Whoever heard of elephants in Yorkshire?

As an aspiring writer, I was struggling along, often finding that my stories or poems need illustrating. My friends eagerly assure me that they are absolutely marvellous at drawing.  Great. But, when I set them to work, describing in detail the pictures I have in my head, the end results are nothing like I imagined.

Frustration getting the better of me, I decided to solve this once and for all.  I would draw them myself.  Slight catch.  I could not draw.  Sucking on my teeth, I scoured the local papers for inspiration.  As luck would have it, the new term was starting shortly in the adult learning centre.  Perfect. I would go and be taught by the professionals.

Enrolment day came and I eagerly added my name to their long list of hopeful artists.  I virtually swaggered from the room; it would only be a matter of time now before I could draw anything I wanted.  The next week dragged by as I counted the minutes to my first art lesson.  I wondered what we would draw first, a model no doubt, suitably clothed of course.  I was getting extremely excited, I had a great story writing itself in my head and, as it would be for children I would be able to embellish it with all the characters I was creating.  Things were looking up!

“How did the art college go?” one friend asked innocently.  “Don’t ask. I enjoyed it, but drawing jars with sticks of charcoal wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. The rest of the students are nice though, but some of them have been going for three or four years now. Some even have their own seats!”

“Never mind. It was probably a warming up exercise. It could be the full paints, brushes and palettes next week.”  “I certainly hope so. I have seen some lovely pictures I would love to draw then paint, particularly one of an elephant swimming that I glimpsed on the television.”

“An elephant swimming?  Why an elephant?”  “I don’t know. There is just something about them that appeals to me.”  The next week came. Hooray!  No more jars. Now we are on to drawing the windows!  God! I would never get on at this rate.  Patiently I smiled, determined to carry on regardless.

The next session, paints, real paints, and big long-handled brush. I was raring to go.  “Can we start now?” I asked naively.  “Copy these colours,” said the tutor, handing me a tiny piece of paper with four colours on.  “How? I’ve only got red, yellow and blue, plus white for lightening!”  “You have learn to mix them first, get the shades right, then the tonal values and then you might be able to make a good impression of tree.” A TREE!

“I want to paint a proper picture. Large, in oils on canvas. Something to prove that I am artistic by nature.”  “It will be a long while before you get to that stage!”  Thoroughly disheartened, I decided to teach myself. After all, how hard could it be?  Pictures and pictures later, I was discovering that yes, it was hard, much harder than I had ever imaged, but, I appeared to have a natural knack for capturing the essence of things. Now for the elephants!

Failing to find the right image to portray what I wanted, I visited my local library. Thousands and thousands of books filled the place, but only one was available with photographs of elephants.  Eagerly, I signed it out on my library card. Having bought watercolours, pastels and some oils, I was ready to start.  I had been reading copiously on the subject of sketching, underpainting, shading, etc.  Now I felt that I could be let free to express myself.

A picture of two young male elephants fighting quite stirred my blood. It wasn’t exactly an elephant swimming, but it would get me into the language of elephant behaviour.  Covered head to toe with paint; I viewed my efforts with some degree of pride.  You could tell they were elephants, and that they were fighting, but I could not get the texture that I wanted.  This would have to be sorted out.  Also, I was no further towards my swimming elephant. Now what?

I decided to consult the experts. Hastily I dashed around, chatting to all the Artists and painters that I knew, hoping to acquire the magic formula.  “Draw from nature, Dear,” an established artist encouraged me. It’s always the best method.”  Sound advice you will agree; but…….’whoever heard of elephants in Yorkshire’?





Recommend0 recommendations

Published in Poetry & Stories


  1. starlette

    Haaaa creativereader…….I soooo know what you mean, I and some work mates also joined an art class some years ago…we had to draw a kitchen roll cylinder, sounds easy…it wasn’t……then recreate a picture from book, funny how they all looked entirely different, were we even looking at the same pic……its odd how we don’t really draw what we see, as instructed………we draw what our brains tell us what we imagine articles are like……the painting is a lot more fun…….I am very good at painting old stone walls…….could be because I see lots of them in Derbyshire…….people and animals total rubbish I am……hope you come across an Elephant that will sit for you…lol…..

