Young African Bull Elephant





Introduction: Young African Bull Elephant

For this project I used the same 3D cardboard pattern that I used for the Baby Elephant, (also posted on this site).This time though I doubled the size of the pattern as I wanted to make this one more like an old grumpy old bull elephant. He turned out to be more of a spirited young adolescent but I was very happy with the result anyway. Before I go any further, all patterns and paper mache recipes I use I have taken from Jonni Good's wonderful site If you are at all interested in starting paper mache I can not recommend this site highly enough and will probably keep rabbiting on about it throughout this post.

Step 1: 3D Pattern

This is a photo of the baby elephant pattern at the masking tape stage. The pattern once downloaded is printed out, then covered with clear book cover seal as it needs protection from getting wet. Then it is painstakingly cut out and assembled like a 3D jigsaw puzzle joining each number to its corresponding number on the adjoining piece. Once fully assembled polystyrene balls are added from the inside to give the eye it's shape and it is then stuffed with something to help firm it up, I used bubble wrap. Then it is fully covered in masking tape as paper mache will not readily adhere to the plastic book cover. This is where the baby elephant is up to in this photo.

Step 2: Alterations to Make It Look More Like a Bull Elephant.

As I did not take photos of the bull before this stage please assume that the process up to now was exactly the same as for the baby elephant in the previous steps.

As mentioned earlier for this project I increased the size of the pattern times two. Then I changed the shape of the ears by adding more card to the top and sides. Here in the first photo you can see the extra piece of card from the back and the original shape off the pattern in photo 3.. In the next photo you can see the results of the first layer of paper mache strip again on the back first to firm it all up once dried. Then it was onto covering the whole thing in paper strips. The eyes were done with a inch and a 1/4 polystyrene ball cut in half and hot glued in place from the inside before it was stuffed with bubble wrap. I wanted the trunk to hang straight down this time as opposed to having the curl up that the baby had so, this was achieved by cutting out the curved piece of the pattern and adding a straight tube of card with the very bottom of the original trunk added back on on at the bottom. Because of the weight of the finished project I changed the back piece of the pattern from card to 6mm MDF as this would give it strength for hanging and also allow for the hanging hook to hold in really well.

Step 3: Adding the Paper Clay and Details.

Once all the paper mache was dry I starting adding the paper clay to allow me to give it detail. The recipe for this is available through

Basically it is as follows:

1 roll of toilet paper pulped,

1 cup of Gibstop (Drywall Compound)

1 cup of PVA glue (Elmers glue)

1 cup plain flour

1tablespoon of linseed oil.

Really though with the effort Jonni Good puts into her fabulous website I would rather you checked it out there as there are other recipes for different compunds and glues etc. that she uses and I highly recommend you check out as I found this website and Jonni Good very inspirational and motivating indeed.

Oops sorry rabbiting on.

The clay is applied usually with an artist's pallet knife in two layers. The first is thin and used to fill everything out and to achieve symmetry where necessary. Once happy that I have a good looking even shape I then add another layer this time adding detail like the folds in the skin and ears, the eyelids, jowls and trunk folds etc. I use different tools for different effects like paint brush handles, pens, anything really that works at the time. No hard and fast rules here, whatever you have at hand. I work on a small area at a time with this second coat and also cover it with a layer of very thin, (almost useless really for it's intended purpose), toilet paper. This is applied using a very weak practically transparent water flour mix with a paint brush. This gives the overall appearance, when dry, of the wrinkled skin, visible in the first photo.

