"Paint an elephant!" They said.."It'll be fun" they said.
It was a lot of fun to be honest, but my latest animal painting certainly took a while to complete. I do find something very therapeutic about painting fine details. I can get lost in between the fur fibers of a lion's mane, listening to a lengthy podcast about some random period of history (ancient Greece is my go to).
So when the opportunity came up to paint an elephant, well, I couldn't pass it up. This was somewhat of a new challenge. As I'm sure you are aware, elephants don't have fur, like all of the subjects in my previous work. They have very wrinkled skin.
"Perfect!" I thought to myself. "If I get the level of detail right, it will look life-like".
Several months later, I realised that past-Joe had been blissfully naive. The level of detail I was creating took much, much longer to produce than the usual fur strands I was creating for lions, tigers, and leopards.
The wrinkles in the elephant's face, ear, and trunk were incredibly thin, and the skin itself had detailed gradations of colour within it as well. Both of these facts combined led to an incredibly lengthy process, building up layers of white paint for skin, while simultaneously adding in thin strands of black to create the wrinkles.
The composition of the elephant did make life a bit easier I suppose. If you take a look at images of the final piece, you'll see that the face is cut off in the middle, and only one side is visible.
Less detail to paint = smart composition.
Slight tangent - I recently had a conversation with my girlfriend Clare’s aunt, Alison, after she had read a number of my blog posts online. Alison made the comment that I often make the process of painting sound like “a pain in the arse”, as I mainly point out the difficulties or obstacles I encountered. I don’t want to give off the impression that I dislike creating my artwork by any means, so I will now make a concerted effort to finish this post with a more positive outlook. Circling back…
The level of detail was a time-consuming process, but this did make it all the more satisfying when the whole piece comes together. I tend to get distracted easily by other areas on the canvas, and often jump from the small patch I’m focusing on to a completely different one. It’s like when you first start a large jigsaw puzzle - you tend to work on little sections that are scattered across the image, and eventually these sections get larger and larger until they connect, and the whole jigsaw comes together.
So when the patches in my artwork grew until they eventually connected, I gained a great sense of joy as my final image was revealed.
I like to look back at what I’ve learned from each piece of artwork I create, hoping that there will always be something new to add to the list. For the elephant painting I would have to say I developed an extreme form of patience. Spending hours to achieve such a small amount of progress, and not lose motivation, was something that I am proud came quite naturally to me. It would have been very easy to feel disheartened by the slow developments, but my desire to see this piece through to the end kept me going.
I can’t say that this level of patience has bled through into many other aspects of my life, but I’m working on it!
In summary, don’t be scared of attempting a highly detailed piece. Break it down into manageable chunks, take plenty of breaks, and remember that the end result will be all that more rewarding.
Joseph Cashmore - ART JC
25th Feb 2023
2nd Jan 2023
13th Dec 2022
20th Nov 2022