Elephants on the quay

If you go down to the waterfront you won’t be at all surprised

To see boats bobbing up and down and yachts of every size

But you’ll also come across several highly painted elephants….

‘Elmer’s Big Parade’ opened in Ipswich at the weekend, with 53 of the painted ‘Elmer the elephant’ sculptures all over town. Such an imaginative way to raise a great deal of money for the wonderful St Elizabeth Hospice, and at the same time find an art form that is accessible, fun and appeals to all ages. In the early hours of dawn the 53 elephants were placed in position around the town and by mid morning families were out and about finding them all. By the time I got to mine, down on the waterfront at Neptune Marina (by the quayside railings outside Coffeelink), several children were trying to work out what all my letters of the alphabet stood for. ‘Elefont’ is an Ipswich sailor’s alphabet, spelling out everything you find along the dockside. Some letters have just one meaning, some have several if you can find them! ‘Elefont’ is sponsored by Neptune Marina and we had fun working out the detail together. Thanks to Alan Swann at Neptune for solving the problem of what to do with V, W, X, Y and Z – we cheated a bit and used the nautical flag codes for these.

Making ideas visible is not straightforward. The sketchbook beginning of the process was the fun part; transferring a complex design onto a three dimensional fibreglass elephant was challenging. I though you might like to see the step by step progress (be grateful you can’t hear the curses or see much of the mess and mistakes!)

If you do the Elmer trail, or just spot a few of them around town, you’ll enjoy the variety of design and ingenuity. The elephants will all be there for the next eight weeks, so there’s plenty of time.

First ideas, after much brain cudgelling about how to link boats and Ipswich quayside with Elmer the elephant

Working out how to fit all the letters of the alphabet onto a three dimensional surface

Thank heavens for masking tape….

Not a straightforward task!

I can’t paint adjacent squares as I need to retape over painted areas to get a adjacent edges.

Halfway through it gets very messy, and when I tape over painted squares it has a habit of pulling the paint off.

Moral support comes in all forms – my artist friend Susie drops by and we have a musical tea break to go through her new song

Using tracing paper for some of the more complex elements (this on is ‘C for Customs House’. If you’ve seen the final version you will also notice I managed to fit in a C for crab on this square too)

Working on the trunk and more inaccessible areas

Nearly there, lots of touching up to do

Tidying up the feet… and putting a signature on his tummy

Onto the van and away to be varnished

From fun art to Scilly art…

It’s the time of year when I head west with a bag full of sketching gear. This time next week I’ll be in the lovely Isles of Scilly with seven people who are joining me for an Art Safari holiday, island hopping with our sketchbooks. I love the islands and never tire of them, so hoping for fair weather for us all. In the meantime my ‘list of things to do before I go away’ is growing rather than shrinking, I’m exhibiting at Woodbridge Regatta today and the studio is a tip. I seem to spend half my time making a mess and the other half trying to clear it up again. It’s a wonder I get any time to create anything useful at all!

1 thought on “Elephants on the quay”

  1. steve says:

    lovely post – really interesting to see – especially as we have a whole herd of elmers around the Plymouth Waterfront at the moment as well. Thanks for a great post.

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