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'True Colours' Elmer sculpture, Plymouth

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Location: Plymouth, 2019. Elmer's Big Parade

For 10 weeks in the summer of 2019 a parade of 40 fabulously colourful and unique elephants were displayed around the beautiful city of Plymouth and surrounding areas. From the hustle and bustle of the city streets to the peace and grandeur of the Hoe, and from the green spaces of Plymouth to the spectacular coastline; Elmer’s Big Parade Plymouth took people on a tour of Britain’s Ocean City.

St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth worked in partnership with Wild in Art and Andersen Press to bring this mass participation, family friendly, art trail to life; featuring the much beloved children’s character of Elmer, by Devon born artist and author David McKee.

The process

My True Colours Elmer design is inspired by a personal connection to a story in the Elmer the Patchwork Elephant books. Elmer decided he'd had enough of being teased for looking different and feeling ashamed of his appearance, so he decides he wants to look like the other elephants and paints himself grey in order to 'blend in'. Once painted, the other elephants no longer recognise him but as it starts to rain the grey paint washes off Elmer, revealing his true colours. The other elephants are happy to have the brightly coloured elephant back.

Following their happy reunion, the elephants reassure Elmer that they love him because of his differences and not in spite of them.

This story celebrates diversity, respect for others' differences and stressing the virtue of being oneself. I spent a lot of my youth trying to blend in, and realised that my uniqueness’s were my strengths.

I illustrated this by using the colours of the rainbow with fluorescent and glow in the dark paint to create over 200 raindrops. Each of the raindrops is unique in colour and gradient and I painted grey around the raindrops to make them stand out, with shades of blue clouds at the top.


The reaction from the public

#TrueColours was loved by so many people! Wow, I received so many selfies, messages and even met a few locals when I went to visit the sculpture in Plymouth.

The final sculpture

The final Elmer sculpture did well at auction and was purchased by a local gym.


Name: True Colours

Location: Plymouth

Client: Plymouth Pride

Materials: Fiberglass sculpture, Acrylic paint, Metallic paint, Posca coloured and black ink.

Charity: St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth

Sold at auction


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