Elephant Painting Information
The Elephant Paintings
There are two types
(originals, prints) and four sizes (22"x30", 16"x20", 11"x14", 5"x7") of elephant art available. All of the 22"x30" art are the originals. The 22"x30" originals were actually painted by the elephants in Thailand and have a unique Identification Number and Certificate of Authenticity.
The 16"x20", 11"x14", and 5"x7" prints are on high quality, heavy stock paper. Only six (6) items are prints (42876B, 42878B, 42878F,42878P, 42878U, 42983B). Only 42878F includes a black frame. The frame styles may vary slightly. Each original and each 16x20 print comes with the official elephant camp stamp on the back and a numbered Certificate of Authenticity. Every original and all prints come with the elephant's biography.
We are trying to raise as much money as possible for the artist and conservation efforts while also providing sustainable income to the families in these developing countries.
The elephant's size, power, intelligence, and tenderness combine to make an awesome animal. A wonderful combination for an animal in the wild and an inspirational companion for man.
For thousands of years, man has had various types of relationships with elephants. The elephant is a symbol of power, royalty, and divinity. The elephant is used for hauling trees, in part because they have less ecological impact during the logging process. The elephant is used for transportation and other activities in lieu of machines. The elephant is a constant companion and often times used for a source of needed income.
We would prefer that all elephants be in the wild and all of us can work toward that goal but at this time, we can be informed consumers and support the elephants by purchasing products from only those elephant camps that provide great care and humane treatment of the elephants as we work together to provide more education and alternative sources of income for the villages.
For all of our products, in addition to paying Fair Trade wages, and depending on the cost of the labor, materials, import/export fees, tariffs, and necessary expenses, from 25% to 50% of the selling price of each item is given to the artist, animal conservation and humanitarian projects.
Love of Elephants
There are a select group of elephants who have artistic talent and are easily engaged in painting. The Mahouts and owners of the Conservation camps get a good indicator when elephants are not interested in painting - as they eat their paint brush and other things. Elephants who are not interested in painting - don't paint. The elephant art that we represent is done by talented elephants who are well cared for. The elephants seem pleased with the applause of the audience and of course the bundles of sugarcane and bananas after the paintings are completed. The painting process actually provides needed stimulation for the elephants.
As part of the training process, the trainer shows the elephant basic brush strokes. The trainer loads the brush with the desired color and the elephant proceeds to make the learned stroke. Each piece of art is unique as the elephant has total control of the brush.
Future of Elephants
With open eyes and hearts, let's be informed participants in this one world community. Every one of us can see the bigger picture and make a positive difference.
We will save the elephant by being informed about the many needs of the people and the elephants. We would love to see all elephants free to be in the wild but the present reality is more limiting. At this moment we need to improve the education and source of sustainable income for the people and provide better care and expanded habitat for the elephants.
Please partner with us as we always do our best to make informed decisions and represent products, artists, villages, and projects worthy of your consideration.
Questions and Answers
1. What is the official name of the camp where Hong lives?
Maetaman Elephant Camp, Chiang Mai, Thailand
2. How many elephants live at the Maetaman Elephant Camp and how many paint?
65 elephants live at the camp and 9 of them are elephant artists
3. Where did the idea of training elephants to paint at Maetaman come from?
Originally, Khun Anchalee Kalmapijit, the Operations Director, learned elephant painting from the Elephant Conservation Center in Lampang. Khun Anchalee initiated elephant artists learning to paint for the first time ever in Chiang Mai in 2000. At the beginning, she and the mahouts trained the elephants to hold the brush by putting it into their trunk. For a while, the elephants refused to hold the brush, they were uncomfortable with the strange brushes placed in their trunks and let them fall to the ground. It took some time for them to accept it because elephants naturally pick up things by rolling their trunk and holding. After the elephants could hold the brush by their trunk, they were given brushes with color. Then, the elephants chose to draw lines up, down or put dots on the paper. Their practice compares to how a human first learns to write – practice, practice, practice. The elephants keep doing these until they have the skill to draw a proper line. This step takes many months depending on how often they practice. Some time later, when the mahouts want the elephants to paint a portrait or flowers, they put the lines that elephants can do together and train them to remember with lots of practice, bananas and sugar cane.
