Gentle Giant - African Elephant Card
Size: 297mm x 210mm
Original Painting Medium: Graphite Pencil
Scientific Name: Loxodonta africana
Elephants are one of my most favourite mammals. Gentle, strong, intelligent and tactile are just a few of the words to describe this beautiful African gentle giant.
The elephant is inextricably linked with his surroundings and the survival of so many other species. As elephants migrate in search of food and water they alter the landscape to suit their needs, sometimes in quite a seemingly destructive manner. Large elephants will topple trees with ease in order to make it easier to access the fruits, leaves or seed pods; making this food more accessible for many herbivorous animals, such as impala, gerenuk and black rhinoceros. Elephants also eat on the move, without pausing in their stride they use their trunks to pluck vegetation. Natures water-divineners, elephants use their huge tusks and fore feet to excavate water holes up to 4ft deep into which the much needed water can percolate. When they have had their fill and ambled away other animals are then able to quench their thirsts.
Elephants also have strong family bonds and demonstrate their tenderness and gentleness in the ways in which they care for one another, especially the young. An elephant's need for physical contact is very strong and it uses its trunk to satisfy this tactile need.
My pencil portrait of an elephant was portrayed from a photograph taken in Etosha National Park, Namibia by Andrew Watts. The elephant was in a long-distance shot among other animals. I chose to portray my Gentle Giant at close quarters, in order to convey his size and power. Wishing also to produce a bold image, I used pencil to accentuate the softness and ruggedness of his skin. Drawing this elephant was a fascinating experience and pleasurable.
My first contact with an elephant was whilst working for Friends of the Earth in the late 70's. I was involved in a survey on captive animals and during that period a well known circus 'came to town'. I knew that I was going to have to visit. I walked around the cages and enclosures that imprisoned the long suffering inhabitants and as I stepped around the back of the marquees, it was strangely silent. Chained to the dusty ground and quite restricted, I had found them, the elephants.
I will never forget the feeling that swept over me - sheer sadness and emptiness enveloped me as I looked up into the eyes of my very first elephant. As we looked at each other time seemed to stand still. Probably only seconds passed but I was transfixed and I remember hoping with all my heart that she would know I was a friend. As I walked away, I wondered what sort of friend though. I felt absolutely helpless and also felt I was betraying her; as I was leaving her there.
I feel very strongly that nothing is learned from seeing an animal in a concrete enclosure, or behind glass or bars, or from watching wild animals perform 'cruelty-induced' tricks, for our entertainment. I still support the campaign for a change in the law regarding animals in captivity. Elephants are magnificent and gentle creatures and we can learn a lot from them.
From the sale of my pencil drawing, 'Gentle Giant', and with the sale of each Elephant Fine Art Print and Greetings Card, a donation is given to Born Free (formerly known as Zoo Check).