Monday, 19 March 2012

Elephant No. 169: Watercolour Crayons

Today has been a completely crazy day, so I thought it would be nice to do something that involves bright colours, limited engineering or supplies, and an activity as simple as drawing—with perhaps a bit of painting thrown in.

I've had this set of watercolour crayons for a couple of years, but only used them once. I don't remember if that was because I didn't like the medium, or if I just had so much other stuff to play with.

I drew from a photograph, but not in realistic colours. After a day spent editing some rather dry documents, I wanted to look at pretty colours. I think I used about ten colours for this, more or less drawing as if I were using pastels or chalk.

This will give you an idea of what the medium looks like before you add water.

And this is the same general area with water applied.

As you can see, adding water doesn't completely erase the original lines, unless you add a lot of pigment, then add a lot of water. I actually wanted to keep the original lines as much as possible, so I blended things a bit with a paintbrush, but didn't go crazy. The effect I was after was more or less just a slight softening of the lines.

This was a very easy medium to work with, and very easy to control. If you were looking for a more watercolour-like final result, this wouldn't necessarily be the medium to use. However, if you wanted something that combined sketching with watercolour, this is a fun thing to try.

Elephant Lore of the Day
Although they are the world's largest land animals, elephants can be frightened away by birds. But not just any birds.

In early March of this year, a massive flock of red-billed queleas swarmed a herd of elephants as they tried to reach a watering hole in East Tsavo, Kenya. Arriving out of nowhere, the cloud of tiny birds descended on the watering hole, causing the elephants to turn and flee. Some of the elephants backed away as much as 50 metres (165 feet). Others ran. 

Red-billed queleas are the most abundant wild birds in the world, with an estimated 1.5 billion breeding pairs. A wildlife photographer who caught the scene on camera thought that the elephants may have been spooked by the whooshing sound of so many birds, as well as the impressive size of the invasion. 

Red-billed queleas, East Tsavo, Kenya.
Photo: © Antero Topp/Caters

Although the birds are about the size of starlings, and weigh only 10 grams (0.35 ounces) apiece, there were so many of them in the trees at this particular watering hole that their weight brought down tree branches. The birds spend most of their time feeding nearby, coming to the watering hole only at dusk and dawn. In this particular case, they were more numerous than usual, shattering the quiet with a storm of wings and shrieks—and scaring away creatures who weigh about 50,000 times as much. Talk about throwing your collective weight around.

Elephant encountering a flock of red-billed queleas, East Tsavo, Kenya.
Photo: © Antero Topp/Caters

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