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Starting The Elephant Commission

Work In Progress Photo of Elephant Commission, by Kat Skinner

I’m working on this gorgeous photo of two elephants, for a custom commission. This is by far my largest artwork I have worked on to date. Most of my work is so detailed and time-consuming that I tend to paint smaller sized paintings (max 30x40cm – 12x16in). Whilst this artwork is far from finished, I thought it would be worth while to share some in-progress photos.

Reference Photo by James Hager
Reference Photo by James Hager

This photo was taken by James Hager. He was kind enough to sell me a license for this iconic photo at a wonderful price! He has some gorgeous photographs, so if you are in need of some solid reference photos for your own artwork definitely consider his portfolio.

Work In Progress Photo of Elephant Comission, by Kat Skinner
Work In Progress Photo of Elephant Comission, by Kat Skinner

This is definitely one of my most complex artworks yet! The skin of the elephant has so many details to include, and it’s quite easy to get placement lost when looking between the reference photo and the artwork.

Work In Progress Photo of Elephant Commission, by Kat Skinner
Work In Progress Photo of Elephant Commission, by Kat Skinner

I begin by painting a very rough underlayer; I use colors that are designed to “show” subtly through the above layers. The trunk on the right has hints of green on it, though of course we don’t want it looking green! This green is actually a reflection from the grass around the elephants, so by including it on the elephants it helps them to look more realistically part of the scene and less of the cut-out look.

Work In Progress Photo of Elephant Commission, by Kat Skinner
Work In Progress Photo of Elephant Commission, by Kat Skinner

It’s not really apparent in the photos or when you view at a distance, but I have also used the color purple in the tusks and trunk. When you mix purple and yellow together they tend to make a dull – often brownish – hue. But when these colors are used side by side, the eye creates a natural reflection and makes the colors appear more vibrant.

Work In Progress Photo of Elephant Commission, by Kat Skinner
Work In Progress Photo of Elephant Commission, by Kat Skinner

Place purple and orange closely together, and controlling how dark the colors are, gives the impression of objects sort of “glowing”. You can see this in the shadowed areas of the tusk and trunk; whilst they are darker, they have life and character still that makes even the shadowed areas interesting to look at.

 

Still very early days for the artwork. I’m enjoying “painting” (working with pastels is called painting) this one as its providing so many opportunities to put my study of art theory like color mixing to practical use.

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