How And Why Draw An Elephant?

Elephants are what you would called gentle giants. They travel in families, morn when loved ones pass, fight for one another and so much more. You might even say they are just as similar to humans as monkeys are. I choose the elephant as my subject for several of those very reasons. They show emotion and compassion. Once I decided on my subject it’s time to figure out a layout. I researched many different reference photos along with updating my knowledge on the elephant as a species.

Since there are two main species of elephant, African and Asian, I looked up both. I decided on an African elephant. Not for any specific reason, I just chose what I felt was the most pleasing image. Something that conveyed peace and compassion. I felt this little guy was perfect. I won’t focus to much on each individual wrinkle or blade of grass. When I get to caught up on the details I tend get to ahead of myself and fail. Fail miserably, but taking a lesson from it.

Slow down.

After I found all of the information I felt I needed it’s time to plan out everything. I leave you here to view my references, materials and work in progress shots.

Materials Used:

The Basics are what I prefer when drawing. If I overwhelm myself with several tools choices I lose track of what I used and where I used it. For this piece I am using:

-Kneaded Eraser

-Simple pencil sharpener

-Two tortillions for blending

-One mechanical pencil with .07 lead

-7B Graphite pencil for the darkest areas

– Electric eraser for those stubborn marks that won’t budge

– Drafting brush

Tools Tools Tools
Tools Tools Tools!

Reference Photos:

I have two main reference photos. One being the main focus and the other for a different view of the animal. The other may be an adult but it is more the the skin, elephants have incredible textures. Looking at different ages helps me see different detail. I graph out the main photo and turn it black and white. I get distracted with the color when I work in black and white. The graph helps me make accurate proportions.

Main Image Used
Main Image Used


An adult elephant.
An adult elephant.

Work In Progress:

After I lightly outline the elephant I focus on one area to begin. Going with my darkest areas first, I leave the lights for last. After I work on one ear for a while I step back. I noticed I didn’t like the direction it was going and decided to erase what I have filled in. I kept my strokes light, so the graphite comes up smoothly. I was left with a light gray under, which will act as a base color anyways.

I focus on the face first instead. That is where the real connection is. I usually start with the face first to get the connection going, but I wanted to try a different area. It’s great that it didn’t work out, it may for a different piece. Mistakes will be made and that is okay.

I keep my stokes light still. Texture will slowly build up and the animal will come to life.

After the outline has been made I slowly fill in the ear.
After the outline has been made I slowly fill in the ear.
After taking a break from the ear I notice I didn't like the direction I was going in. I moved on to a different area.
After taking a break from the ear I notice I didn’t like the direction I was going in. I moved on to a different area.

I will post more shots as I continue. I just have to keep a relaxed hand and mind. Treating the drawing as a living thing helps me slow down. When working on something you want to save the image is just that much more powerful.


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