or, as it is known in some circles, pondering the pachyderm…
“When you have got an elephant by the hind legs and he is trying to run away, it’s best to let him run.”
I spent a lot of time in front of the elephants at the Oakland Zoo a few weeks ago. Since then, I have been thinking about them often. I have early memories of circuses and zoos as my father would take us as kids along (with his sketchbook) to any circus that came through town. Many family day trips were to the Griffith Park or San Diego Zoos for him to catch up with his animal keeper friends and get some drawing done. I think I associate sketchbooks with the smell of hay and peanuts. After I entered school and questions like, “What’s your favorite color?” became pressing, when I asked my dad what was his he would say: “elephant’s breath grey.” (When I was an art teacher I often thought that the name should be submitted to Crayola for their boxes.) Even though his name was Charles, my father had gotten the nick name of Chang when he was in art school. The name came from an elephant in the zoo that was his favorite to draw and he was always known by the name afterward. He kept a record of every elephant’s history that was in the United States and wrote articles and a book on circus history. So, when I ponder elephants, I really ponder elephants from a long family history.
My parents on an early date…………….Wait for it…
My dad is just off camera holding the pole. Even though he took her into a lion’s cage, my mother married him anyway!
The “elephant in the room” is always very literal with me because I have so many on my walls…
A watercolor from 1940 of raising a circus tent:
My father also made lithographs. (During World War II he was stationed in Texas for Officer’s Training School where he learned lithography from Merritt Mauzey.) When he got out of the war, he purchased a lithograph press with a war bond his brother gave him. (I think in celebration of them both having survived the war.) That press was always stored in our garage.
“Circus Sunrise” 1942
Babe and Jenny, 1952.
In the 60’s and 70’s he loved doing acrylic ink dry brush paintings. He used to rave about the way he could build up the tone with layers of ink. He did a lot in black and white ink, but some were in color. He also painted in oil, but I do not have any elephants painted in that medium, lots of clowns in oil, though.
The top of my piano also includes the death-defying Stella griping a rope by her teeth and a porcelain elephant sculpture by my good friend Jan Mrozinski Crooker (before she was a plein air painter she worked in porcelain).
When I was a production potter, back in the day, I often used the circus as a theme, also.
Photos of old porcelain boxes with new application of iPhone alteration.
It was a natural thing for me to use an elephant as the subject of a collage for a class I have been taking on-line from Misty Mawn.
I used every “elephant’s breath grey” paper I could find around here for the elephant plus a photo of a bird house I own that is shaped like an elephant and a photo of an exotic yellow bird I took at the rain forest exhibit at the Academy of Sciences last week. Of course, once I had taken the iPhone photo of the paper collage, I just had to start layering it with other images in my files. First with a photo of a side of a barn plastered with circus posters announcing the date of the next circus…
Then with a photo of a wheel of a circus wagon…