    1. creativereader Post author

      I did manage, thank you. Chocolate works well as a bribe. Ha Ha! A tip for you if you are going to paint anything apart from the stone walls in Derbyshire, ( lovely place), is to turn the source photo upside down and draw and paint it that way. It confuses the brain as nothing makes sense and then when it is finished and you turn your painting the right way up, you will be amazed!!!! Go on, try it……

        1. creativereader Post author

          My pleasure, Starlette. Perhaps you will post a pic when you have done it? I finally found my first painting effort of the elephants and popped in on my profile. It actually sold! Lol.

          1. creativereader Post author

            Yes, I know. Shocking isn’t it. It was a sea-captain who discovered this fact, read below.

            Blue Spotted Elephants

            Through eye patch of black his sight was blurred,
            The other eye dropping in sympathy;
            One-sided world appeared obscure,
            The brain deceived as to the reality of light.
            Solid thumps crept heavily across the salted floor,
            Floorboards shaking fearfully upon their supporting joists;
            A hose of grey snaked around the cabin door,
            Concertinaed folds of dusty sponge rubber:
            Looming large, the clumsy bulk arrived,
            Elephant toddler’s trumpeting filling the air:
            Head to toe, pale spots marked hide of softness,
            Creating the effect of dappled, stormy sky:
            Startled, he muttered, ‘too much grog, too much grog’!
            As his shipmate called him on watch;
            ‘Aargh, Captain, sir, be not afraid,
            ‘Tis well known in these ‘ere parts,
            That when elephants catch our chicken pox,
            They be not red, but blue spotted marks!


  2. Ms. K.

    I’ve taken an art class. It was fun, cause I never drew what everyone did. My mom’s a real artist -degrees and all, and while I’m not in her league, I’m not scared to color outside the lines, lol.
    I’d like to return to class. Right now, I color on furniture, and make it more interesting.

    1. creativereader Post author

      It is always best to follow your own instincts and do things the wrong way, which often turns out to be the right way for you.
      Why don’t you go back to class and find your own way? It is never too late. Remember, Grandam Moses was 80 when she started painting and went on to become successful.
      I also paint on furniture and as my bathroom looked boring, I painted streams of bubbles on the walls. Everyone loves it 😀

      1. Ms. K.

        @creative…I’ve been preoccupied with writing for the last several years. the project is almost done, I’ll be able to breathe, and get back to art. I managed to “be” artistic, and I really like the thought of bubbles on the walls! Last night, a childhood friend of my daughter’s picked up her wedding flowers – and cried when she saw the bouquet. I’m not professional, it’s something I do occasionally for fun!

        1. creativereader Post author

          Ms. K. It sounds as if you have written a novel, have you? How wonderful that you have a gift with flowers, I love them, as many of my paintings will testify, but I am no expert when it comes to arranging them. I am delighted that you were able to make the bride’s day special. Well done you. The bubbles are easy, I painted the walls a pale blue, then found lots of different sized circled objects, everything from pennies to Cd’s, the outside is white on all the shapes, then the reflection has streaks of bright pink and an aqua tone inside the white. They stream up and down my walls in gay abandon. Yes, I know there is another use for the word nowadays, but gay is the word that sums them up.

  3. vonMichael

    I’m an artist ( painter ) too be is was a long, long way to find out. What do I have an eye for?
    Is it pople, animals, landscapes, still lifes or what is it.

    At a time full of unconsciousness of what is to find outside of our hemisphere and full of
    trust in US observations visitores from other planets came for a visit us on earth.

    That was the moment I found out I was divinely gifted as a painter for UFOs. Ufos in the
    sky light years away from us thats it.

    But for today I have to say I gave up painting UFOs any longer cos the NASA has denied
    their existence in one of their press releases lately.

  4. Ms. K.

    @Creative…lol, yes, I’ve written a novel! My husband and I co-wrote it, and hopefully we’re on the last edit, and it’ll be published this fall by SoulMate Publishing. It’s a funny, thoughtful romantic adventure about a nice girl whose curiosity gets her into trouble! After that, I’ll polish my children’s manuscript and send it out.
    Okay, so is the reflection that little rectangle along the side of the bubble? I so want to try this!

