It has been discovered that elephants enjoy a number of human past-times, such as games, dance and art. Elephant sanctuaries are now encouraging elephants to explore their creative talents by allowing the elephants to paint.
An elephant’s trunk can be thought of as being a long, supple appendage that allows the elephant to grip objects. Some elephant artists are taught by their trainers to hold a paintbrush by wrapping the tip of the trunk around the paintbrush, whereas others are encouraged to place the brush into a ‘nostril’ at the end of the trunk, to give the elephant more control over the brush.
Most elephant trainers will assist the elephant artist during the painting process. Some will guide the elephant’s trunk across the canvas, while others take a purist approach to art and leave the elephants to create their paintings unaided. Generally, an elephant trainer will set up the easel and canvas and load paint on to the brush before handing the paint brush to the elephant. Elephant artists have been known to get impatient with their assistants, and will tap the brush against the assistant’s chest to demand more paint.
Paintings by Elephants
Elephants can be trained to reproduce recognizable images, such as other elephants, scenery, and recognizable objects such as flowers. They can even be taught to make self-portraits. However, to some this isn’t true elephant art. When left to create alone, elephants paint in an abstract style using lines, curves and dashes of paint to form the finished work.
Trained Elephant Paintings
Elephant trainers can teach an elephant to reproduce an image over and over again. The result is a picture that could have been drawn by an eight-year-old child. Although endearing, this form of art is losing popularity with elephant art fans, as the elephants are taught to paint these pictures as a performance, similar to a dog who has been taught to do tricks. For elephant art purists, these reproductions of the trainer’s initial design don’t constitute as ‘real’ elephant art.
(Above) Elephants can be taught to reproduce a specific image, which they are then asked to reproduce for tourists. On each of the paintings above, you can see a stamp of authenticity – this shows that an elephant was the artists behind the painting. Whether this is truly ‘art’ or not depends on an individual’s opinion of what art is.
(Above) The images above show a few of the designs that elephants have been taught to reproduce.
Untrained Elephant Paintings
Some elephant sanctuaries that specialize in elephant art will train an elephant to hold the brush and show the elephant how to apply paint to the paper, without teaching the elephant to create a specific shape on the page. These elephants are given the space and time needed to create whatever imagery they desire. The result is a simple, abstract collection of lines, shapes and colors.
Trainers claim that the elephants know when the piece is done, and the animal will often stand back and admire their work before heading down to a river to swim. It has also been suggested that like human artists, elephant artists have ‘off’ days, when the artistic well runs dry.
Elephant Art in the Guinness Book of World Records
Maesa Elephant Camp trumpeted its way into the Guinness World Records for a large painting created by eight elephants. The camp now holds the records of “Largest Painting by a Group of Elephants” and “Most expensive Painting by a Group of Elephants”. The event was also documented on Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.
Elephant Art Online
Buy Paintings by Elephants
Elephant art can be bought online through various websites. Here are just a few to get you started:
Most elephant sanctuaries that are creating elephant art use the money raised by the paintings to create a better lifestyle for the elephants that they house. There are however some elephant owners who simply use the elephant’s creativity for their own gain. It is up to the buyer to decide which situation they would prefer to support through buying elephant art.
Watch Videos of Elephants Painting
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