Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Elephant No. 88: Get Well Card

One of my friends recently had surgery, so I decided to make her a get well card. I am ashamed to say that my first thought was to buy a card, then I remembered that I can sort of draw, and that perhaps a handmade card might be nicer.

I knew the kind of thing I wanted to draw—an elephant in a bed with a thermometer in its mouth—but that was about it. And, as anyone who works in the visual arts will tell you, knowing what you want something to look like doesn't mean it's going to actually end up looking like that at all.

I started by cutting a piece of 9 x 12-inch (22.9 x 30.5 cm) watercolour paper in half, then folded it in half again, giving me a drawing surface of 4.5 x 6 inches (11.5 x 15.25 cm).

I sketched something out. The angles of the bed are wonky and the perspective is off, but I thought it would be okay. I know she likes birds, so I also put a couple of birds in the window.

Because I wanted to use watercolour pencils for this, I used a pigment liner to outline things, allowing me to erase the pencil lines below. When I was finished, I heat-set the pen lines with a hairdryer.

I coloured everything with watercolour pencils, adding some texture to the walls and floor at the same time.

Finally, I painted over everything with water. Kind of cute, in the end. Here's hoping it helps her feel better soon!

Elephant Lore of the Day
Producing an elephant get well card made me wonder how people can tell when an elephant is sick. Dogs and cats get hot, dry noses; birds might start moulting. But an elephant is already kind of dry all over, and it doesn't have feathers to drop.

Asian mahouts often have entire manuals devoted to elephant care. Some manuals wax almost mystical about an elephant's form and feelings; others are rather no-nonsense, with an anything-but-mystical approach to elephant welfare.

In the no-nonsense category, I found a guide for elephant care written especially for mahouts, which includes the following symptoms for a sick elephant:
  • The elephant is listless, hardly moving its ears, trunk and tail.
  • The elephant seems exhausted, often resting its trunk on the ground for extended periods.
  • The elephant stands with its eyes closed and yawns frequently.
  • The elephant is agitated and sometimes bellows near the ground.
  • The elephant is agitated and tries to apply dirt to a wound.
  • The elephant's eyes are dull, sunken and appear to shed copious tears.
  • There is a mucous-like discharge from the elephant's trunk.
  • The elephant's skin is stiff to the touch and exceptionally dry.
  • The inside of the elephant's mouth and trunk, as well as its tongue, are either very pale, brownish, or bright red, rather than the usual pink.
  • The skin above the toenails is dry.  
So, what do you do if your elephant is sick? Oddly enough, many of the remedies for elephants are the same as those for humans.

If an elephant is in pain, you give it 40 to 60 aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol, either dissolved in water or ground up in a favourite food such as bananas.

If an elephant has a wound, you apply iodine, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and antibiotic creams.

And if an elephant has muscular pain, anti-inflammatory ointments are rubbed into the skin. And rubbed into the skin. And rubbed into the skin again, because elephant skin absorbs ointments very quickly, requiring multiple applications.

A jabstick being used on an elephant's hind leg to give it
a much-needed injection of antibiotics.
Source: http://www.elephantcare.org/medtech.htm

Elephants are also prone to many injuries and illnesses never seen in humans, as well as sad conditions such as malnutrition, overwork and injuries due to harsh treatment—to say nothing of even worse man-made traumas such as landmine injuries, gunshot wounds and poison-by-poacher. Nor are elephants immune to snakebite, insect bites, and even illness from that industrial wastes that are often less regulated in the developing world.

As for the thermometer that I put in my little elephant's mouth? Although some mahouts can tell if an elephant has a fever just by the temperature of its breath, a thermometer is normally used to take an elephant's temperature. Just not in its mouth or ear.

Asian bull elephant.
Source: http://www.whalenation.org/asianelephantsproject.html

To Support Elephant Welfare

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