Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Elephant No. 16: Glue-Gun Stencil

While poking around for inspiration last night, I came across this idea on the Gauche Alchemy site, which features lots of interesting art tutorials.

I don't love hot glue, to be honest. I generally burn myself, or get glue all over the wrong things, or end up with long hairy threads of glue all over me and whatever I'm glueing.

In my original Elephant a Day blog, I did manage to make a tiny hot-glue elephant, but for the rest of that yearlong extravaganza I mostly avoided the glue gun. And it would never have occurred to me to make something flat. To see the video that inspired today's elephant, click here.

I drew with a permanent marker directly onto a plastic craft sheet. I was going to use freezer paper, but when I tried it, the glue melted right through the waxy coating and into the paper matrix, making it impossible to remove cleanly.

I began by "drawing" the outlines of the elephants with glue, careful to keep the glue gun moving. That didn't prevent me from creating blobs every time I squeezed the trigger of the glue gun; but that may be due to the inferiority of my glue-gun technique.

This will give you an idea of the thickness of the glue.

Once I was reasonably happy with the general forms, I added abstract lines and blobs. I did this both to add visual interest, and to made sure things like eyes and ears were attached to the stencil and not floating in space.

When the glue was completely cool, I peeled the stencils away from the plastic sheet. This was nowhere as easy for me as it looked in the video. I finally managed it, but it took a lot of poking and pushing with my fingernails. I also had to add a bit of extra glue to reinforce some of the thinner areas as I was peeling.

To finish the stencils, I cleaned up a few blobs and "hairy" bits with scissors, but mostly left the uneven lines.

I tried pouncing paint onto the stencils with a sponge and watered-down acrylic paint, but it didn't work well at all. Not only is the stencil too thick, but it also has very uneven edges. In addition it tends to move around, because there isn't any extra material to hold onto.

Next, I tried what the video suggests: spraying the stencils with water-based inks. I tried first with a mixture of half-ink, half-water, but ended up with too many splats of ink.

I tried a wetter mixture next, but it was so wet that the ink spread and ran. I didn't really mind how this looked, but most of the detail was gone.

My last two were about 1/3 ink, 2/3 water, or perhaps about 40% ink, and 60% water. This worked fairly well. I wasn't able to eliminate all inkblobs, but that may be due to my spraying technique as much as anything else.

This wasn't hard at all—except for the peeling-off-the-sheet part—although spraying the ink was a bit messy. In the end, I was surprised at how well these turned out, and how much I liked the final results. And I still have the stencils to use again. Who knows? I may make peace with my glue guns yet.

Elephant Lore of the Day
My friend Sylvie Morel sent me this story a few days ago about a poor little elephant named Zhuang Zhuang, who was rejected by his mother.

In August of this year, shortly after giving birth to Zhuang Zhuang at a nature reserve in Rongcheng, China, his mother stepped on him. Thinking it was an accident, veterinarians removed Zhuang Zhuang, treated him, and brought him back to its mother. She promptly attacked him again.

Realizing that the female elephant was deliberately trying to kill her newborn, staff quickly took Zhuang Zhuang away, this time keeping him separate from his mother. According to published reports, he squealed for his mother for a full five hours, refusing to be consoled.

Photographs show a "crying" baby elephant. All elephants shed tears, although the jury is still out as to whether this is an expression of emotion. It is speculated that elephant tears may be a reaction to stress or other heightened feelings, but we don't know enough about elephant emotions to know whether they cry when happy or sad, the way we do.

As for Zhuang Zhuang's mother, she lost interest in her food and began showing signs of depression. It is very unusual for an elephant to reject her own calf, making it unclear why this mother turned murderous. It may be that she sensed a weakness in the calf, or it may be that she was under some kind of stress that rendered her temporarily psychotic.

At last word, Zhuang Zhuang was thriving, although he remains parted from his mother.

To read the original article, click here.

Zhuang Zhuang after being rejected by his mother, Shendiaoshan Wild Animal
Nature Reserve, Rongcheng China, August 2013.
Photo: CEN/Europics

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

1 comment:

  1. The links for the elephant conservation are always so touching, & of course so relevant as the world learns to take better care of their precious elephants.

    The glue gun idea is awesome.
    Fantastic effect, I love the blue one at the end.
    They can of course be equally as beautiful in a less well defined manner of expression.
    Great methods :)