July 21, 2016

Behind The Scenes Of The African Elephant Drawing

by Corrina Thurston

As you’ve read about on my website before, wildlife conservation and animal welfare is important to me. So when I read about the Wildlife Conservation Society’s campaign for elephants called 96 Elephants, I knew I wanted to join the campaign in some way.

For those of you who don’t know, the conservation campaign is called 96 Elephants to bring attention to the fact that 96 Elephants are killed in Africa EVERY DAY.

Why are 96 elephants killed every day?

For their ivory.

That’s it, just for their ivory.

That means an elephant is killed approximately every 15 minutes. Or 35,040 every year.

At this rate, it’s estimated that African Elephants will become extinct within the next 20 years, which means your kids or your grandchildren may never see an elephant in their lifetime.

Check out the campaign to learn more about how The Wildlife Conservation Society is trying to stop this.

African Elephant In Graphite & Colored Pencil 18x24 inches big
African Elephant
In Graphite & Colored Pencil
18×24 inches big

How My Drawing Fits In The Campaign

After reading about the 96 Elephants campaign, I decided I wanted to use my artwork in order to help the cause. Not only did I want to do a drawing of an African Elephant, of which I already had some of my own photos I could us as reference, I wanted to film it and make a video (shown further below).

I knew a video would get even more interest than just a drawing, and hopefully bring more awareness, even though it would take more time and effort to do.

I am also pledging to donate 20% of the proceeds from prints sold of this drawing to the 96 Elephants campaign! So if you want a print, check out the options here.

 

My Drawing Process

This drawing is a little bigger than I usually do, which is fitting as the elephant is the biggest land animal! It’s 18×24 inches big.

I started in graphite, mapping out the proportions of the elephant with a simple line drawing. This is the hardest part for me, so it took a while!

I’m the type of artist who rests their hand on the paper, so with graphite, I smudge things easily. Therefore, I work from the top left down to the bottom right.

This meant I was starting with the left ear.

 

African Elephant work in progress. The left ear is almost finished, and the line drawing is ready for the rest of it.
African Elephant work in progress. The left ear is almost finished, and the line drawing is ready for the rest of it.

 

I used mostly graphite, but for the darkest sections and shadows I used a black colored pencil to make it really dark.

Usually I’m drawing fuzzy or scaly animals, so the texture of the elephant was different than anything I’d done before. The ear reminded me of fabric, like I was drawing a curtain, with the undulating sections toward the edge.

The next part was even more different.

African Elephant work in progress. Most of the head is finished, and about to start the trunk.
African Elephant work in progress. Most of the head is finished, and about to start the trunk.

 

Normally the eye is my favorite part of a drawing to do. With this drawing, it was my least favorite. I dreaded drawing the eyes. Part of it was because my photos didn’t show them very well, so I was drawing a little blind. The other part of it was because elephants have small eyes, so there wasn’t much shine or detail I could draw, unlike a cat’s eye.

After doing the left eye, I moved to the rest of the head.

I’ve never drawn so many wrinkles! Once I got to the head and trunk, it was a full-blown wrinkle-fest.

African Elephant work in progress. All that's left is the right side of the head and the right ear.
African Elephant work in progress. All that’s left is the right side of the head and the right ear.

 

I was dreading the right eye even more than the left, but I sat down and forced myself to do it and then moved on to finishing the head and working on the right ear, which again felt like drawing fabric.

I used white colored pencil only on the tusks of the elephant to try and make them stand out a little more. I also colored them white early on in the drawing so any smudging in that area would be less noticeable.

 

Filming The Drawing Process

This was the second drawing I have ever filmed, and it was a lot longer of a process than the first. If you missed my first one, check out the blog post that’s all about my Cooper’s Hawk drawing here.

You can view the time-lapse of this African Elephant drawing below, in a two-minute video!

The first drawing I filmed took about 8 hours to draw. This one took over 25. This one also had a few more obstacles.

For example, about a quarter of the way through the drawing, my camera stopped working. It died. This meant I had to take a different camera and try to set it up in the same way the first one had been set, to have the video look continuous. Not an easy task!

The second interruption was the fact that halfway through the drawing, I moved! This meant completely tearing down my camera setup, my drawing table, my lighting, and everything else and moving to an entirely new location and trying to set it all back up again in the same way.

My NEW studio setup, including camera, with the African Elephant not quite finished.
My NEW studio setup, including camera, with the African Elephant drawing not quite finished.

 

Even without the first camera failing and the move, drawing while being filmed is more of a challenge than a typical drawing.

I can’t move the drawing when I’m filming it. I can’t twist it around to make it easier to reach the top section, nor can I change the angle of the table, because it would show up weird in the video.

I couldn’t lean forward because my head would get in the way of the camera and block the view.

I had to have all the lighting exactly the same, or it would also look different in the video. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but you have to take into account that I have a chronic headache, which can easily turn into a migraine. And during the couple months I was working on this drawing, my migraines were even worse than average. Therefore, having those lights in my eyes while drawing made me only able to work for short amounts of time (or not at all) on the days when that was bothering me.

 

Prints Available!

African Elephant in-situ table metalWEB
African Elephant 16×20-inch print on metal.

If you’re interested in buying a print, you can check out the options here.

20% of the proceeds from prints sold of this drawing will be donated to the 96 Elephants conservation campaign!

I’ve made multiple sizes and types of prints. If there’s a size you want but don’t see, just let me know!

Print options are: paper prints, matted paper prints, matted and framed paper prints, prints on canvas (my favorite for this drawing), and prints on metal.

 

Drawing this piece was a challenge in many ways, but also a lot of fun. I hope all of you enjoy it and share it with your friends. Thanks so much for checking it out and let me know what you think!

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