Drawings for Africa

African Savanna Elephants Grazing

Drawings for Africa

Wrinkle By Wrinkle: A Series for Africa’s Megafauna


Project Impetus

An estimated 27,000 African elephants are killed each year to feed the illicit trade in ivory.1 In the early 20th century, the total population may have numbered 3-5 million.2 The current population is estimated at 415,428 ± 20,111 wild individuals across 37 African countries.3 The African elephant is currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). While the African elephant is not at immediate risk of extinction, there is growing concern as poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, and human-elephant conflict threaten regional populations across Africa. To learn more, please visit my About Elephants page.

Project Background

In 2011, I came across an article addressing the severity of elephant poaching in Africa. Captivated by the plight of the elephant, I began to read about them. I read books by Cynthia Moss, Iain Douglas-Hamilton, David Western, and Richard Leakey. I read articles about poaching, and watched videos and documentaries.

Inspired to get involved, I began working on a series of small drawings that I intended to sell in an effort to raise money to help elephants. At the same time, my concern for the condition of African wildlife led me back to college, where I studied wildlife and geospatial science. Caught up in the rigor of my coursework, I shelved the art project, with the intention of coming back to it.

In 2017, I had the opportunity to start drawing again. This time with the aid of a strong environmental science education and new self-taught drawing skills. It is my hope that the knowledge that I have learned in my journey of life thus far, will enable me to contribute to the protection of Africa’s megafauna.

Initial Test Drawings

The Project Concept

Drawings for Africa (DFA) is a series of large, mixed media works of African wildlife. Artistically, I strive to capture the essence of the animals depicted, while accentuating those features that make them so beautiful and so captivating. Socially, I hope to foster a greater appreciation for African wildlife within the viewer, so that they may recognize the magnitude of what we stand to lose if we do not curb the poaching epidemic, minimize habitat loss, and resolve human wildlife conflict. I want to inspire people to push through barriers of indifference and passivity to act in ways that promote the well-being of these animals.

For the viewer who feels no shame in purchasing ivory, rhino horn, or leopard pelts, I want them to see that a natural world teeming with a diversity of wildlife is far more magnificent than a home filled with lifeless trinkets. For the viewer who has never seen these creatures in the wild and struggles to relate to their suffering, I want them to discover the grandeur of their existence, and feel impelled to spread the word of their situation, or make a donation to improve their condition. And for the viewer who feels nothing when the last of a species vanishes forever, I hope that as they peer into my art, a connection forms between the animal depicted and the empathy of their own heart.

My long-term goal is to reel people away from the destructive madness of the material world. There is a connection between the depredation of wild places and the deterioration of human physical and mental well-being in modern society. I believe that the salvation of human health lies in restoring the beauty and integrity of all elements of the natural world. As such, there is every reason to protect the environment. Environmental protection begins with the resurrection of the connection between human and non-human life. Fostering this connection is the ultimate purpose of Drawings for Africa.

DFA No. 1: My Life for An Ivory Trinket

Each work in this series is a small installation. I have completed the first work titled, My Life for an Ivory Trinket. The piece integrates fine art with woodwork and metal sculpting. The drawing alone, required 1,800 hours to complete.

Chris Muhl Art DFA No 1


Using geospatial computer software and scientific sampling techniques, and  I have been able to estimate the number of distinct and discernable shapes within the drawing. That number is 205,000.

Chris Muhl Art DFA No. 1

The frame was created from salvaged Oregon black walnut. In my eyes, these trees share similarities with elephants. Like the elephant, they are enormous and majestic. Like the elephant, their trunks are thick and deeply textured. And like the elephant, many are suffering an untimely demise; dying from a fungal infection. I have chosen this wood for its beauty and its story.


To accentuate the message of the artwork, I have created corner accents for the frame. I used Illustrator and AutoCAD to create the design and develop the model for 3D printing. These brass accents are composed of African symbols, and each contains a primary center symbol with a meaning relevant to environmental protection.


Arousing a Social Vision Quest

In indigenous cultures, a vision quest provides a connection between the participant, the forces of creation, and the natural world. This connection is all too often lost in modern society. It is my hope that the DFA project ignites a social vision quest, in which the audience is compelled to contemplate their own connection with the natural world, and their own role in protecting her.

Drawing for Change

For the DFA series, 10% of each sale will go to a charity working to protect African wildlife. Click here to learn more about Drawing for Change.

To learn more about African and Asian elephants, check out the About Elephants page.

Project Gallery

If you are interested in watching the progression of Drawings for Africa, please visit my blog, where I post updates, pictures and videos, and other information related to the project.

1 Steyn, Paul. “African Elephant Numbers Plummet 30 Percent, Landmark Survey Finds.” National Geographic. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-african-elephants-population-decrease-great-elephant-census/
2 African Elephant. World Wildlife Fund, 2017. http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/elephants/african_elephants/
3 Thouless et al. African Elephant Status Report. IUCN, 2016. https://portals.iucn.org/library/sites/library/files/documents/SSC-OP-060_A.pdf
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