08 June 2012

first illustration

It was my birthday last week and I had a letter arrive yesterday from my older brother's five children. They'd written me stories, drawn me comics and pictures and I even got a "letter from Bethy" who is four months old. It made my day. I was thrilled and laughed and entertained. My 12yo niece, Abby, who has been writing stories for quite some time now, wrote me one about her baby sister's toy elephant. I was impressed with her writing skills and inspired. So I decided to get to work on a surprise. Just for fun I decided to attempt my first illustration. I've made some scribbles for some of my own stories in the past but this is my first illustration for a story someone else wrote.
First I did some rough sketches to find the right pose for the illustration. Then I lightly penciled my chosen design on a clean page. Then I layered watercolour paint. I obviously got absorbed in this picture because I passed most of the day barely noticing the minutes roll on. I stopped here and there for other things, and to let the layer I just painted dry. I finished it off with some outline in pen and watercolour pencil.

Below is the finished project. Story by my niece. (Published with permission.) Illustration by me.

Elijah the Figure-Skating Elephant

by Abigail Gellert

Story set in the enchanted land of “Bethelasia”

It all started one chilly morning when Elijah, the world’s smallest elephant, woke up. It was the first day of winter and the ground was covered in snow. Elijah jumped for joy. He picked up a little backpack and ran outside. The trees were laden with snow and the ground was covered with it. The sky was grey and little crystallized snowflakes were still falling.

Elijah was humming cheerfully as he arrived at a frozen lake. He un-zipped his backpack and took out a pair of ice-skates and a portable CD player. He put on his ice-skates and switched on some music ‘The Candycloud Castle’ (composed by ‘Giraffes in the Sky’). Skating gracefully onto the ice, he took a pose and waited for the music to begin. Now, I just need to get something straight. Most elephants would make the ice crack, but not Elijah. He was, as you know, the world’s smallest elephant and he was careful to watch his weight. So, the ice didn’t crack underneath him.

Elijah had a secret dream. He wanted to be the world’s best –and only- Figure-Skating elephant. He had mastered Skating when he was just two years old, but no-one knew about it. After that he watched a figure-skating programme on TV, and ever since he had practiced and practiced and practiced, hoping someday he could fulfil his own dreams and enter the Olympics. The Olympics! Those words meant so much to him, and yet they always seemed to be just out of reach.

“And jump! And spin! And step-in-time! And spin! And bend! Leg up... final pose!” Elijah talked himself through his routine doing it very well. But “very well” wasn’t enough for him. It had to be perfect! “Practice makes perfect!” He reminded himself, starting his music and preparing to try again.

“Elijah!! Breakfast!! Come on!!” Elijah’s Ears caught the sound of his Ma calling to him. Almost tripping over in his haste, Elijah skated to the edge of his “Ice Rink” and yanked off his ice-skates. Shoving them into his bag, along with his portable CD player, he began to run home. When he got there, the smell of crispy bacon and warm toast greeted him. “It smells wonderful, Ma!” he cried, sitting down to eat his food. His Ma looked at him disapprovingly. “Don’t scoff your food, Elijah.” She scolded, “It’s bad for your health!” but Elijah was finished already and out the door.

On the way back to the pond, Elijah ran into one of his best friends, Princess Poppy. “Hello, Elijah. Where on earth are you going in such a hurry?” She asked. “Oh, hello, Poppy! I’m just on my way to the woods!” Elijah smiled as he spoke. Poppy nodded and stepped out of the way with Princess-like grace. Elijah hurried on until he came to the pond in the woods. There, he practiced until he was practically falling asleep. Then he stumbled home and flopped into his bed. He was asleep before his head hit the pillow.

The next morning, Elijah decided to go to the library. He scouted the shelves for hours, looking for books about figure skating. Finally he found a dusty book in one corner. ‘The Summer, Winter and Paralympics-ultimate guide.” He read out loud. “Hmm... Better than nothing, I guess.’ He opened the book and began to read. He skipped the section on Summer Olympics and went straight to the page marked ‘Winter Olympics’. After skipping through endless chapters of Snowboarding, Skiing, Bobsleigh, Luge, Ice Hockey, Curling and Biathlons, he came to the chapter on Skating. He read for a couple of hours, and then went home with a new role model- Kariana White. Kariana was the best Figure Skating Princess in all of Bethelasia.

The next day Elijah returned to the library, looking for books, brochures and computer websites about Kariana White. He sneezed a few times (because of the dust) but he didn’t mind. That evening he went home to read the books/magazines that he had found. At around 8:35 his Ma called upstairs “Elijah! Time for bed! Put the books away! Goodnight!” Elijah carried the books to his bedside table, calling out “Yes, Ma!” as he did. Then he went straight to bed.

In the morning Elijah went back to his ‘Secret ice rink’ in the woods. Humming to himself he put his ice skates on and turned on ‘The Candycloud Castle’ and began. This time, he practically skipped through his routine. “And jump! And spin! And step-in-time! And spin! And bend! Leg up... Final pose!” Elijah caught his breath. Finally, it was perfect! “How on earth...?” came a familiar voice behind him. Elijah turned to see Princess Poppy. “Oh,” he said, embarrassed, “It’s just...”

“Amazing!” applauded Poppy, “Fantastic! Beautiful! Super! Elijah, you’re Olympic material!”

Elijah beamed. “You think so?” he asked.

“Of course! Show me again!” So Elijah performed for his first audience.

When Elijah got home that night, he could hear excited talking from his parents. “The Olympics, Harold!” “Ellie, the Olympics!”

“So?” asked Elijah as he came in, “what about the Olympics?”

His parents beamed. “Oh, Elijah, Darling! Princess Poppy, bless her dear heart, just called to say you’re going to the Olympics in only six months!” cried his Ma, planting a big, wet kiss on the end of his trunk. “The Olympics?” Elijah couldn’t believe it. “The Olympics? The Olympics? So Elijah’s dream came true!


A few months later, after intense training under a strict teacher, Elijah was ready. Ready for the Olympic Games. He sailed on an ocean liner across the Chaotic Ocean, named for its stormy waves (although it was relatively calm for Elijah) to Stadium Island. Stadium Island was where all the Olympic Games were held. There had been millions of tonnes of snow hauled here for the Winter Olympics (Which were held in summer). Elijah did his best in his figure skating solo and finished eighth out of fifty three contestants. He didn’t get a medal, but was still fussed over anyway. So, that is the story of the world’s smallest elephant, the little elephant with BIG dreams.

The end