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Old 15 January 2007, 04:59 AM
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snopes snopes is offline
 
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Whalephant Elephant art

Comment: I've received forwarded emails/blog posts from easy-believing
friends about the amazingly realistic art that elephants can produce. I
did a little research and all I can turn up is one site in Thailand
selling far-too-good-to-be-an-elephant paintings (many zoos and charity
sites DO sell genuine "elephant art" but it is all of a rather, ahem,
"abstract" quality).

See the paintings for sale at:

http://www.elephant-paintings.com/in...iewCat&catId=2

Some of these (the abstract swirls and so on) look like "elephant art"
sold by more reputable zoos, but others are so far into the realm of
depicting objects as to be unbelievable. (Note in particular the claim
that if a painting is sold out they can "commission a similar one" from
the elephant!)

And tongue-in-cheek semi-debunking at:

http://www.wildwatch.com/resources/r...hantspaint.asp and
http://www.elephantartgallery.com/le...-paintings.php
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  #2  
Old 16 January 2007, 09:39 AM
dlloyd1
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Comment: I've received forwarded emails/blog posts from easy-believing
friends about the amazingly realistic art that elephants can produce. I
did a little research and all I can turn up is one site in Thailand
selling far-too-good-to-be-an-elephant paintings (many zoos and charity
sites DO sell genuine "elephant art" but it is all of a rather, ahem,
"abstract" quality).
My parents visited Thailand a couple of years ago and visited the Maesa elephant camp in Chiang Mai where much of the "too good to be true" elephant art comes from.

They saw the elephants painting and it is genuine. They bought a painting they saw one of the elephants paint and it does look pretty amazing... very similar to the paintings in the link above. Most of the elephants at the camp had an "abstract" style, but a couple of eager-to-please individuals painted "trees" and "flowers".

These elephants paint a lot of pictures and the "quality" of the art will be pretty variable. At a guess, you might get one stunning painting for every 20 paintings an elephant paints, and they'll all be very similar... a few vertical lines with green and red splodges at the top.

The elephants aren't consciously trying to represent trees. They're given a brush with brown paint on it and the trainer waves his arms up and down. Then they're given one with green on it and the trainer makes a prodding motion towards the paper, etc. If the elephant copies the trainer, it gets a bun or something.

Here's one of the elephants in action...

http://www.elephantart.com/catalog/images/Sequence3.mov

You can see how the trainer directs it, but all the brush strokes are all carried out by the elephant.
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  #3  
Old 16 January 2007, 12:02 PM
Troberg Troberg is offline
 
 
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Quote:
My parents visited Thailand a couple of years ago and visited the Maesa elephant camp in Chiang Mai where much of the "too good to be true" elephant art comes from.

They saw the elephants painting and it is genuine. They bought a painting they saw one of the elephants paint and it does look pretty amazing... very similar to the paintings in the link above. Most of the elephants at the camp had an "abstract" style, but a couple of eager-to-please individuals painted "trees" and "flowers".
I've been there as well, and it's real enough. I don't know if the elephants knew what they where painting, because they all painted more or less the same motive (although not with the same proficiency). They have probably been trained to paint that specific motive.

That said, the elephants seemed to enjoy it (and the rest of the show), you could clearly see that they were eager to participate in every event, especially the football, and the job of the trainers seemed to be more a matter of holding them back than to get them to do it. The only help the elephants got when painting was that the trainers gave them the right brush. I think the trainers also gave them some signals by touching their ears, but I'm not sure.

Some photos I took of the event, clearly showing the painting:

http://rpglab.net/troberg/gallery/view.php?gid=82
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  #4  
Old 16 January 2007, 01:47 PM
dlloyd1
 
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Perhaps I overstated how much direction the elephants are given, based on the video clip I found?

It's worth noting that the site listed in the OP that warns of fake elephant art have their own "abstract" elephant art for sale.
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  #5  
Old 16 January 2007, 06:04 PM
Barns & No Bull
 
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I'm impressed.
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  #6  
Old 16 January 2007, 06:42 PM
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Brad from Georgia Brad from Georgia is offline
 
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I thought I paid the guy at the zoo too much for this!


Last edited by Brad from Georgia; 16 January 2007 at 06:46 PM. Reason: Being the third son of the family, and not being bred to any trade, my head very soon fill'd with rambling thoughts.
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