How to paint an elephant
People often like to know how the animal painting they are interested in came to life, so this blog post looks at how I created the elephant painting you can see in progress above. If you’re reading on your mobile, you may need to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “See full site” to see the elephant photo in the header.
I decided to paint on a good quality primed box canvas – this one is a modern deep box canvas, A4 size. Although it’s quite a small surface, large animals can work well, and a frame is optional as all sides of the box canvas are painted. As you can see, for the first stage, I painted it in a mix of yellow and white acrylic paints. At this stage, I hadn’t decided what the painting would be!
I came back to it a couple of days later and decided to paint an elephant….
Work in Progress
I paint directly onto the chosen surface without doing any sketching first. I like to mark the larger shapes before zoning in on the details. If you’ve seen my animal paintings before, you’ll know that I don’t aim for photorealism, but instead try to get a general feeling and impression of the character of the animal I’m painting. Realistic colours are a rarity for me, so if I paint your lovely black dog for you, you will see greens or blues in the black fur of your pet portrait…
Next I marked in some rough shapes, mainly blocks of colour, mapped out to get the proportions right. I use my own photographs and sketches as reference material.
I continue adding more colour and detail, often leaving the painting for a few days between sessions so that I can spot any mistakes and correct them. It also allows me to take the painting in a different direction, perhaps changing the colours completely. Acrylic paint dries quite quickly, and here you can see that I introduced some greens. I mixed my turquoise blue and cadmium yellow on the canvas – I hadn’t intended this so I left the painting for a while to consider what to do next….
Earlier today I completed the elephant painting, or at least I think I have! It now has some tiny splashes of red and purple in some darker areas, and I’ve strengthened some of the yellow tones. He looks quite cute, but I’m already considering some changes.
Update: I strengthened some of the colours and the completed elephant painting is now listed in my online shop.
Please go to my website to see the finished yellow elephant picture and all of my colourful elephant paintings, prints and home gifts.