Monday, 22 June 2015

Elephant No. 140: Inktense Blocks

I wasn't going to make an elephant today, but then I came across a tin of Inktense blocks, and realized I'd never really used them before.

I thought they deserved a large surface, so I decided to work on an 18 x 24-inch (45.7 x 61 cm) sheet of Canson 140 lb. watercolour paper. I almost cut the sheet in half, but I never work big so I made myself stick to using the whole sheet.

I'm always better, of course, drawing from a photograph, so I chose this one by Nick Brandt.

Elephant with Tattered Ears, Amboseli, 2008
Photo: Nick Brandt

I began by doing a faint outline in red.

I followed up by adding shading in yellow, orange, blue, green and navy, in that order.

Now comes the fun part. Because Inktense is a water-soluble medium, the pigments become much more interesting when wet. Unlike watercolour paints or pencils, Inktense turns into ink when wet. Essentially, the heavier you draw, the more saturated the colours, and the more ink you have to move around.

To me, it's a bit like those magic-dot pictures in colouring books: just add water and colours appear. I used a small flat paintbrush for most of this, with a finer brush to make a few thin lines.

I liked this quite a lot, but I also wanted slightly more definition, so I waited until this was damp-dry, then added some fine lines and shading on top with a purple Inktense pencil.

The thing I like most about Inktense blocks and pencils is that you can leave some of the sketchy lines as a contrast with the swathes of ink.

I really didn't want to make anything today, but in the end, I'm glad I did. It only took about an hour and a half, and I like it enough that I'll definitely try this again sometime.

Elephant Lore of the Day
This is one of my favourite elephant stories, adapted from the original Elephant a Day blog. A few years back, at a safari camp in Tanzania's Katavi National Park, one of the area's normally well-behaved elephants suddenly took to ripping the canvas flysheets on the camp's tents.

At first it was assumed that the elephant had accidentally stumbled into the canvas. Elephants are usually clever enough to pick their way over guy ropes and other obstacles with no trouble, but maybe this guy was a little clumsy. The safari operators called in a tailor, who carefully sewed the tears in the sheets.

A day or two later, it happened again. This was repeated several times, until the elephant was caught in the act. Resting his tusks on the flysheet at the back of a tent, he gently pushed down on the canvas, causing it to rip. At first no one could figure out why this particular elephant had become so destructive. Then in occurred to them: he simply liked the noise of ripping canvas.

Because the flysheets could only be mended so many times, the safari operators came up with a clever solution. Instead of sewing the flysheets back together, they fastened on new pieces of canvas with Velcro®. The elephant still gets to enjoy the sound of tearing fabric, but now it's easier to put back together.

African elephant near a vintage-style safari camp.

To Support Elephant Welfare

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