It has been a while since I painted any elephants, and they don't always go the way I plan.One painting went so wrong last week that it ended up in our log burner! But not to be defeated , I decided to give it another go.

I have an old school friend who takes wonderful photos and this is one of her's from a few years ago at Whipsnade zoo. I  printed it out and I sketched the elephants, a mother and her calf .

I have painted this photo , or a very similar one before, but I really wanted to paint them again.



Now in some ways a painting like this is simpler as I only use one colour, and so it is all about tones. In other ways it is trickier as there is nowhere to hide, if it goes too far from me I can't get it back.

I begin with the calf as there is more detail there, and I want to get the curve of the trunk right



I use a lot of water and drop the colour in. I love the way it spreads into the damp paper and creates it's own magic, It is controlled chaos , and it is very difficult to explain, too much water or too little and the magic is lost. I want to define some of the wrinkles but not all of them. 

At this stage the painting hangs in the balance......



I need to keep standing back from the painting. To see where I need to add tone and where I need to take tone away. I use kitchen roll to gently take pigment off the paper. To describe the wonderful lumps and bumps on the elephants skin. Keep looking keep altering and suddenly it will be 'right' then stop! If you don't stop it can disappear as quickly as it appeared !


Now it is a case of keeping going, keep looking, where are the darks and lights? The shadows and shading make the elephants pop ! . There is a lot of detail and you need to edit it and keep just what is important. 

I like my paintings to run off the page and have softer edges , the relationship between the 2 elephants is what I particularly liked about this image.



It is so important to get the ears right too, they are so delicious to paint. all those folds and crinkles. You need to retain the light with the white of the paper so they make a wonderful focal point

Take regular breaks, painting saps your concentration. This painting took a solid 7 hours to paint.



I am sorry 'as usual, by the later stages I was forgetting to take photos, but I think the process is there.

I was really interested in where the 2 elephants touch and connect . Their intelligence ,their bond , and I hope I have managed to convey some of that with my painting.


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Thx for sharing the process. Really appreciate it

Klf Barrett

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Great to see what you do with the photos. So amazing how you make them look so life like 😊


Enjoyed your blog. Interesting that you mention stepping back and taking breaks. I need to do more of that and go for the details too fast.

Linda Ford

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