Name: Maximilion, From Animalia Part of Whimsical Kingdom Series.

Medium: Digital | Year: 2016 | Time to completion: 41 hours

Quote: People are so difficult. Give me an elephant any day. Mark Shand
Reflection: At the turn of the 20th century, there were a few million African elephants. Today, there are an estimated 460,000. Elephants have been hit hard by a global poaching epidemic that’s emptying the planet of an array of wildlife. As many as 30,000 elephants are killed for their ivory each year. Source: World Wide Fund for Nature


1. Strong Maternal Instincts

Whether human or elephant, mothers love their children. A newborn calf in elephant society is quite a to-do, and females have been observed making loud calls and bellowing as a new calf is being born. Mom will also bathe her child, and she’ll be quick to offer protection if the calf makes loud distress noises. Sound familiar?

2. Complex Societies

Elephant societies are complex, the behaviors entrenched generation after generation, the roles of individuals guided by gender.

Interestingly, societies form around females, while the males tend to be solitary wanderers, roaming from group to group in search of different mates. In that way, the males really maximize on the longevity of their bloodline, as they could potentially mate with dozens of females in a given year.

3. Mourning Their Dead

Elephants have displayed distinctive mourning behavior, perhaps suggesting they have an inkling about the concept of death. They have been known to pause over the body of a dead elephant and remain there in silence for long periods. They might also smell the body, touch it or even caress it. Sometimes a bone or tusk will be carried away by the group.

A mother elephant whose newborn has died will sometimes remain with the calf for days. She may also experience a kind of depression afterward, walking slowly and barely able to keep pace with the rest of the herd.

4. Honoring Fallen Friends and Family

Following naturally upon elephants’ displays of loss and grief are suggestions that they might even try to “inter,” in their own way, their fallen fellow elephants.

5. Displaying Empathy

A 2014 study published in the journal Peer J found that Asian elephants were able and willing to comfort a fellow elephant that had shown itself to be in distress. The comforting elephant would use its trunk to caress the troubled elephant, all the while making gentle chirping noises.

6. Long Memories

It’s not a myth: Elephants really do have sharp, long memories. They can remember injuries they have incurred and they can hold grudges against those who have given them trouble. For example, one study found that African elephants reacted with disdain to the sight or even smell of clothing worn by Maasai warriors. The warriors were known, and remembered, by the elephants as a group that could cause them harm, as the warriors have been known to spear elephants in order to show off their masculinity.

There is even anecdotal evidence that elephants can remember trainers who have treated them poorly in the past.

7. Playful Natures

It’s tempting to think of elephants as giant, cheerless plodders lumbering across the landscape. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Elephants make remarkable displays of joy and happiness, especially the young ones. Elephants will splash around in the water just for the fun of it, jostle each other, and even call out to each other from far away, in anticipation of a reunion, when a prodigal elephant is returning to its group.

Elephants may even shed tears of joy, or relief, when their suffering has been eased, as was witnessed in an Indian elephant freed after 50 years of abuse.

8. Language Skills

An Asian elephant named Koshik was able to understand a limited vocabulary of Korean words and also could imitate human speech in order to say the words.

As if that weren’t enough, African elephants have been found to be able to differentiate between gender and ethnicity in human voices, according to a study released in 2014. Elephants were played recorded voices from several groups, and among the findings was that the creatures were able to identify voices belonging to threatening groups, moving away from those instinctively.

And in another great feat from our large-eared friends, a 2013 study showed that elephants also understand human pointing, something many great apes — closer to us genetically — can’t even do.

9. Dominant “Handed”

Most humans have a dominant hand, and elephants too have a “handedness,” of sorts. They prefer to use one tusk over another — be they right-tusked or left-tusked. They use their dominant tusk for digging up earth and uprooting trees, and they’ll only go to the opposite tusk for those tasks if the dominant one is severely injured.

10. Self Awareness

Here’s something not seen in many creatures outside of humans, apes and some dolphins: self awareness. Researchers studying Asian elephants found the animals recognized themselves in mirrors. One elephant even noticed, and pointed at, a mark made on her face that she could only see thanks to the mirror.

To know you’re looking at “yourself” in a reflection is a neat trick not many animals can pull off, but elephants can do it with aplomb.


Animalia Series, 2016

I decided to start my series by bringing to life a kingdom that has always captivated me, the animal kingdom. “Animalia” is a deep look into the beauty and spirit of the natural world. Animals possess a natural instinct and vitality that I admire and respect. I believe that if you take a closer look at nature you will understand everything better. Ultimately, humans possess an animalistic subconsciousness that goes beneath and beyond the scope of personal consciousness, and we are completely unaware of it. If you take a look at human animalistic behavior around the world you will not be able to deny that we are part of a single family. We are all inextricably interconnected. I try to speak for them and us through this series by producing bodies of work portraying the beauty of this kingdom in hopes to enrich and generate awareness by selecting animals I am drawn for various reasons. On each of them you will see a collage of many elements and forms, regular and irregular shapes, triangles, polygons, mandalas, curves, and jewels, mystic and underlying spiritual symbolisms transformed and speaking to each other in harmony, allowing the viewer to do the completing, the reflection of self.

“Human beings are a part of the animal kingdom, not apart from it. The separation of “us” and “them” creates a false picture and is responsible for much suffering. It is part of the in-group/out-group mentality that leads to human oppression of the weak by the strong as in ethnic, religious, political, and social conflicts.”

— Marc Bekoff ~ Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Whimsical Kingdom

Whimsical Kingdom is an evolving art series part of the process of personal introspection and space to further emphasize thoughts of reflection. I intended to create an ongoing dialog with the viewer by stimulating visual sensation and exploring the relationship between the duality of the seen and unseen realm and complexity of our beings. Nature, people, fantasy, and sexuality come alive in unique kingdoms with whimsical characters portraying how seemingly opposite forces are synergetic, interrelated, and interdependent. Colorful symmetric mosaics are mixed with jewels, shadows, elements of power, and underlying spiritual symbolisms while contrasting organic structures create the visual impact necessary to deliver a message that serves as a medium for reflection and awareness about personal and social exploration.

I don’t have a formal education in the arts; my creative work is an intuitive and self-taught process. In my life, I’ve noticed that the most important decisions I make are based on intuition and this piece of work reflects this instinct. I use mosaics in most of my work because I feel they are a juncture for drawing, painting and sculpture. When you see the details of my work, you will see this series somehow represents a part of myself. The conceptualization of each series, selection of each character and research to create the right composition of design elements is often the hardest part of the process. Everything after that is an assembly of a digitally rendered piece of art to be printed on different media; using Adobe illustrator software, the total time for the development of each piece from start to finish can take 35 to 45 hours of work depending on the complexity of the piece.


All images are copyrighted © by Franz Israel. The use of any image from this site is prohibited unless prior written permission from the artist is obtained.

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