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Elephant drawn in charcoal

Normally I don't take on commissions for two main reasons; one I have not got the time to devote to them amongst my own artwork and two, working from the clients reference image not my own. One of my greatest joys in creating my art is using my own reference photos and sharing that special moment that I've experienced with my viewers, I therefore struggle with this aspect of commissions.

When I was recently asked to do a large drawing of an elephant, I was delighted that I could use my own reference images and also with the request that the drawing be 'loose' in style which would cut down on the time I spent on putting in all the detail that I love to do. I suggested it be done in charcoal to enhance the looseness of the work.

So with that criteria in place I was happy to take on this commission for a family that loves elephants. After quite a bit of research through my hundreds of elephant references I found a suitable image as the request was for an elephant ambling towards the viewer.

This particular elephant was a female walking in to have drink at a waterhole in Botswana from my most recent safari there a few years ago. Her slow amble in with her head swaying and ears gently flapping was delight to witness and as always, it is a very humbling experience to be in the presence of a wild elephant.

My usual procedure is to draw up a quick sketch in charcoal to establish the style, format and pose of the animal to send to the client. On approval I commenced the drawing using my usual high quality hot pressed watercolour paper at a full sheet size being 30" x 22". For the charcoal I used vine, pencil and powered, using a sponge applicator to lay down the powder which works well.

The most difficult part was the lack of detail in the artwork as I love to add all the little fiddly bits that make up the character of an animal but a challenge like this is good for me artistically as I had to reach that happy medium of getting the anatomy and character correct with less detail.

The client was delighted with the result and I thoroughly enjoyed this challenge and was honoured to be asked to create this artwork for them.


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