Monday, 16 April 2012

Elephant No. 197: Painted Bird Feeder

It's a beautiful Spring day here today, with all kinds of birdsong early in the morning, so I thought I'd try painting a bird feeder for today's elephant.

I painted a bird feeder once before with a sort of abstract camouflage pattern, but I've never tried something representational like an elephant. This particular bird feeder already looks a bit like an elephant, however, so it shouldn't be terribly difficult.

I started by painting the entire thing grey—both inside and out, including the rope—with acrylic paint. Unfortunately, the plastic side panels don't come out, so I taped the edges. I didn't want to paint the plastic for a couple of reasons. The first is that the paint would be in close proximity to the seed, which I'm sure isn't good for birds. The second is that I doubt the acrylic paint would even stick all that well to the plastic.

After the first coat of grey had a chance to dry, I gave it another coat, and let that dry as well.

Next, I lightly sketched the elephant's outline, both front and back with pencil. I then shaded the grey in various areas to give the elephant some dimension. 

Once I was happy with the shading, I added pink toenails, pink inside the ears, and a pink tip to the trunk. I also added some white tusks, and black for the eyes and tip of the tail.

I painted in all the black lines after this, including a few more not on my original sketch.

To add a bit of colour, I painted some grass using a few messy blends of a dark green, a light green and yellow.

This isn't an all-day job, by any means. I think this took me about two hours, but a lot of that involved waiting for the paint to dry between layers—which, with acrylic paint, is also not that time-consuming. It's also not difficult, and to me these cheapie bird feeders look a lot better when painted.

To finish this up, it should have a coat of sealant of some sort if it's actually going to hang outside. But I'll save that for another day.

Elephant Lore of the Day
One of the more intriguing things I've read lately comes via the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which rescues and rehabilitates orphaned elephants before reintroducing them to the wild. One of the most mysterious phenomena they've encountered over the years is the appearance of a welcoming committee of elephants, every time youngsters are moved from the "Nursery" to a transitional rehabilitation area.

The rehabilitation area is a good eight-hour drive from the Nursery, and there is generally more reason to be foraging in the wild than hanging around at a gate. Nonetheless, each time new arrivals are brought, all of the Trust's former orphans—along with a number of wild elephants—are waiting.

Nor do they just stand and watch. As soon as the youngest orphans are unloaded from a purpose-built truck, the wild elephants come forward. Laying trunks gently along the newcomers' backs, the wild elephants also give the new arrivals elephant kisses on the mouth, rumble excitedly, and try to get as close as possible.

Wild elephants welcoming newcomers, David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Kenya.

At night, when the young elephants are ushered into a separate enclosure, the herd usually remains nearby to monitor the babies. In the morning, as soon as the babies are let out of the enclosure again, the wild elephants begin introducing the babies to their new home.

After a time in this transitional area—which can be a year or more, depending on an elephant's age and maturity— the youngest orphan elephants are returned to the wild as fully integrated members of the herd.

Wild elephants introducing newcomers to the local bathing area, David Sheldrick
Wildlife Trust, Kenya.

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