Human Flower Project

Elephant Atelier

Thai elephants have traded timber-hauling for easel-painting.


Pointillism in Chiang Mai

Photo: Maesa Elephant Camp

Animal tricks are creepy, no?

Anne Chalfant’s article will provoke second-thoughts and double-takes.  She describes a visit to Maesa Elephant Camp in Chiang Mai, Thailand where elephants play harmonicas, give rides and paint flowers. Their former employment was hauling teak logs out of the woods, but with new regulations against deforestation, the animals were thrown out of work. (We’re not sure why they couldn’t have been released into the wild, except “the wild” may not have vacancy. There are worse ways to pass one’s time than landscape painting.)

Eight of the elephants, under the direction of guest artist Cholsinth Chorsakul, produced “Cold Wind, Swirling Mist, Charming Lanna,” a panel painting 2.4 x 12 meters in scale, which earned them the distinction of a Guinness World Record: “The Largest Painting by A Group of Elephants”  on February 19, 2005. So far as we know, “Cold Wind” has not been surpassed in this category.

The Maesa Camp has its own “art instructor,” Tossapol Petchrattanakool, who according to Anne’s report prepares the elephants’ brushes for them. She writes: “Each of five elephants stood before an easel and canvas. The mahout’s job was to dip the brush in the paint and hand it to the elephant’s trunk, and then the elephant dabbed a green leaf onto the canvas, or drew the line of a stem - following a clearly rehearsed first step in his signature painting….

imageKongkum, Wanpen, Kamsan, Lankam, Duanpen, Songpun, Punpetch and Pu Ood collaborated on their winning work

Photo: Guinness World Records

“Meanwhile, an elephant nearby was stroking lily pads onto canvas in the same dab-by-dab process….Then, the elephant I was watching began to add orange flowers to the leafy stalk. Most humans, in fact, could not paint with such grace. The flower stalks painted by another elephant were eerily Matisse-like. The paintings were hung up for sale and went for about $40 each.”

Did Petchrattanakool and Chorsaku require the eight elephants shooting for the world record to forego their individual “styles” in making a collaborative work? Do the animals show any interest in their art afterward or is it off to the coconut trough? We welcome critical response and human submission of more floral paintings by non-humans.




Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 08/04 at 02:49 PM


The elephants would not have survived in the wild. Most probably the wild herds would not have welcomed them in their territory. Animals are fierce too for their share of land, it is not just us humans.

Well, my dog painted once, he upset a bottle of paint and ran all across the carpet leaving paw marks. 8-)

Posted by Lubna Kably on 08/06 at 08:05 AM
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