A Beautiful African Elephant Photo and Why I Won't be Painting It - by Artist Alison Nicholls

Elephant, Botswana photo by Nigel Nicholls

My husband Nigel was going through his photos from our recent Africa trip. I saw this one he took in Botswana and immediately voted it one of his best shots! Maybe because this photo follows many of the same principles I use in my paintings. It has the same calm, tranquil atmosphere showing an undisturbed animal with a peaceful expression. It has the same limited palette of color I often use too. And I just love the detail of the intricate shadows. In short – its beautiful.

So will I be painting this? Absolutely not!

Because it is wonderful just as it is, as a photograph.

You see I remember when this was taken, as a herd of 50 or so elephants moved quickly through a dry dusty riverbed on their way to water. Elephants of both sexes and all ages passed both sides of our vehicle. They were moving fairly fast and coming straight at us, which gives limited sketching time, so I took some video footage (for a video I am making about my work). My favorite part of the video is not that the elephants are so close but that you can hear them walking. I’ll post the video footage on Friday so you can see what I mean.

Will I paint from the video footage? Absolutely not!

Because it is wonderful just as it is, as a video.

Instead my painting will come from my visual memories of that scene and from the small and very brief sketches I was able to do. Those will be my inspiration. I won’t capture the minute detail of shadows falling across an elephant’s forehead but I will hopefully capture what it meant, to me, to be surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of a moving herd of elephants.

Will I paint that? Absolutely!

Lets hope it is as wonderful as the photo and video!

Until next time…


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