Arts by Elephants

Elephant Painting Process | The Elephant Artists

Elephant Painting Information

Elephant Painting

Elephant Painting

Maetaeng Elephant Park became interested in elephant paintings in 1998, curious to see if Asian Elephants could replicate paintings created by orphaned African Elephants. Only one of the original nine elephants at Maetaeng, managed to grasp the techniques that were being taught, that elephant was Orachai. Over the years Maetaeng Elephant Park has taught three more elephants with creative flair how to paint- Suda, Charlie and Sii Noon. Much like people, some elephants are naturally artistic, some aren’t. Work is focused on the elephants with artistic temperament and who genuinely enjoy the process.

In the early years, elephants would paint simple brush strokes on paper, and slowly over time, they learned to produce two and even three dimensional art. Only positive reinforcement techniques are used by Mae Taeng Elephant Park and the elephant painting session always ends when the elephant decides that they’re finished.

The sales generated from art benefit the elephants greatly, from 2000 the Chailert family started using the money raised to purchase medical supplies for the park and by 2006 Mae Taeng Elephant Park had its very own clinic, by 2009 with the aid of volunteers and charities the clinic was able to offer FREE health care to all elephants in the province.

The Elephant Painting Process

The elephant painting process begins with a coloured canvas which is chosen by the elephant’s mahout. Each canvas measures about 6 yards and is selected from a variety of colours. The canvas is then placed on an easel, ready for the elephants to commence with their painting. A styled brush is chosen depending on the pattern and design desired: feathers (which Suda is scared of), diagonal cuts and fan style, which is our personal favourite and by far the most popular. The styled brush is then coated in non-toxic, acrylic, fabric paint. The paints are selected depending on the shade of the canvas, and what would produce the best product. Although Asian elephants do have remarkably good vision, sadly we are not sure if they can be trusted to choose the colours themselves.

The Mahouts guide the elephant across the across the canvas and help coat the brush with paint but don’t interfere with the elephant painting application. Much like humans each elephant has a different style, Suda’s strokes lean to the left and Charlie applies the paint thicker and heavier. When you study the finer details of our elephant art you begin to realise they have their own individual paint stroke and technique. The painting process lasts as long as the elephant allows it too, although they are rewarded with fruits and treats for their participation. Each canvas will be completed by one elephant, so your bag will come with that elephant’s unique touch. The completed canvas is then left to dry over night and stocked in the morning.

Here at Art by Elephants we don’t control the time frame on the production of our bags, a canvas can be completed in an evening or a week- it is entirely up to the elephant. These are very passionate and intelligent creatures sometimes they have creative blocks or simply don’t have the urge to paint.

The different styles on the pattern are down to the elephant and their mahouts, they are impossible to replicate. The team tried to copy the pattern produced, but due to the dexterity of the elephant’s trunk and the height and force at which it applies the paint, even humans can’t replicate the style. When humans paint, they paint logically, even when purposely painting at “random”, there is always a certain order in the brush strokes. Elephants have the ability to paint in a way that is impossible to mimic.

Once enough canvas has been collected the designing procedure commences: the Chaliert family, and Mr Greig, a professional hand-bag designer picked for this project, consult about which piece would be suited to the different bag styles on offer. The fabric is then carefully hand cut and stitched ready for our customers all over the world. A range of retailers purchase the bags, from Australia to the United States of America, and even a little shop on the Burmese-Thai border.

Every penny raised from the sale or elephant art and indeed the whole project is re-invested into the care of the elephants, only money raised from the onsite coffee shop is used to feed the Chailert Family, they do this for the love and care of the elephants not to line their own pockets.