It’s been quite a month, which is why this blog has been a little neglected by me. I moved, and it’s taken a little longer than expected to get the new apartment in order! I’m very excited to show off my new desk, once it’s finally all set up.In the meantime, however, I thought I’d show the process for creating a new piece of artwork that I painted recently. It’s a piece I’m very proud of, and I thought you might enjoy it too!

Project Focus: Starry Night Elephant - Full Piece // Cissy's Art Café

The Idea

A few weeks ago, I reached out to a YouTube content creator that I greatly admire about a collaboration, with no expectation of hearing back from her. To my great joy, she did respond, and we had the idea of painting the same animal in our own separate styles. We polled the Instagram Stories community, and ended up both getting elephants as a result.

Full disclosure: elephants are easily my favorite animals. They’re adorable, they’re community-oriented, they live in little matriarchal societies, and they’re extremely empathetic. Just the other day, I was watching a video about baby elephant orphanages and started to cry over how sad those babies must have been losing their families!

Needless to say, I was very pleased that I got to paint an elephant. I’ve painted an elephant before, but I knew from the beginning that I wanted to create a more elaborate piece.

The Story

While thinking about the orphaned baby elephants, I imagined what it would be like if I were in their shoes. I would be anxious over being separated from my new family, whether that be other baby elephants or the human caretakers showering me with love and helping rehabilitate me to be reintroduced to the wild after I grew older. I imagined that to sway my anxiety, I would count the members of my family every night to make sure everyone was still safe.

And so, the idea of this baby elephant with a penchant for counting was born. I imagined that this baby elephant would begin by counting his family, and then the things he befriended in his home, until the volume of things he wanted to count grew larger and larger until one day, he wanted to try to count the stars he saw hovering over him every night, watching over him before he fell asleep.

That’s when I knew what I wanted to paint: a baby elephant, more at peace, slowly attempting to count the stars above him, until he realizes that he would rather take in the beauty that surrounded him. Maybe the world was scary before, because it stole away his first family; maybe he realizes the world can actually be really beautiful, and it isn’t so scary after all.

The Process

With an idea in mind, I started by researching (and gushing over) baby elephant images. I wanted enough reference images so that I could feasibly imagine a pose that might not be too common in photographs.

Project Focus: Starry Night Elephant - Preliminary Sketches // Cissy's Art Café

I made some quick watercolor studies of elephant poses, and while I was at it, decided to do some color studies for the night sky. I wanted to try to branch out and see what fun color combinations I could come up with, although ultimately I decided on using the colors I was more comfortable with.

Originally I had imagined the elephant standing in some grass, but as I created the color studies, I thought it would be really fun for the ground to be in a complementary color. Blue sky meant red ground, so the ground turned into flowers. It ended up adding to the whimsy of the piece, and I really love that I made that choice!

When I felt more ready to begin the final piece, I sketched out what I wanted based on the studies I’d done and some more quick polling of the Instagram community. (I am very obsessed with Instagram Stories polls, mostly because I really love data.)

Armed with my trusty watercolor palette, a favorite brush, and some fun new shimmer paints, I spent a few hours one Sunday morning – in the midst of cardboard boxes – and painted the final piece.

The Tools

While I am a bit of a paint hoarder, I tend to fall back on favorites whenever I actually create artwork.

The watercolor palette I use and love is the Prima Marketing Tropical Confections palette. I am a strong believer that you do not need fancy, expensive tools to create good work, and this palette is fairly budget-friendly at under $30 dollars for extremely pigmented paint. Plus, it comes with a lovely little metal tin, which feels much more expensive that similarly priced palettes that usually come in plastic. As of writing, this palette is under $20 on Amazon.

Another palette that I love, and has more colors, is the Sakura Koi Travel Watercolor palette, although I did not use it for this piece. If you’re interested in pieces that I created with this palette, I used it for my entire 31 Days of Movie Scenes series.

My favorite brush that I’ve ever used is actually the water brush that came with the Sakura Koi travel palette! You can get one separate from the palette here.

The paper I used was Canson’s 90 lb cold-pressed watercolor paper. I did have some issues with warping – the paper isn’t as thick as I would like it to be – but I was able to work with it and the final result looks beautiful. It’s extremely affordable, and if you tend to use light washes, it’ll work perfectly for you. Otherwise, I love Arches paper, although it is quite a bit pricier.

Finally, for the shimmer – my friend gave me this incredible Kuretake Gansai Tambi palette for my birthday and I was really excited to try it out! It does not disappoint. It was so fun to splatter the paint around for the night sky, and it shows up surprisingly well on top of the dark navy blue paint underneath.

The Final Piece

Without further ado, the final piece, along with some close-up shots of the elephant and the night sky!

Project Focus: Starry Night Elephant - Full Piece // Cissy's Art Café

Project Focus: Starry Night Elephant - Detail // Cissy's Art Café

Project Focus: Starry Night Elephant - Detail // Cissy's Art CaféI am so pleased with how this piece turned out, and I hope you love it (and the story behind it) as much as I do! 

If you are interested in getting a print of this for yourself, I am now offering it in my Etsy shop.

Or, if you’re interested in getting involved in the plight of orphaned baby elephants, I recommend researching orphan elephant sanctuaries to donate to and visit! It’s on my bucket list to do so. My favorite one that I’ve found so far is this one, because it seems reputable and fairly transparent in how the donation money gets divided up. Also, speak out against poaching – it’s an evil practice, and these cute babies do not deserve it.

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