• Jina Gelder

The Elephant in the Dining Room





This year I was delighted to be selected to take part in Elmer’s Great North Parade. After the success of the snowdog trail in 2016 and the phenomenal amount of money raised for St Oswald’s Hospice, I was keen to join the herd and paint an elephant to try and support this wonderful service.


I admit my motives weren’t entirely charitable. I thoroughly enjoyed working on my snowdog. He presented a challenge of working on a 3D surface as well as forcing me to adapt materials to try and mimic my style which I am recognised for. You cannot use watercolours on a sculpture that is to go outdoors so I mixed acrylics with glazing medium to make them translucent, which worked really well. The Elmer presented me the same challenge and it was great fun designing something that I hoped would be an immersive experience. I wanted Hakuna Ma Elephant to be a sculpture people could spend a long time looking at. I hoped visitors to the trail would notice all the little details such as the butterflies, beetles and grasses hidden amongst animals who share their habitat with the African elephant.

Coming to life in my messy dining room (he wouldn't fit up the stairs to my attic studio!)


Whilst designing this I was very conscious that sadly many of these species are endangered, including the African elephant itself. I fear that in the near future the only way people will be able to see such creatures is in the form of art, photography and older documentaries. I wanted to celebrate the beauty of some of these animals and how they live together in such a wonderful ecosystem.


I painted Hakuna on my dining table, much to the delight of my neighbours. I’d often be sat painting and realise someone was peering over my garden wall to watch me work. Where I live we have a wonderful sense of community and to be honest it was nice to have people ask me what I was doing and what it was for. That being said I looked a right clip most days covered in paint and wearing elephant printed PJs.


When I worked on my snowdog I had listened to the Harry Potter audio books. I cannot recommend them enough. Stephen Fry is hilarious and once again his impressions of Hermione, Dobby and Hagrid made me laugh and helped me through the long nights painting when Fraser had gone to sleep. Five books later and 78 hours of painting time Hakuna was just about finished. I enlisted the help of my friend Beth to help me move him to the garage for varnishing and I just had some splats to do on the top of his back. It turns out you shouldn’t stand on an extendable dining table as it promptly collapsed with me, elephant, laptop, paints and water cascading to the floor. Thankfully everything was fine except my glass of water and I never liked that dining table anyway.


As I got myself a new dining table Hakuna was put on display in the wonderful Northumberland Park. I admit to not even knowing about this place until that day but it really is a lovely space and I would really recommend it. I hope you’ve had an opportunity to visit him there but if not these photos should give you a better glimpse.


Hakuna will be leaving the trail very soon and then auctioned off for charity on Tuesday 12th November 2019 at the Sage. If you would like to try and win his lot or any of the other fabulous sculptures come along. You can also say goodbye to all the Elmers at the Newcastle Racecourse on the 9th-10th of November for their farewell event. I will also be attending this as one of the few shows I am doing this year. Perhaps I’ll see you there!

© Jina Gelder and Jina Gelder Illustration. All Image Rights Reserved

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