Elephant Painting by Ilse de Villiers

“A Tusker’s Dust Bath” 

As an artist and wildlife enthusiast, I have always been drawn to the magnificent creatures of the African savanna. And among these iconic animals, the elephant bull with its massive tusks has always been a source of inspiration for me. This painting, “A Tusker’s Dust Bath,” is a tribute to one of these magnificent creatures, the gentle giant of Amboseli, Craig.

What is a Super Tusker?

A super tusker is an elephant with tusks weighing more than 100 pounds. Super tusker’s tusks have been so large they scrape the floor.

The Challenges of Painting an Iconic Animal

Painting an animal as iconic as an elephant bull is no easy feat. The image of a massive tusker with large tusks evokes memories of a bygone era of tented camps, campfire stories, and herds of antelope roaming across the African plains. However, those days are long gone, and the abundance of game is a thing of the past. With modern living, a rapidly growing population, diminishing natural habitats, and uncontrolled hunting, the number of elephant bulls with tusks weighing more than 100 pounds, known as “super tuskers,” is rapidly declining.

There are only a few National Parks left where these iconic elephant bulls can be seen & where they can actually roam relatively free, but still protected.

progress Elephant Painting A Tusker Dust Bath by Ilse de Villiers

Preserving the Legacy of the Elephant Bull

Fortunately, organizations like the Tsavo Trust are working tirelessly to protect these magnificent creatures. The Tsavo Trust is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the elephant bull and protecting these iconic animals from poachers and other threats. If you’d like to learn more about the work they do or support their cause, you can visit their website at tsavotrust.org.

There are approximately 25 individuals known as Super Tuskers left in the world, most of which reside in the Tsavo Conservation Area

Capturing Craig on Canvas

As an artist, I longed to capture the magnificence of one of these super tuskers on canvas. I based my painting on Craig, a 50-year-old elephant bull known as the gentle giant of Amboseli.

The reference photo of the super tusker was taken by wildlife photographer Clint Ralph, and you can read more about his incredible endeavor on his website.

Elephant bulls leave the herd once they reach puberty (around 12-14 years old) Sometimes they live alone, or they’ll form part of small bachelor herds. Older bulls (like Craig) will usually be accompanied by a few younger bulls, known as askaris. Not only do they provide protection as a large bull ages, but the younger bulls also learn the ‘tricks of the trade’ & very important social skills from the older bull.

Bringing Movement to the Painting

I wanted to bring movement to the painting and show Craig in action, dust bathing to keep himself cool and protect his skin from the scorching sun. I also wanted to showcase his habitat, a green bushveld backdrop with stretches of grass in front and behind him. With an elephant bull consuming around 300kg of food per day, it was important for me to capture him in his ideal setting and light.

progress Elephant Painting A Tusker Dust Bath by Ilse de Villiers


“Indlovu” is the Zulu word for elephant which have played a significant role in their cultural and spiritual beliefs for centuries. 

painting of Elephant progress
A tusker's dust bath by Ilse de Villiers (Copy)
Super tusker painting by Ilse de Villiers

A Message for Conservation

I hope that this beautiful painting will inspire you to remember the icons of a bygone era and to do your part in conserving our wonderful earth and the animals that are part of our heritage.

This painting, framed at 37″ x 44″, will be part of the collection exhibited at SEWE from 16-19 February 2023. All inquiries are welcome.

Joining Forces with Artists for Conservation

I am proud to be a member of Artists for Conservation, a worldwide organization based in Canada that represents 500 of the world’s leading nature and wildlife artists from 30 countries. The mission of Artists for Conservation is to support wildlife and habitat conservation and environmental education through art that celebrates nature. If you’d like to learn more about this organization and the work they do, you can visit their website at artistsforconservation.org.

Artist for Conservation

Elephant painting on Exhibition

SEWE 2023

Southeastern Wildlife Exposition 2023

A Tusker’s Dust Bath” will be part of my exhibit at The Southeastern Wildlife Exposition SEWE 16-19 February 2023

Feel free to contact me directly for info on pricing, shipping or any other info.

You can contact me directly at art@ilsewildlife.co.za, or connect with me on Facebook (ILSE Wildlife) or Instagram (ilse_wildlife). I look forward to hearing from you!


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Wildlife Paintings, Ilse de Villiers, South Africa, Elephant Paintings, Buffalo Paintings, Leopard Paintings, Zebra Paintings, Rhino paintings, Antelope paintings, Lion Paintings, Black and white paintings, Bird Paintings, Available Art.