Monday, 30 September 2013

Elephant No. 28: Rain Boots

Once I decided to paint an umbrella, I thought I should try decorating a pair of rain boots. I know there are rubber-based spray paints you can buy to paint on rubber boots, but I wanted to draw on the boots with permanent markers.

Unfortunately, it was impossible to find anything useful about drawing on rubber boots with markers—this page was the closest I came to anything helpful. And this page had a fun idea for a gold-leaf leopard pattern, but it wasn't what I had in mind.

Even sites devoted to permanent markers refused to suggest using them on rubber boots. However, there were so many sites devoted to telling you how to remove markers from rubber that I figured the markers must stick quite well. And when I read that it might be possible to lighten markers on rubber with vigorous effort, but not entirely remove them, I thought, "That's what I want to hear."

I started by purchasing a pair of inexpensive rain boots in bright yellow. You wouldn't believe how hard it is to find a pair of plain rain boots these days. They're all paisley and plaid and frolicking animals (but no elephants). I finally found these in the kids' section of a discount shoe store. Luckily, I have small feet, so these actually fit me. These cost me $10, which was a major bargain in comparison to every other pair of rubber boots I saw.

I started by washing the exterior to remove any oil or dust, dried them off with paper towels, and let them air-dry while I began figuring out a design. The main thing I wanted to do was work around the physical structure of the boots. They had various ridges and lines, and a circle in the middle of each side which looked like the perfect shape for an elephant with a curled trunk.

I sketched onto the rubber with a black non-waterproof marker, trying various things, washing it off, and drawing again. I panicked briefly when the marker didn't want to wash off, then used soap as well as water, and it was fine. These boots were a sort of porous, gummy rubber, which also seemed to scratch easily.

Once I was more or less satisfied with the design, I took a deep breath and drew onto the boots with a medium-point permanent marker. Knowing this was going to be permanent, I was fairly careful as I drew. Then I realized that I could scratch the marker off the surface with my fingernail if I did it fairly soon after I'd drawn it. The longer you wait, the more the ink sinks into the rubber, so it's best to scratch things off early in the process, if you're going to do it at all.

In some of the blanker areas, including the toes, I added dots to relieve some of the emptiness. I decided I'd better stop there, or they would get quite busy to look at. They were already fairly busy, but I liked them well enough.

I added a sort of abstract grass around the base as well.

I also thought briefly about adding colour with some of the other markers I had, but I thought that might add more visual chaos than I wanted. I also liked the look of simple black outlines on yellow boots, and the black marker matched the soles nicely.

Once I was finished drawing, I gently washed off the water-soluble pen with soap and water. I used dish soap and my bare hands, rather than anything abrasive. The marker is still fairly delicate at this point, so I didn't want to risk scratching it off.

The hardest part of this process was figuring out a design. Working around the various structural areas of the boot is challenging, and elephants don't necessarily lend themselves to many of the shapes I had to work with.

One thing I noticed, after it was too late, was that the elephants on the sides are facing forward on one boot, and backward on the other. Don't know how that happened, but I kind of like the asymmetry of it.

I wasn't sure what I thought about the boots right after I was finished. However, now that they've been sitting by themselves for awhile, I quite like the graphic look of them. In fact, I may even try another pair at some point—if I can find an inexpensive pair of boots to decorate, that is.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Given that elephants are endangered in most parts of the world, you'd think that any rise in their numbers would be cause for celebration. Not so in one part of southwestern India.

In the Alur forest of southern Karnataka, the elephant population has grown by 70% over the past 10 years, from 27 to 45. This has led to protests from local farmers, and demands that the elephants be relocated to keep them from damaging crops and killing people.

Unfortunately, the answer is not that simple. Part of the problem is that, as farming expands, the land available to elephants shrinks. The average elephant requires 3-5 square kilometres of forest in which to forage. Multiply that by 45 elephants, and you need 135–225 square kilometres of forest for this single group.

Nor do elephants take kindly to being relocated. Elephants have an uncanny ability to memorize their entire range, and will often find their way back to areas they like—sometimes within a few days.

Although governments everywhere are keenly aware that deforestation remains the primary cause of human-elephant conflict, most lack the will to veto projects that destroy animal habitats. It is doubtful that the problem will ever be resolved, until the rhetoric changes from "trouble-making elephants" to "trouble-making humans" and forest conservation takes precedence over farming and engineering projects.

Asian elephants emerging from Athirapally Forest, Kerala.

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

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

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