quite thin, so I had to be more delicate than I would normally be.

As you can see, my final elephant was going to be nowhere near as nice as the one that inspired me. It also began to feel fragile and ready to snap off of the pencil, so after about 45 minutes I left it alone.

As a non-sculptor, I knew my efforts wouldn't be brilliant, but I kind of like the final result, and it wasn't nearly as hard as I expected it to be. Well, not hard to create something like mine; I personally wouldn't want to attempt something as fine as the one by Diem Chau. It would only end in tears.

That being said, this was rather fun, and I'll probably try it again sometime.

Elephant Lore of the Day
We all know by now that elephants never forget. Just how true this is became abundantly clear in August 2013, when a train struck and killed an elephant at Matari in eastern India. The impact of the train—so loud that passengers thought it was a bomb—broke the elephant's spine, and it fell into a gorge. Hearing the cries of the fatally wounded elephant, the rest of the herd rushed forward, attacking the train and damaging the coaches.

After the train was removed, about 15 elephants remained at the site, grieving. Refusing to be driven off by local villagers, they blocked both road and railway tracks, disrupting traffic for hours. It took the combined efforts of the railway's disaster management team and local foresters to eventually drive off the herd with firecrackers.

They didn't go far, however, and were back the next day, trying to return to the railway tracks and roadway. Villagers managed to prevent the elephants from reaching the site by hitting drums and setting off firecrackers, but were unable to force the elephants out of the area.

The elephants also took revenge, crashing through the village and damaging both the local schoolhouse and several homes. It wasn't until a specialized elephant-chasing squad arrived that the elephants were herded over a distant hill. Even then, however, they tried to return to Matari, damaging another home in the process. To read the full Times of India story, click here.

According to Indian wildlife activist D.S. Srivastava, "Elephants often try to return to the site of such accidents, as they believe that their mate has only been injured and could be rescued by them." He also noted that the bonds between elephants are so strong that members of the herd will likely return again and again over the years to the same site.

Sadly, elephant encounters with trains are more and more common. But sometimes even a single elephant will fight back. To read the story of a mother elephant who literally beat up a train after it hit her baby, click here.

Wild elephants crossing railway tracks at Walayar on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border.
Photo: P.S. Ashok

To Support Elephant Welfare
Boon Lott's Elephant Sanctuary (Thailand)
Wildlife SOS (India) 
The Elephant Sanctuary (Tennessee)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much, Sunny! I really appreciate you taking the time to say such nice things. :)