Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Elephant No. 64: Wax Crayons

For today's elephant, I thought I'd try wax crayons, using them as heavily as possible to see what kind of effect I could produce. I drew a more delicate elephant with crayons in the original Elephant a Day blog, but even as a child I tended not to colour heavily with crayons, so this would be something new for me.

I have a box of 64 Crayola crayons, so this is what I decided to use. It even has the famous sharpener in back, in case I wimp out and want to go back to something more finely drawn.

I worked on inexpensive sketchbook paper, partly because this is an experiment and partly because I thought the surface would work well with wax crayons.

I wasn't sure if I'd want to make more than one elephant this way, so I thought I'd draw at least one from a photograph. This is the photograph I chose.

Phylo the elephant—sadly killed at the age of 20 in January 2013 for his tusks.
Photo: Shifra Goldberg
Source: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/01/28/blood-moon-rising/

I also decided that I wouldn't limit myself to a set number of colours today. After all, who can resist at least trying colours with names like "macaroni and cheese" and "electric lime"?

I began by making a light outline.

I shaded some of the darkest areas next, just to give me a bit of a guideline.

After this, I more or less added colour at will—lightly at first, then darkening everything as I gained confidence in the way the drawing was working out. I also did some scribbles of green and brown in the background to hint at greenery.

Interestingly, even in the darkest scribbled-in areas, there's a sort of translucency, allowing the white paper to shine through when photographed. In real life, the colours are much more saturated.

This took me about an hour, so I didn't feel like doing a second one. Although it was difficult to photograph, I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out. Who knew children's crayons could provide such grown-up fun?

Elephant Lore of the Day
I've often been asked if the paintings produced by elephants are as miraculous as they seem. Can an elephant really paint a flower, a house or even an portrait of another elephant? Well, yes and no.

In the wild, elephants often "draw" patterns in the dust with their trunks. Many zoos have accordingly added painting to their elephant-enrichment programs by providing elephants with paint and brushes. Some elephants take happily to this activity, splashing and daubing paint on canvases set up just for them. And zoos have sometimes sold these highly abstract works to help raise funds for additional elephant enrichment.

A line is crossed, however, when elephants don't take to painting naturally. In many facilities in Thailand, for example, painting by elephants is an enforced activity, designed to capitalize on the tourist trade. Elephants are taught, often with the aid of prods and hooks, to raise a brush and stroke it across the paper in a certain way. Different commands—vocal or otherwise—mean different things, and if you've ever watched a video of a painting elephant, you can often hear a keeper in the background, issuing subtle commands.

So yes, elephants can paint—and sometimes really enjoy it—but no, they can't paint anything recognizable unless carefully trained to do so.

This elephant can apparently also spell.
Photo: Dean Wickham/The Road to Anywhere.com
Source: http://questionableevolution.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/elephant-

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

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Big Life Foundation

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