Sunday, 27 October 2013

Elephant No. 55: Rain Poncho

It's been cold and rainy around here lately, so for today's elephant I thought I'd draw something on a plastic rain poncho. Never owned one of these, even as a little kid, but from the package it looked like the perfect shape for an elephant design of some sort.

This is the rain poncho I got, purchased from a dollar store for under two dollars. Yellow would have been my first choice, but I didn't like any of the yellows. The plastic on these is also really thin, so I thought red might make a better canvas for an elephant design.

At first, I'd intended to draw only on the back, thinking that I'd use the hood area to give the elephant a crown. Then I decided to do a front-facing elephant on the front, and a retreating elephant on the back, with the crown only on the back.

To give myself at least some idea as to what all this might look like, I made a couple of rough sketches.

Although it's a bit chilly here today, I decided to work outside. I spread the poncho across my garden fence, and stuck it to the wood with push pins.

I sketched the front-facing elephant lightly with a permanent black marker. Unfortunately, it was so light that it didn't photograph at all.

Next, I went over the lines with a heavier marker and added some loose shading. I also made the elephant a bit wider than natural. My thinking was that, if this is ever worn, it will gather in the middle, making the elephant slimmer.

Since I'd wanted a sketch-like graphic design on the poncho, this looked good enough to me, so I flipped it over to do the back. The front design showed through the thin plastic, so I used the top of the head, the tops of the ears and the lower part of the body as a guide for the drawing on the back.

And this is what the back looked like when it was final.

I didn't want anything too realistic, so I was pretty happy with this. It's a bit distorted when flat, but when I put it on a hanger and let the wind take it, the ripples almost made it look like the elephant was walking with its ears flapping, which I found kind of cool.

I'll probably never wear this, but for two dollars, a magic marker and less than an hour of my time, it was definitely worth it.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Interestingly, elephants can hear rain that is falling miles away.

In 2002, researchers plotting elephant highways along the southern edge of the Sahara Desert (the Sahel) discovered that some elephant migration routes are immense. Each year, for example, elephants in Mali follow a circular migration route covering a whopping 450 kilometers (280 miles). The reason is water.

Because elephants cannot survive long without water, they sometimes travel as much as 100 to 150 kilometres (62 to 93 miles) a day from one water hole to the next. And because arriving at a water hole that has already dried up could mean the death of the herd, desert elephants like the ones in Mali have learned to "hear" where rain is falling.

According to Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants, rain has a very low infrasonic signal. This signal, although inaudible to humans, is easily heard by elephants, even over long distances. As soon as elephants hear rain, they will head to that spot within 24 hours. 

Sadly, traditional elephant migration routes are under increasing threat. With the advent of irrigation and agriculture, the region is changing, and nomadic peoples who once viewed the elephant as a talisman now see it as a pest. To make matters worse, permanent sources of water set up to help the people of the Sahel are also proving a tempting source of water for elephants—with a predictable rise in human-elephant conflict.

To read more, click here.

Desert elephants at a water hole.

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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  2. Well written by blog owner & i really appreciated your blog. Thanks for the post..

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