Thursday, 24 October 2013

Elephant No. 52: Guest Artist Brenda van Kats

Detail from Indian Elephant by Brenda van Kats
© 2013

I met Brenda at a sort of artists' speed-networking thing last weekend, which gave us each about a minute to describe our respective art practices. When Brenda told me that she does nature painting, I gave her my card and invited her to send me a piece of elephant art to feature on this blog, should she ever feel so inclined.

I don't necessarily expect people to send me anything, despite their best intentions, so I was thrilled to get an e-mail from Brenda yesterday telling me she'd just made two elephants for the blog.

Brenda is something of an artistic polymath, skilled at producing art in a wide variety of media. Like many artists, she has been drawing and painting since she was little, so pursuing formal art studies was a natural decision for her. In her early twenties, she added software and animation skills to her repertoire, and is now as much at home with digital media as she is with traditional materials such as watercolour, oil, graphite and conté.

Both of the elephants featured here are digital images. The African elephant—featuring "a little smartie-pants elephant reaching up for a tasty snack"—is a vector-based image created with CorelDRAW. The Asian elephant enjoying a swim was created with Corel Painter.

African Elephant by Brenda van Kats
© 2013

Brenda also set herself a bit of challenge when creating these. She decided to keep production time down to an hour, saying "I was not aiming for 100% perfect . . . but simply as good as I could do in that amount of time. It's a good exercise when you want to get past the inner critic."

I heartily agree, having had to bash my inner critic into submission more times than I can count.

Persnickety by Brenda van Kats
© 2012
Acrylic on canvas—8 x 16 inches (20.3 x 40.6 cm)

In addition to her day job in IT, Brenda runs her own company called 3rd Orbit Creative Services, which offers  art and graphic design in a wide range of styles and media. She also continues to explore new subject matter and new media—including fibre arts, which was something we discovered we have in common. To contact Brenda and see more of her work, click here.

Indian Elephant by Brenda van Kats
© 2013

Elephant Lore of the Day 
Although the behaviour isn't natural for them, elephants will sometimes rise up on their hind legs to snatch at juicy leaves on branches that are otherwise out of reach.

At Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, the elephants have apparently become famous for this unusual behaviour, although it has rarely been seen on camera. Even more interesting are the herd dynamics of an incident captured last year by South African photographer Morkel Erasmus.

The trio of elephants Erasmus photographed included an older bull elephant and two young bulls known as "askari". The role of the askari is to protect the older bull, while learning everything they can from him about how to behave. The older bull is so important to the development of young male elephants that, when large male elephants are killed for their tusks, leaderless askaris generally turn into juvenile delinquents.

A young elephant attempts to reach tasty leaves just out of reach, as an older bull
elephant looks on.
Photo: Morkel Erasmus/© Caters News Agency

In this case, it appeared that one of the young elephants was being coached by his elder on how to reach the uppermost leaves. Although the younger elephants tottered a bit and had a hard time maintaining their balance, the older elephant was quite skilled. According to Erasmus, the two askaris also protected the older bull while he reached for the leaves—a position which otherwise leaves an elephant vulnerable to attack by lions and hyenas.

Showing them how it's done: an older bull elephant
balances on his hind legs to reach the best leaves.
Photo: Morkel Erasmus/© Caters News Agency
Elephant- stands-legs-eat-tree-leaves.html

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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