How to Ink an Elephant

Elephant – Oriental Ink Brush Painting

Rice Paper, 50cm x 50cm

By Fiona Sheng

@InkDifferent Studio | Brussels

Elephants are smart creatures that are socially adapted, even though some believe that they are huge and scary. These intelligent beings are indeed the largest land animals, but they also display human traits that put some human to shame. These creatures have been through millions of years of evolution before looking like the way they do today. These creatures are not exactly the most popular subjects in the Oriental Brush Art world, but today let’s attempt to combine the ink and water with these magnificent beings!

wildlife photography of elephant during golden hour

“If anyone wants to know what elephants are like, they are like people only more so.”

– Peter Corneille

1. Preparation

The materials involved are simple, there will mainly be:

  • ink
  • oriental paint brush
  • rice paper

The ink can be liquid or blocks, but note that the quality of either makes a difference in the final result! I will use raw rice paper for the creation of this piece, because I want the automatic ink bleed effect to appear in places.

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2. Design

Normally the design phase takes the longest in any painting process, however, for an elephant painting, I believe there are several possible considerations: the type that shows their magnificence, which usually features one elephant; the motherly love that involve both an adult and a baby elephant; the herd of elephants, which obviously will have many individuals. For this piece, I would like to pull focus on only one elephant, with simple yet meaningful background.

We also have to know about our subjects before painting, such as in the elephant world, there are African or Asian species that have quite some distinctive differences. This part I will leave for you to find out – not going to take all the fun from you – but for mine, I would like to paint an African elephant.

To recap, the design will be simple, only one elephant and simple background.

The draft process normally takes place in my head, but I am adding it for you to understand!

Now with our digital painting possibilities, it is also a great idea to use the digital means for the conception process.

3. Painting

The painting process after all the discussion above, is a very enjoyable experience. Because you are familiar with your materials, you also have a plan, now, you only need to realise that plan! The thing I love about the oriental brush painting using ink is its flexibility. In the painting process, my brain is still active, reconstructing the image according to the plan, and my advice is not to dismiss the sparks during the painting time! There may be moments that crazy ideas jump into your head, and these ideas during the creation process may very well be your most valuable inspiration – channel it if possible, and use it well. Not all shall be taken in, but the point is to stay flexible enjoy during the actual creation process.

Be bold in the brush lines, but be cautious in details!

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