Keith Siddle

Keith Siddle

Keith Siddle's elephant: Pira-phant


A fish a pirate and a pair of pants

Interview with Keith Siddle

Keith Siddle has taken part in his first Elephant Parade and is one of two artists that has combined his artistic skill with the creativity of a young school pupil. Fitting for the first ever Elephant Parade, where the designs of school children will stand shoulder to shoulder with those of artists and celebrities.

A well-established painter of Koi Carp fish, Keith’s original design submissions for the Elephant Parade tour were inspired by some of his fish paintings. Things then suddenly changed when he was invited to co-judge the entries from one of the first UK schools taking part in the parade’s national schools programme, run by tour sponsor intu.

“I was thrilled to be invited to judge the elephant design ideas from students at Copthorne Preparatory School, one of the first school’s to be involved in the tour’s national schools programme. When I walked into their art room, I was blown away. There were more than 250 wonderful designs and I instantly fell in love with a simple sketch of a pirate elephant in the corner. Designed by a young boy called Yonis, the design was so cute and whilst a raw concept I could see a lot potential in it. I really did see the cheekiness of it and an Elephant Parade like this really does need some cheekiness in it.”

The Pirate design didn’t win the schools competition but the design stayed in Keith’s mind in the days that followed. He felt it deserved a platform. In the following week he collaborated with Yonis and developed the design further, adding further detail and character that would translate well into a full size elephant statue. The design was submitted and immediately accepted by Elephant Parade and intu. The 2D Koi Carp design would appear in the digital tour and Keith and Yonis would collaborate in bringing Pira-phant to life on a full size elephant statue.

Keith started work on an Elephant Parade 20cm replica first to check the design worked in 3D form. He said: “I initially designed Pira-phant on a 20cm replica, I loved working on that. As it developed I became really excited and got a greater sense on how to develop it as a full size elephant art piece. Then when the full size elephant arrived the design took on a life of it’s own, adding little touches like the gold coin, the map and his underpants (Pira-phant has his own range of pants). Teenagers always seem to have their pants showing above their jeans, so I incorporated that in the painting, I thought we could have a bit of fun with that bringing to life the youthful cheekiness of our elephant.”

This is the first time Keith has worked in 3D form, it was a new challenge for him. “Painting on 3D was very different” he says. “Initially daunting, but once I stated I really got stuck in, it was a bit like yoga, you find yourself in all sorts of strange positions! It was different and really enjoyable, and seeing the elephant come to life was very rewarding.”

Keith is a self-taught artist. Passionate about painting and drawing since childhood and a lover of wildlife, Keith took an Art foundation course in 1985, going into screen-printing. Then in the mid 1990s Keith decided to switch to painting. He says: “My initial subject was going to be tropical marine fish. I have done a lot of scuba diving in Israel, Egypt and around Britain. Then someone showed me Koi Carp, for some reason it just clicked, the colour, the boldness, the movement. I started doing more Koi Carp shows around Britain. I went to America, Holland and then I was invited to Japan, which was amazing meeting all the top coy breeders. I got great feedback from there. I thought if I am doing this properly, I have to study like the Japanese do, with patience and dedication.”

The Pira-phant elephant featured at the Elephant Parade tour’s opening venues at London and intuWatford. The elephant was an immediate hit on social media. “It’s probably one of the tour elephants that every little boy will like, anyone with a little boy in them will probably find an affinity with a pirate elephant” says Trevor Pereira, intu’s Commercial Director.

And whilst his original Coy Carp submissions had to make way for the colour and cheekiness of Pira-phant, Keith has since gained a further commission from Elephant Parade to create a Koi Carp elephant for one of the forthcoming Elephant Parades in Asia next year.

Keith concludes: “I’m thrilled with the result. The Pira-phant elephant shows the importance of schools being part of this parade. Had I not been a schools judge I never would have seen Jonis’ original idea, and not had the chance to collaborate with Yonis on a pirate design. Schools can learn from artists but we can also learn and be inspired by them. Past Elephant Parades have focused a lot on celebrity involvement. For this tour it is the school children that are the celebrities. Their designs have so much life, creativity, simplicity and boldness. I think the fusion of artists and school designs will make this the most engaging and vibrant Elephant Parade to date.”

For further information on Keith’s work visit