Painted by an elephant:
Sure, they do it, but do they know what they’re doing?
One project includes selling paintings by elephants to support the elephants and raise money for conservation. It’s clear that elephants can be taught to use brush and paint and even to paint images.
Hong in Thailand has learned to paint quite detailed images:
The project personnel caution:
“Just for clarification, with these realistic figural works, the elephant is still the only one making the marks on the paper but the paintings are learned series of brushstrokes not Hong painting a still life on her own.”
It’s the same for Paya in Thailand:
The site has a video of the elephant Paya (above) painting with great concentration and deliberation.
Without stroke-by-stroke instruction, the elephants develop their own painting habits. Lakshmi Kutty in India seems to be exploring the medium on her own:
” Lakshmi is very focused when painting. She favors a watery to and fro motion of the brush as she creates beautiful expressionistic landscapes. Her movements are very slow and controlled. With each small adjustment of her trunk, dreamscape strokes subtly escape her brush in astonishing patterns across the canvas.”
And elephant Duanpen is painting what she wants to:
“Duanpen has a very unique style of painting. She is the first and only abstract pointillist elephant artist to date. She fills the paper with dots and only dots, but she will not stop until the canvas is covered. Duanpen has an amazing sense of composition and framing. She focuses on the blank canvas before beginning painting, then she repeatedly strikes the paper with the brush — dat-dat-dat-dat. Her work is very beautiful – done with a medium brush, she covers the paper with bright, vibrant colors.”
But is it just something to please their trainers? Or would they want to paint on their own? They might, you know. We have seen that elephants offered a mirror will peer at their teeth and look at their rumps. If adorned with a spot on their foreheads, they will peer at it in the mirror and try to touch it. It seems clear that they’re self-aware. So they might be interested in painting for pleasure!