A stunningly-detailed portrait of animal motherhood.
Elephants are well-known as the largest (by weight) land animals on Earth, and by their overall gentle nature. Their physical attributes make them truly remarkable creatures (we take it for granted, but seriously, how bizarre are their trunks?), but I’ve always been fascinated by their intelligence and social nature. Herds are usually made up of about 10 related individuals, led by a female matriarch. Their brains are very large, second only to whales (although their brain-to-body ratio is far greater than whales), and their structure and complexity is on par with primates, dolphins, and whales. They exhibit an array of intelligent behaviors, including grief, humor, learning, altruism, tool-using, self-awareness, memory, and of course, art!
Elephant herds are basically families, and the responsibilities of motherhood are often shared by the herd. Females gestate for 22 months(!) and give birth to only one calf, so the bond and importance of a young elephant is significant for the herd (and species). I wanted to depict that aspect of the animal (specifically the African subspecies), much as I did with the humpback whale.
The amount of detail is intense, but was necessary to convey the cracked and weathered appearance of their hide. I was clued in by several people to the detail of the direction the elephant’s trunk is facing. Traditionally, the trunk facing up is a sign of luck, with the opposite being true with a downfacing trunk.