Many people have asked how this painting was created so I have jotted down some notes in a type of demo form to walk through the painting process. This is very brief. If you would like to know more, please feel free to contact me.
I (and at least 2 other people) stretch my own canvas, especially at the large sizes to ensure the best tension and sizing. I then gesso the canvas with two coats of acrylic gesso. I do not tone my canvas as I paint wet-on-wet and like to have control of all the paint layers down to the surface of the canvas.
(1) I use a very direct method of painting in oil, starting with the center of interest and growing the painting outward and until it is compete. The size and scope of the painting are sketched very lightly in charcoal prior to starting the painting. I do not sketch in the entire composition before I begin because it allows me to measure and draw as I go. Laying in the foundation values and then applying warm and cool versions of those values one over the other to create vibration.
(2) As the painting begins to take shape I am not thinking about the subject (elephant and birds), only about the most simple shapes and their relative position, value and size to each other. Shapes can be a dark value area (like the that between the head and the ear) or a middle value area (like the head in shadow in this case). I am not concerned with details at all at this point. Though I might throw in a wrinkle or two, just to see the effect and to judge the value of the darks in the light. At this point measurements are critical (the drawing). I spend hours measuring and remeasuring, correcting large errors now while the shapes are large and simple. It would not do to try and correct those errors later when the paint is starting to dry and key areas are completed. Imagine a well drawn eye and a tusk out of place. One or the other would have to be repainted. I use the term drawing loosely here. I am not talking about drawing with a pencil or charcoal. I am talking about designing with shapes and form using paint.
(3) As the painting progresses I am thinking mostly about accuracy of shape placement, temperature of values and maintaining simplicity of form. As the main body of the subject comes together I can now begin to apply some detail and highlights. Some areas may have been totally repainted at this point.
(4) To subordinate the supporting actors (in this case the dust and birds in the foreground and the trees in the background) they are loosely translated with value and temperature sometimes fairly transparently. In some cases areas of the canvas may show through. Even though the birds are forward in the painting, it is not about the birds and they must remain less dominate. Thick paint and key accents and highlights are saved for the very end when pulling the whole painting together.
(5) When the drawing, shapes, values, edges, and color are close it is time to start thinking of the painting as an object. At this point I will reset my brain and start to related to it as an elephant and birds. Because I wanted the juxtaposition of a large massive land animal against the light fragile nature of the birds I introduced dust into the composition during the early concept phase to support and separate the characters.