Sunday, 13 October 2013

Elephant No. 41: From the Archives—Painted Terracotta Flower Pot

Over the next few days, as I take a break from daily art production, I'll be featuring the work of other artists as well as some favourite posts from my original Elephant a Day blog. Today's post is a slightly abridged version of a project originally published in July 2012. Enjoy!

I've painted terracotta flower pots before, but it wasn't until a couple of days ago that I thought of painting one with an elephant. I bought this terracotta pot and tray at the dollar store for about two dollars. The pot measures about 25 cm (10 inches) high, and has a diameter of about 15 cm (6 inches).

I decided to sponge-paint a green background onto the flower pot before adding an elephant, so I bought a cellulose sponge as well, and cut off a few shaped pieces to use for the background. I find a wedge shape works best for this, but I cut a rectangle and a pointy piece as well, just in case.

I prefer cellulose sponges for this kind of work for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that the sponge is more rigid than a synthetic sponge. It's also more porous, which makes for an interesting pattern. This porosity also makes it absorbent, which can be helpful for work like this.

I poured a few shades of green acrylic paint into a palette and began sponging on the colour. I didn't bother to seal the surface with anything, which meant that the first layer of paint absorbed into the surface a little. However, because I used the paint more or less full strength, it didn't absorb as much as it would have if I'd watered it down.

The other advantage to using thicker paint is that it quickly builds up and seals itself. Once I'd gotten past the first colour or two, I occasionally watered the paint down very slightly, but for the first coats, I wanted to make the paint thicker.

I started with a medium green, sponging all over both the pot and the tray. I also painted over the lip and partly inside both pieces, as well as over the bottom edge and onto the bottom of each. I like to do this because it makes for a less abrupt switch from painted surface to terracotta pot.

I added yellow next, sponging across the surfaces to lay in the basic colour, then going over everything again to blend the colours a bit more and give it a slightly soft-focus effect.

After this, I added a sage green, then a forest green, then went back to medium green, followed by yellow, finishing up with hunter green. I meant to take a photograph of the final background, sans elephant, but I forgot.

The idea I had was to make it look like an elephant sort of emerging from a forest. I wanted the elephant to be somewhat realistic, so I decided to work from a photograph. This is the photograph I chose:

African elephant.

I actually sketched part of the outline of the elephant onto the painted pot with a pencil, using a plain old white plastic eraser to remove any lines I didn't like. I was surprised at how resilient the painted surface was to pencil and eraser.

I began painting the elephant by blocking in the major sections of grey.

After this, I more or less just kept painting with various shades of grey and brown until I thought the elephant was about as good as it was going to get. I was starting to head down the road of overworking everything, so I quit while I was ahead.

I liked the way it looked in general, but I thought it needed a bit of finishing. I left the elephant as it was, but added gold lines to the rim of both the pot and the tray.

I thought it still needed a touch more, so I sprinkled fine dots of the same gold onto the green background. I purposely made the pattern of gold dots a bit more dense on the rims of both pot and tray.

It took me a total of about two and a half hours to make this, some of which was spent waiting for things to dry a bit. It isn't a hard activity at all, and might be a fun thing to do with kids.

The sponge-painting was a bit tedious, and I hate trying to paint a straight line on a curved surface, but I'm very happy with the final piece. In fact, I may even resurrect my green thumb so that I can actually use it.

Elephant Lore of the Day
As described in a previous blog post, the origins of the Borneo pygmy elephant are somewhat mysterious. Because they tend to be much more gentle and less agressive than mainland Asian elephants, it has long been thought that they are descended from an abandoned domestic herd.

Even their appearance suggests that the Borneo pygmy elephant is the cuddly teddy bear of the elephant world. They are about twenty per cent smaller than Indian elephants, and are also rather round in shape. They have long tails that often trail along the ground, a sort of pushed-in face, and a shorter trunk than most Asian elephants. Even the males are more often tuskless than not.

Apparently, however, they are innately hostile to any manmade object within their forest range. In the state of Sabah, Borneo pygmy elephants will actually seek out and trample any traps laid by local villagers to catch small animals. They are similarly aggressive towards any form of human settlement that encroaches on what they perceive to be their territory, and have been known to destroy lean-tos, fencing, animal enclosures and huts.

Borneo pygmy elephant.

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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