Friday, 20 January 2012

Elephant No. 110: Stippling

I didn't feel like assembling anything today, so I thought I'd try something I haven't done in years: stippling. 

Stippling is similar to pointillism, in that it uses a series of dots to create an image. Although the terms "stippling" and "pointillism" are sometimes used interchangeably, stippling generally refers to single-colour or black-and-white drawings, while pointillism involves multiple colours.

The principle is simple: place a series of dots on a surface. The more dots, the darker and denser the area; the fewer dots, the lighter the area. This allows you to create effects simulating subtle shades of light and dark.

A stippled masterpiece produced by Adam Todd for the
Koh-i-noor company, using a Rapidograph drafting pen.

Stippling can also be used in printmaking, with dots indented into the printing plate. Stippling, as applied to engraving, is thought to have been invented by Giulio Campagnola sometime around 1510, although the stippled prints he produced also included sold lines. 

Today, stippled drawings can also be produced by computer, although these often lack the subtlety of hand-drawn versions.

For today's elephant, I decided to work from a photograph. Because I've never really drawn an elephant's trunk, I chose this photograph by Nick Garbutt as my inspiration:

Close-up of curled tip of the trunk of an Asian elephant, Bandhavgarh National Park, India.
Photograph: Nick Garbutt

I used a simple black rollerball-type pen with a very fine 0.3 mm tip, and a 14 x 17.75 cm (5.5 x 7-inch) piece of good-quality bristol board. I could have used one of my many Rapidograph pens, which would have given me uniform dots, but I didn't feel like dragging out my pens and loading them up with ink today.

I started by faintly outlining the trunk with a series of spaced-out dots. It's not quite the same as the photograph, but I think it looks realistic enough.

Next, I began filling in the darkest shadows, modelling the shape a bit as I went.

After this, there's not really much obvious progress I can show. I didn't want to fill everything in, as I rather liked the open areas on the left, so I didn't do much more than add or enhance wrinkles, and add more dots to the darkest areas.

I like the finished piece a lot. It was easy, relatively quick at just over an hour, and I liked that I could use simple dots to create subtle shading. I also found it interesting that even adding a single dot out in the middle of nowhere will draw your eye and create a greater sense of shading than the dot actually merits. In that case, you either have to commit to leaving things alone, or add a lot more dots. 

As I often do, I came very close to crossing the line into overworking the drawing, but I forced myself to put the pen down and leave it at this.

Elephant Lore of the Day
In India and China in particular, elephants are seen as lucky. Statues are placed on shelves and near doorways to ensure luck and longevity, and some believe that touching the trunk of a household elephant statue will bring success in business or on a journey. 

There are different beliefs about the way the trunk is depicted. In the West, it is thought that a raised trunk is lucky, and that pointing the trunk at a photograph or object bestows good fortune. In many eastern cultures, however, it is generally believed that an elephant with its trunk pointed up "stores" luck, while one with its trunk hanging down "dispenses" luck. What a curled trunk means is anybody's guess.

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society
Bring the Elephant Home
African Wildlife Foundation

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