I Am Not Babar

Excerpts from Elephant’s memoir-in-progress

Chapter 1: Comic Timing

Like many an elephant, I grew up in “the wild.” I displayed artistic tendencies from a very young age. Sure, there were no art supplies where I lived – at least not in the way that humans think of them – but it’s a wonder what one can create with a few branches, berries, and leaves.

Even though we were out in the wild, every once in a while a group of humans would come by in a jeep to…well, I don’t actually know why they came by…they just stared at us, pointed, and took pictures. It was a combination of odd and rude, but they were harmless enough. (I noticed a definite double standard when I moved to the city. I never point at people – partly because it’s rude, but mainly because it’s anatomically impossible – but people get mad when I stare at them and invariably ask me to stop taking their picture.) So, anyways, it was   probably when one of these humans was so busy pointing and staring that they unknowingly dropped something that changed the entire course of my life.

When I first picked up the life-changing comic book, I was stunned. It was the first time I had seen anything that remotely looked like one of my leaf paintings! And then I reached the back cover…

I could not believe what I saw! I was sure it was a sign. Turns out it wasn’t a sign, but it was something even better – it was an ad for an art school! And, according to the fine print, I had just come across a potential opportunity to win a scholarship to the ‘Art Instruction Schools’. What I needed to do now was prove that my artistic talent was worthy.

To do this, I had the choice of drawing “Tippy” (a sweet, adorable creature), “Tiny” (a sweet, adorable creature) or the nameless, angry-looking pirate. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was something very odd about this trio. I ruled Tiny and Tippy out right off the bat because they both looked unrealistically happy. I needed to draw something with substance, with what felt like real emotion, emotion I could relate to. But there was more to it. Tippy was also a turn-off because I just couldn’t draw a turtle wearing a turtleneck. If that isn’t a mock turtleneck, I don’t know what is. And Tiny seemed to be a ridiculous name for what looked to be a mouse with the head the size of a pirate.

Once I decided on ‘Pirate’, I dove right into the artistic process. I first tried to understand and feel the anger brewing inside this pirate, tried to figure out where it stemmed from. I dug deep. (What would it feel like if nobody bothered to give you a name? How would it feel to be forever next to Tippy and Tiny, the two happiest creatures on earth?) Once I felt I had a handle on Frederick’s emotions, I did my best to convey that in my drawing. This wasn’t simply copying, it was
interpreting. I drew night and day (okay, not night, because I couldn’t see) until I came up with what I felt was scholarship-quality work. When that time finally came, my entry was sent off in the mail – don’t ask me how I managed this feat (because it was kind of illegal).