An estimated 27,000 African elephants are killed each year to feed the illicit trade in ivory. In the early 20th century, the total population may have numbered 3-5 million. The current population is estimated at 415,428 ± 20,111 wild individuals across 37 African countries. 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.
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 audience, 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.
My Life for an Ivory Trinket emerged over the course of a two-year, 1800-hour journey into the heart of patience, passion, and determination. In the work, I strove to capture the essence of the elephant’s being by accentuating those features that reveal the enchanting nature of his existence. In this way, I attempt to convey the mighty aura of his presence to a viewer who may never see an elephant in the wild. I want the viewer to feel the full substance of his being, so that they may appreciate his animate life more than the inanimate, inutile trinket that he may be killed to produce.
Artwork Background & Techniques
My Life for an Ivory Trinket depicts a large, bull elephant sauntering toward the viewer. I drew the drawing from a licensed photograph captured by the South African photographer, Johan Swanepoel. This photograph was captured in Etosha National Park in Namibia.
In this work, my goal was to capture every detail as accurately as possible. I wanted the location of every wrinkle and fold to be precise, and the proportions of all elements to one another to be near perfect. To achieve this, I used X and Y measurements and a scale factor. Using my computer, I chose distinguishable features (e.g., where two wrinkles meet) of the elephant’s body in the photograph, and then measured the distance between the feature and the edges of my computer screen horizontally and vertically. This produced my X and Y measurements for that point. I then divided these numbers by my scale factor to produce the corresponding measurements for the actual drawing. In total, I made 4902 measurements, producing 2451 pairs of X and Y values.
As I placed the points, I would freehand the lines between them. With the lines (i.e., wrinkles) in place, I would freehand the texture, trying as best I could to accurately draw the true shapes of the skin as depicted in magnified sections of the original photograph. Texture is a major element of this work, and something that I strove to accentuate by capturing and intensifying every little detail. Rather than drawing form, texture, and highlights and shadows together, I chose to lay down form and texture first, and to address highlights and shadows in subsequent passes. In my mind, this approach models the natural characteristics of light more accurately.
Using GIS software and basic scientific sampling techniques, I have been able to accurately estimate the number of shapes that I have drawn in forming the texture of the skin. That number is ~205,100.
Proper framing enhances the visual appeal of the artwork and preserves its value for future generations.
I frame original work and unique prints to immediately protect the artwork. These pieces are sold framed.
In selecting a frame, I strive to meet two objectives, 1) to select a frame that compliments and enhances the visual presentation that I strive to achieve, and 2) to select a frame that is made from reclaimed or recycled materials.
For DFA No. 1, I have designed a custom frame built from Oregon black walnut lumber from Goby Walnut. Goby specializes in salvaging wood from dead and dying trees. The sides of the frame are 8″ wide and 1.875″ thick. Beautiful joinery and a natural linseed oil finish make for a beautiful and environmentally friendly final product.
Additionally, using Illustrator, AutoCAD, and 3D printing technology, I have designed four corner accents for the frame made of brass. Each corner accent contains a unique symbol in the center. These symbols represent a quality that humans must posses if we are to achieve a way of life that is in harmony with the natural world. These qualities are, 1) a quest for knowledge, 2) understanding the importance of Earth in sustaining life, 3) learning from our past, and 4) the need to strive for the best in human endeavors.
For framing questions, please contact me at email@example.com.
Please allow 3-4 weeks for delivery of original framed artwork. Please note that damage by the shipping company in transit is out of my control. However, if damage does occur, I am happy to work with you to resolve the issue. Damage in transit is relatively rare.
Original artwork is final sale and non-returnable. Please see the Exchanges and Returns section of my Buyer’s Guide for details. If you have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Certificate of Authenticity
All original artwork is accompanied by a signed and numbered certificate of authenticity to maintain the integrity of the work.
If you have any questions, please contact me at email@example.com. Alternatively, you can reach out to me via my contact page.
Together we can make a difference
Your purchase enables me to put my art to work for the causes that I believe in. With every artwork sold, I make a donation to a charity devoted to a meaningful cause.
For the DFA series, 10% of each sale will go to a charity working to protect African wildlife. I am interested in supporting the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Please note that I am not affiliated with this organization.