The more I paint elephants, the more I love them. Here are Thai and Simunye, just finished. Measuring 48×48, each portrait is close to actual size. Thai is a 50-year-old Asian male and Simunye a 20-year-old African female. They are so different: their skin, ears, foreheads, their texture and coloring. They may be the most fun animal I get to paint.
Thai is from the Houston Zoo. Asian elephants lose pigmentation on their trucks and ears as they age, and it often has a peachy glow, speckled with flecks of grey. He’s a big guy. Elephants never stop growing and Thai’s been growing since 1965. You can tell from the girth of his tusks that he’s older. Born in Thailand and brought to the US for a private circus or something in Oregon, the Houston Zoo has been his home since 1980. It’s there he has sired Tucker, Baylor and still young Duncan, with a new one due any day.
This is my second portrait of Simunye, and might not be my last; I have so many good reference images I can use. I met her at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita in 2016. Her nine-year-old son, Titan, was one of five others who came with her from the small, drought-stricken country of Swaziland earlier that year. They all started putting on weight immediately. Her tusks are short in this painting because they had been cut for safety in transit. With a growth rate of about a half inch a month, Simunye’s tusks are likely many inches longer than this by now.
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Coming in August: My monthly Animal Lover Video will debut Chapter One of a 7-part story about elephants in our lives, culture, history and imaginations. I’m creating this with my two interns, Jay and Miles, who know a lot more about animation and sound tracks than I do. Always something new to learn!