Step 4: The Tusks

The tusks I had to make from scratch as they were not in the 3D pattern. I started with some, what we call here in New Zealand, #8 wire. Not sure what it is called elsewhere but it is a relatively stiff wire which when bent holds it shape really well. I doubled it over and gave it a curve using the head as a guide for size. I made them a little longer than necessary just in case, knowing they would be easy enough to cut down later if needs be. I then wrapped the wire in bubble wrap and masking tape at the same time trying to achieve an even taper as I worked my way down toward the tip. Once I had figured out the size I wanted I cut the first down a bit leaving some of the wire protruding to help to fix them to the head. I copied the process for the second one using the first as a pattern and constantly referring to it as I worked. Then it was two thin coats of clay followed by a good sanding once properly dry.Then as in the third photo I applied two coats of gesso, which is one part Gibstop (Drywall) and one part PVA glue (Elmers glue ). The second coat once dried was sanded to a very smooth finish with three ever finer grades of sandpaper. (100, 120, 240 grits). Attaching the tusks was somewhat tricky but by laying the head on it's back and using lots of masking tape and anything I could find that worked as a prop I inserted the wire into a a small hole drilled in the appropriate position. I also found it helped to put a slight upward almost 45 degree bend in the wire to hold them in place better. Once happy all was going to stay where I wanted I added the jowls around the base of the tusks. The beauty of this medium is that so far I have always managed to get dry to stick to wet, or vice versa really well. So once the jowls had dried I removed all tape and props and at first very gingerly lifted the head upright and all was fine.

Step 5: Painting

All paints used were acrylics. First an entire coat of a base grey as in the first two photos. I then mixed in more black and applied this darker shade with a sponge more smudging really, in certain areas to still allow the base coat to show. The deeper folds were a darker grey almost black applied with a brush and again softened with a sponge. I wanted him to also look a little dirty so I sponged on a brown and wiped it off again to achieve a more softened effect. Around the eyelids and lips, tongue and inside the tip of the trunk was a reddish orange colour. The eyes were done the same as the babies, which is actually in the fifth picture. To achieve symmetry I cut out two different sized circles from folded over tissue paper. This gave me two exactly the same pupils and two larger whites. First the larger circles were applied with PVA (Elmers) glue which dries transparent then once the glue had dried they were painted the orange colour. Next the pupil circles were added the same way and painted black. To add detail I added the white spots in the pupils and once dry gave them two coats of my daughter's ( that's my story anyway and I'm sticking to it) clear nail varnish. For the baby my daughter very kindly purchased me some false eyelashes,(Again my story) of which I had enough left over for this project. Sadly I also did not take any close up photos of the bulls eyes but the process was the same as in the above photo of the baby and the result was the same to. Why fix something that isn't broke. The tusks received two coats of pure white last of all. Hope you all like the results as much as I do. Thanks for taking the time.



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    12 Discussions

    Seen this elephants head in a magazine ad on "ideas on decorating". All the furniture and even the rug were listed with prices, etc. Except the elephant so I called to inquire. They had no clue! I loved it and never forgot it. Wow! Awesome work

    1 reply

    Thanx for that I am glad you like it. This of course was mostly my own work so you would not have seen him elsewhere, ones like it maybe. Thanx again your comments are appreciated.

    Your work is really masterful. I do love the Ultimate Paper Mache posts and the work Jonni does is fantastic, but you bring your own style to it, and I love it. I need to check out those recipes. I have a 5 gallon drum of some other paste or caulk, but haven't heard of the drywall one. Will you please make a whole bull elephant?

    4 replies

    Thanks for those amazing comments. I have been thinking of a complete elephant for some time but always want to move onto something new. One day maybe.

    May I recommend another idea if you are doing a full creature? I think doing something like a cheetah, jaguar, or lion would look really wonderful by using this technique. You could get wonderful detail, you could try a new animal, and you could also make it life-size, and not have to scale it down like a 10+ ft tall elephant. I would say doing a creature like a cheetah would be ambitious but by looking at your work, there is no doubt in my mind you wouldn't be able to do it!

    I have been thinking of doing a full sized something. I am quite keen on a rhino at the moment. I say full sized but of course I mean a complete animal just down scaled somewhat.. Thank you for your comments and your faith in my abilities.

    This is so cool! Very nice work, I love stuff like this. Thanks for sharing your process.

    1 reply

    Thanx for those comments, much appreciated.

    Wow, it's beautiful! This the second awesome papier mache project I've seen today on instructables! I guess such a small amount of linseed oil is safe, but it's good to remember that under certain circumstances it produces enough heat for combustion as it's drying.