Two weeks ago it was a Tuesday. I’m sitting at my desk at work and coworkers begin inquiring about my participation in the white elephant gift exchange that was scheduled to take place the following day. I tell them I’m not doing it this year and offer my myriad reasons for this decision. They scoff and refuse to accept the decision then suggest I paint a white elephant for the exchange. In their words “it’ll be funny.” To be fair, it is amusing and in line with my own stupid sense of humor, so I reluctantly agree despite the fact that I have less than twenty four hours to complete it. I planned on selecting a small canvas from the plethora of blanks beneath my bed and throw something together with the time I had, hoping it was satisfactory after the consumable materials were used and my time was spent on it. It didn’t have to be great, it just had to be meta.
I spent around two hours painting this piece. It’s acrylic on an 11x13” stretched canvas. I chose to work in monochrome because I didn’t feel like I had enough time to properly mix colors and because it was something I’d never done before. This was a rush job and I needed to cut corners where I could, but I also wanted the process to be interesting. I’d planned for it to have an abstract look about it but it slowly demanded more detail and ended up becoming something entirely different in the end. The reason for the solid black background is a testament to this original vision. Elephants are surprisingly fun to paint because they have such varied textures between their face and trunk and their forehead and body. Some sections of skin are smooth and require single brush strokes to create them whereas all the parts which actively stretch and move are craggy with wrinkles. It makes for an interesting process because no two parts feel the same. To my surprise, I enjoyed doing this piece more than any other piece I’ve done recently, so I think I’ll continue to paint without color just to see if I can experience that again. The relatively short amount of time it took to make coupled with the general satisfaction I feel toward the final product makes for a pleasurable experience overall. “White Elephant” currently hangs in an apartment in Crescent Springs, KY.