Monday, 18 June 2012

Elephant 260: Window Clings

Today is another busy day, so I thought I'd try something that doesn't seem very time-consuming—at least on the face of it.

The idea behind these things is to use a mixture of white glue and acrylic paint to make a colourful semi-translucent pattern that you can stick on a window for the light to shine through.

You don't need much for this activity: a sheet of glass or even a clear plastic bag, acrylic paint, white glue of some sort, and something called "dimensional paint" to use as an outline. I had everything at home but the dimensional paint, so it was off to the art store for me.

This is the outline paint I bought, which cost about two dollars. If you're looking to buy something, as long as it's acrylic-based and will glop on thickly, it will work.

I decided to use a sheet of glass for my base, although plastic wrap might have been easier in terms of peeling the final piece away. I decided to sketch a design to use when drawing my outlines, but if you were confident, you could just sketch freehand. Colouring book pages would also work well for this.

I laid my sketch under the glass and began outlining over it.

Once the outline is done, it needs to dry to a certain extent before you can start filling things in with coloured paint. I used a hairdryer to help this process along. If you decide to use a hairdryer, keep it at a reasonable distance and temperature to avoid melting the outline paint. Thick acrylic paint will also crack if dried too quickly.

For the colours, I mixed a few shades I liked, using inexpensive bottled acrylic paint. Next, you need to add a fair amount of white glue to achieve a heavy consistency that you can goop onto the surface. It needs to be thick enough to make a relatively even surface that will hold together when you peel the final design away, but not so thick that it doesn't allow light to shine through. If you use glass, it's easy to hold it up to the light to check this. If it has thin spots, you can simply paint over these with more of the same colour, or even layer different colours.

In addition to the outlined piece, I used up a mixture of paints left over in the palette to paint a freehand elephant. I wasn't sure how well this one would work out, but it was worth a try.

When I was happy with the final pieces, I left them to dry on the glass for a couple of hours, then used the hairdryer to make them dry faster. Most instructions tell you to leave these things to dry for 24 hours or so, but I wanted to see what they'd look like against a window while there was still some daylight.

To test how well they'd peel away, I started by picking at the thickest edge of the outlined elephant with my fingernail. This one came away fairly easily, and mostly in one piece, although it tried to tear where the paint was a bit on the thin side. It also wanted to stretch and deform, so I found the peeling-away part rather finicky. I guess it would have been better to make the paint even thicker, because the stuff that peeled most easily was the heavy black outline. I also discovered that there were bubbles everywhere. Apparently I was supposed to poke these with a straight pin. Oh well.

The paint on the head was too thin and not gluey enough, I guess, because it didn't peel very well at all. Parts of it peeled away in one piece, but the edges around the ear and trunk kind of shredded.

I didn't love this activity, partly because it's not fine enough for my taste, and partly because it didn't peel away as easily as I thought it should. I suppose, if you added much thicker layers of paint, you might have more luck. But then it might look even worse. I guess I just don't have the knack for this kind of thing.

This would probably be a fun activity for kids if you really glopped on the paint and used relatively thick outlines, but it's not something I'm personally rushing to try again.

Elephant Lore of the Day
For several months in early 2011, the village of Katunguru, Uganda had its own window-shopping elephant. Mary, who lived in the nearby Queen Elizabeth National Park, had taken to emerging from the forest and walking the streets of town, checking out the various roadside stalls and shops along the way.

Mary was already a common sight at Mweya Safari Lodge in the Park itself, where she often interacted with tourists. Her forays into town, however, were something new. Residents reported regular visits from Mary, who never showed any hostility or aggression towards people or property. Although Park staff were aware of her visits to the village, and tried to lure her back into the forest, Mary was constantly monitored, and never did any harm. Had she shown signs of violence or a tendency to damage property, she would have been promptly relocated.

For months, Mary delighted villagers and tourists alike. Walking slowly up and down the main road, she would pause to touch things with her trunk, but otherwise simply looked around then went back to the Park. Sadly, Mary's presence must have proven too much for someone.

Although elephants remain largely undisturbed in southern Uganda, where tourism has begun to provide more income than poaching, Mary was found dead in May 2011, poisoned by someone less than fond of her window-shopping ways. Oddly enough, it was suspected that some of the very shopkeepers who had benefitted from Mary's presence may have had a hand in her killing. Making the story sadder still is the fact that Mary had been raised by a conservationist after being orphaned as a baby.

Mary the elephant walking the streets of Katunguru, Uganda, 2011.

To Support Elephant Welfare
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information
on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Wildlife Trust of India

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