For Hong, when she finishes painting the elephant, her mahout hands her a different size brush with color to create the flower. This is a method for elephants to know what will be painted next. So training the elephants to paint is from cooperating between mahouts and elephants. They understand each other and it takes time to practice. Both mahout and elephant must be patient and try together.
4. What qualities determine whether or not an elephant will be an effective artist?
The elephant artists should be calm and not so naughty. They normally train elephants to paint starting around age 3 years and above. At 3 years and above the elephant has received the essential nutrients and guidance from its mother and has matured enough to start learning (like a child). Sometimes, they intend to train the elephants to paint a certain style, but after training together, they discover that elephants gravitate to their own style and their mahout works with the elephant’s natural abilities.
5. Why can elephants paint?
The elephants have a trunk which is similar to the hand of a human for holding almost everything. This is an advantage of elephants compared to other animals.The elephant has concentration enough to complete their art pieces. The most important factor is their intelligence and their good memory which allows them to be trained with humans. They also bond with their mahout and the relationship, trust and confidence that their mahout provides is very beneficial. The elephant and their mahout develop a very close relationship and communicate with each other very well.
6. What are the different styles of painting?
There are two styles – Abstract and Realistic. The elephants are able to do both styles including self portraits, various flowers, bamboo and landscape. Some elephants can do more than one style. Every one of the elephants started by abstract which are lines or dots, then they develop to draw flowers or views and they can always go back to paint abstracts.
7. How do you determine which kinds of work an elephant will paint?
Firstly, they must see their work and whether they are good at lines or dots. Then, it is discussed with their mahouts to see the possibilities of what they think is the elephant’s strongest style. The mahout must learn and understand that style of painting he chooses for the elephant and know how to draw this himself before he can train his elephant. Moreover, the mahouts need to learn how to mix color and how to select the appropriate brushes from books or the professional artist. This makes the artwork much more developed.The invitation of human artists to train the elephants is quite important in the development of the elephant’s skills.
8. Are some elephants better at painting a particular style?
Some elephants paint better in a particular style like Hong. She is the only elephant in the world who can paint the realistic elephant with a flower or Thai flag. Hong is able to paint a lovely elephant. The other characteristic that makes her popular is her pretty image like a little cute girl. This matches her painting style and Noi (her keeper).
9. How old is Hong and how long has she been painting?
Hong is 12 years old and she has been painting for 9 years.
10. What is Hong’s background?
Hong moved from Surin Province (Northeast Thailand) to Maetaman Camp when she was about 2 years old and nobody knew Hong’s parents. Hong met Noi (her mahout) who was assigned to take care of her. Noi was her first and only person who trained Hong to live with humans and listen to all human communication. Later on, Hong was trained to paint and show visitors her painting abilities.
11. What would you like people to know about the painting elephants?
We would like people to hear and to learn that elephants are very intelligent, have good memories, are emotional, communicate and bond well with their mahouts. Elephants are able to learn easily with positive reinforcement training and trust. With more awareness and purchase of elephant art, there will be more help for the preservation and conservation of the endangered Asian elephant.
12. What do you say to people who might think elephant painting is cruel to the animals?
Training elephants is not cruel and the methods are through positive reinforcement. You can not force an elephant to paint and you certainly can not traumatize an elephant or they really will not be able to be calm and concentrate on their painting. Since elephants have such good memories and are emotional, abuse only serves to create dangerous situations. Thai people discovered from wisdom of their ancestors a long time ago. In Thailand, elephants are revered and honored. Wild elephants have been trained to become domesticated for hundreds of years. How to care for elephants is passed down from ancestors and is an incredibly important part of Thai culture.
There used to be about 100,000 domestic elephants and has dramatically decreased to 2,650 currently. In Thailand, the number of wild elephants remains about 2,000 and wild elephants face problems with their habitat because humans have destroyed forests and they do not have proper environments like before. Thai people are familiar with elephants because they have lived with elephants for a long time.
How Can Everyone Support Saving the Asian Elephant?
Please purchase elephant art through www.GiftsWithaCause.com. Part of the money for the art is donated to two causes. When Exotic World Gifts purchases the art, some of the proceeds are used for feeding and medical care of the domesticated elephants. Part of your purchase the elephant art from www.GiftsWithaCause.com, is sent to the conservation project for an Artificial Insemination program in Thailand. At least 30% of your purchase is committed to maintaining and conserving these elephants.