Elephant Painting – Getting Started
Here at Maetaeng Elephant Park our young elephants are trained in a variety of skills; painting, football and playing musical instruments. Our method of training does not involve cruelty of any description! Nor does it involve the “carrot and stick” method, otherwise known as Paa Jaan.
Training for elephant painting commences at the age of 3 years. The method used is by “reward”. If the elephant does what she is instructed to do correctly, she is rewarded, usually with a few bananas, her favourite food! If she gets it wrong, she is still rewarded but not as generously as for a correct action. Then the instruction is repeated (sometimes the mahout will demonstrate the action required, encouraging the elephant to mimic the action).
They must show an interest in elephant painting and this is usually recognised by the mahout when, as in the instance of Charlie, he watched other elephants painting and tried to join in!
Lampang Elephant Training Center
All elephants that are around 3 to 4 years old at Maetaeng Elephant Park are sent to Lampang Elephant Training Center. This is a government run organisation for elephant training. They will normally spend 4 – 6 weeks there learning further skills and honing their present ones.
We are particularly proud of our record for the treatment of our elephants. We have a full time licensed Vet and a fully functioning Elephant Hospital where, not only do we treat our own elephants, but other elephants from the surrounding area FREE of charge, some 500 elephants altogether.
Materials, Brushes and Paints
The brush the elephant uses is a modified paintbrush that she can hold with the end of her trunk, which has a finger-like appendage at the end, which is very sensitive. The mahout loads the brush with paint and, in the first instance, holding the elephant’s trunk, directs it onto the paper, and traces the required shape. He reloads the brush and repeats the action until the required shape is accomplished; whether it is a tree, another elephant, or a bird. From that point, because of the elephant’s fantastic memory, she is able to reproduce what she has previously drawn. At no point during this time is any form of cruelty involved.
We use canvass or paste board for our elephant painting. Strong easels are provided and we are careful to use non toxic acrylic water base paints.
Elephants Helping Elephants
The amazing artwork that the elephants produce is naturally in great demand especially by those that are lucky enough to witness them creating their art. We use the proceeds from the sale of their paintings to support the Maetaeng Elephant Clinic which we set up to ensure the best possible treatment of, not only our own herd, but any other elephants that need treatment. This treatment is supplied free of charge and our staff regularly visit elephants all around this area of Northern Thailand. This indispensable resource has had a significant impact on the welfare of all the elephants in this area and is entirely funded by donations and the proceeds of elephant art sales.
Some of our elephants also paint abstract designs to high quality canvas that is then fashioned into a collection of handbags and shoulder totes. This initiative is the result of a collaboration between Khun Paruay Chailert and Greg Davis and his Happa Bag company. These exceptional bags are manufactured to the highest standards and all proceeds go to support the Maetaeng Elephant Clinic. Follow the link below to view the complete collection.
Paintings are available to buy online through the store on this website. Be the owner of a unique piece of elephant art and at the same time know that you are actively supporting the Maetaeng Elephant Clinic. Follow the link below.