    1. creativereader Post author

      How wonderful! I am delighted for you both. It sounds intriguing and I will certainly look out for it. I am an avid reader……. Is your children’s manuscript a novel or a collection of short stories?
      Oh yes, the bubbles……..I have tried four times to put a pic of them on my profile, but it refuses to accept them, but if we can become ‘friends’, then I can send it directly to you. Is that ok? I will send you a friend request right now.

  5. Ms. K.

    Hi Creative. Yes, let’s be friends! My children’s is a middle grade adventure. My writing stack teeters high, since I put everything else aside for the moment. I’ve also had about 10 shorts in different Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I love reading too – and it started with Russian fairytales, the Georgette Heyer -glorious afternoons spent in the college library, munching cookies and waiting for mom to finish her nursing classes.

    1. creativereader Post author

      Thank you for accepting my friend request 😀 I had to laugh, my writing is also a very large pile, as I occasionally write for children, short stories and daft poems, plus I do write short stories for adults sometimes, but my grown up poetry tends to be my main love. I did win a national competition with one of them, much to my surprise, and I have had many of my works published in various anthologies, here in the Uk, in America, Portugal and a few in the Netherlands. What with that and my painting, it does at least keep me out of mischief. I vividly remember the ‘Georgette Heyer books and I believe I read every one of them.
      The bubbles………….sheez. It is driving me crazy. I have added the photo six times, and each time it disappears!!!! I have written to them asking why and I am now awaiting their reply, so I will attempt to describe how I did it to save you having to keep waiting to get started. Do all the white circles first, various sizes. Then with the pink, do a bracket shape parallel to the white, ( only a small curve inside the white) then on the opposite side, do a bracket shape in the aqua or turquoise. Then to the reflections, a dab of white in each one, anywhere you like but not in the middle. Then add either a dab of pink or aqua in a different part and voila, you should have gorgeous bubbles. Good luck! If they sort out this photo business, I promise I will send you one immediately. OK?

  6. Ms. K.

    Hi Creative. Those are pretty easy directions. thanks! Don’t get frustrated over emailing. I appreciate the vision. I’m gonna paint my daughter’s apt soon – with her help, so that it’s nice and bright for the school year. I’m gonna sneak some in her bathroom!
    It’s lovely that you’re a writer, too. Do you go to conventions, the small area ones? I haven’t in a few years, but once I start working again, I’ll be able to afford it. It’s a relief to talk to sit down and giggle with someone who’s like you!

    1. creativereader Post author

      Good morning, Ms K. I am pleased the directions make sense and I sincerely hope that your daughter will love her bathroom of bubbles 😀
      By writer’s conventions I am assuming you mean writer’s circles or writing groups, if so, then yes, I do. We have several in our vicinity and thankfully the others are all slightly offbeat as well so we do have some hilarious moments. I have always believed that creative people need to mix with people who are the same.
      I still write in longhand first, then type it up as I go along. I find it helps my creative juices and it is great fun to scribble ideas in the margins. I also keep a notebook beside my bed for ideas that float into my brain while sleeping. Do you?

  7. rose1943

    I don’t write like many of you but I certainly have always been an avid reader. Thank God for good writers! I did receive my certificate in Interior Decoration and paint and wallpaper any wall that looks pale and bland. Love hanging pictures and wall decor to create a theme and feeling. Took water colors. Loved a beautiful wet sky on the paper in front of me and sponging paint off creating clouds. I felt water colors gave me freedom. Had drawing classes. Often would use my left hand to turn off the right hemisphere and have more fun. My favorite tools are charcoal and black ink. I swirl my charcoal across the papers as my feelings take me. So much freedom. And voila….a picture is formed. Caution….they are very messy, watch where you’re using them. I don’t know if this reply is applicable but some good ideas might be lurking in these words somewhere.?

    1. Ms. K.

      What good advice, Rose! I really anticipate a return to art. I think its easier during the winter, when I’m inside anyway. Sounds like you do a lot!