The Story of the Pink Elephant Painting

Last year, in June or so, my cousin told me that if I was going to get her anything for Christmas I should just paint her a pink elephant. I thought it was a cute idea so I agreed.

She told me in June.

On January 2 (the day we were to celebrate Christmas with my father’s side of the family), at around 11 AM, I realized I had not yet painted that pink elephant.

On Black Friday I had gone out to Michaels and gotten a canvas board on which to paint said pink elephant, but suddenly we were leaving in less than 2 hours to go to my cousins’ house and I had not even started painting yet.

Oops.

Planning Paintings

A few weeks or months (I’m not sure which) before I even bought the canvas board my sister had sent me some images of elephants that our cousin had sent to her. They were all images she found cute, and thought would be even cuter in pink.

I save a few of them to my phone, sketched one of them in my sketchbook to see how it would look, and didn’t think about them again for several weeks or months.

It was lucky I had the foresight to draw the elephant once before attempting to paint it, however it was still a bit difficult to finish a painting in less than two hours. I hadn’t planned out a painting in a while but when my sister had sent me the images of elephants I knew I needed to because I also hadn’t painted anything realistic in a while either. Without sketching it and getting a feel for the elephant, my painting was bound to be a disaster.

Painting in Acrylic

Since my senior year of college I’ve almost exclusively painted in oils. While I has resisted oil paints at first, after a few months using them I was hooked. And I never wanted to go back.

Of course, if the pink elephant were to be dry by the time we arrived for (belated) Christmas dinner at my cousins’ house I couldn’t use oil paint. Especially since the elephant was to be pink. I’ve found that red oil paints take way longer than any other color to dry.

Thus, I had to use acrylic paint, something I had not done in over a year.

The Process

I knew that to get the dimensions of the elephant correct and to finish him quickly I would essentially have to sketch it out in the paint before actually going in and adding details. This is quite often done with oil paint. You put a thin layer of paint on the canvas and then “draw” – with a brush or a rag or your finger – the image you want to then paint. It helps you see how the painting will work out without putting on a bunch of paint. It’s also easy to fix mistakes at this stage.

Doing this process in acrylic paint is slightly more tricky because it dries so fast that you may no be able to fix mistakes. To curb that effect I watered down the paint a lot so it couldn’t dry quickly. Then I began to draw using the picture on my phone and the drawing in my sketchbook as visuals.

I mostly used the sketchbook as it was larger and easier to see, but this was a mistake. I hadn’t gotten the full elephant onto the paper so his legs kind of went off into the foreground. This messed me up. Somehow, looking at the drawing, I got his back leg and stomach confused, and after about 45 minutes of painting I realized the elephant was missing his stomach entirely.

I still had a little time so I got to work, using the phone image exclusively.

The End Result

pink elephant painting

In the end, my rushed pink elephant painting turned out pretty well. I was able to give him a stomach before we went to dinner and when I gave it to my cousin she loved it. I don’t like that I rushed the painting because part of me thinks it could have turned out even better had I not rushed, but also he’s really cute and I think I did pretty well in the time I was given.

He might be a little abstracted and not quite realistic, but he’s also pink so I don’t mind.

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