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Mar 30, 2008

Elephant paints own self-portrait

You have GOT to be kiddingk moi. Check out this talented schnozzle action.

Michelle B. crazy find...

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How the HECK???

Wow, I love it! :D

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:33 PM

wish i could see this here at work

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:33 PM

That's amazing. Truly.

That pachyderm is packing a painter's punch for sure!

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:37 PM

No. Way.

I'm a worse artist than an elephant. :(

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:38 PM

Saw it on BoingBoing and thought about sending it in :D Loved it!

Specially when everyone was clapping, and phantie there goes "Wait wait!" *paints eye and ears*

And the tail! It painted over the previous line with such precision!

And the flower! Amazing!

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:40 PM

I'm just dying to know if he's learned this by rote practice or actually seeing his side profile!

Either way a very talented and adorable furry elephant.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:40 PM

That is truly amazing!! I've seen elephants that do some er, "modern" art, but never anything like this!! I am in awe!!

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:42 PM

I wonder if they sell those paintings afterwards... All proceedings going towards Elephants conservation programs?

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:43 PM

I'm nearly in tears...This is so beautiful. When his trunk was shaking as he gripped the brush and worked to steady his mark, I just about lost it. I mean, he wanted to get it just right! I'm already nuts about elephants, but what a preciously talented creature. This is something else altogether.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:45 PM

that pachyderm paints better than me.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:46 PM

That's amazing! Look how careful and precise she/he is with the brush! Seems like she's really thinking about it!

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:47 PM

This can't be real!! I've seen them paint before, but just the way a toddler would with finger paints - this is something around the level of a 10-yr-old HUMAN! If it is real, and I saw this in person, I think I'd be on the ground having convulsions of shock! LOL

Rachelle, Toronto
 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:53 PM

and here psychologists and stuff think that only we humans understand symbolic representation- this is astounding.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:57 PM

I think it's even beyond a 10 year old level, goodness knows I'm WAY older than 10 and that elephant just put me to shame art-wise! what a beautiful animal.

that's the coolest thing I've seen in a while!

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 01:59 PM

I saw this and was amazed. Then I decided that it must be a trained behavior. (Still very impressive.) But then nuffer in me wondered what kind of training methods are employed. (I'm trying to convince myself that they're humane.)

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:00 PM

0_o The... what???

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:08 PM

Ten year old? Heck, this elephant's work resembles Henri Matisse's. Especially the flower. Can elephant's see colour?

I kept expecting to see a human hand guiding the trunk.

Pearl Ostroff
 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:09 PM

Here's the original youtube video (the one posted here was copied on Youtube by someone 2 weeks later): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=He7Ge7Sogrk

I have no idea if the elephant was trained, faked, cattle proded, or is just plain talented. Just wanted to put the original out there.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:10 PM

Sorry. ...elephants see colour?

Pearl Ostroff
 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:11 PM


 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:11 PM

Hands down, one of the most amazing things I've ever seen!

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:11 PM

Hrmm, I susptect there's trickery at play. I'd love to see it in person. If it's real, just wow (even if by rote).

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:26 PM

"suspect" even

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:27 PM

this made me CRY

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:31 PM

Wow, this is so wonderful! I hadn't paid attention to the title, so the minute he/she started on the second stroke, I was shocked! You can buy the elephants' work at www.exoticworldgifts.com

Here's an excerpt from one of the pages selling an elephant's work:
"When Thailand cut back on logging, at least 3,000 domesticated elephants were no longer needed for hauling. These wonderful creatures are facing unprecedented survival challenges. Boombin's amazing art is being sold to help save the demising number of Asian elephants and protect them from people using them for illegal logging or begging for handouts on city streets. Proceeds are used to keep their native habitats as well as for caretaker education, veterinarian care, and food for domesticated elephants.

Positive behavioral training techniques and non-toxic paints are used. Your painting has an official stamp and comes with Boombin's picture and bio. Thank you for helping and saving these amazing creatures."

Definitely one of the BEST post at CO, in my opinion. :)

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:32 PM

For those who are wondering how it's done, the handler standing by the elephant has a hand behind its ear through which he can direct the elephant where to move the brush. The camera (and are deceived by things likeour attention) is so focused on the end of the trunk, we don't see that it's essentially the handler painting through the elephant. Ellies DO understand symbols and can probably recognise the finished image as an elephant, but the whole thing of drawing the farther legs 'behind' the nearer legs is something that took humans centuries to figure out; and from an ellie's point of view, the whole picture should be drawn from a higher viewpoint.

That said, I am not nuffing and I still think it's dead cute, not to mention how it shows the incredible precision of the elephant's trunk and their intelligence of learning how to be guided in this way. I just think it's a shame that the charity manipulates them like this when elephants really ARE capable of producing wonderful colourful abstracts without 'help'.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:34 PM

Clare, I thought it might be something like that, or maybe the handler tracing with his hand on the elephant's body or something.

That is pretty awesome though.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:38 PM

In response to Clare-- I agree entirely. The artistic elements of "perspective" and "depth" are two recognized movements that I think are a bit much to attribute to the elephant. They are obviously intelligent and recognize people, I believe, but my very first reaction to that long second "trunk" stroke was that it had to be faked somehow. Anytime the camera zooms in that closely, suspect a magic trick. I think it's a shame if the animal was taught to do this or is being guided, even if it's technically humane. I like the abstracts :)

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:40 PM

far from the only painting elephant, much less animal. see also "Why Cats Paint", ISBN 1580087930

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 02:41 PM

Clare, I agree -- I'd much rather see what the elephants can come up with on their own. I'd love to know what's going on in those minds!

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 03:00 PM

it's definetly not real... that's a human arm and they never happen to show the whole elephant doing this. you are all suckers

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 03:01 PM

Ahhh, this video, so close after the "praying chihuaha" made my eyes mist!

And not to nuff or pick a fight or anything, but, the elephant was trained humanely, the handler "guides" him/her by touching his/her ear and the paintings are sold to finance the survival of these wonderful creatures that would otherwise face abuse and certain death.

THAT is a shame because? I truly do not understand...

Madam X
 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 03:07 PM

Even if the trainer was touching his ear, pretty amazing, no? I couldn't paint that if someone were touching MY ear.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 03:14 PM

Wow I can't even draw like that, that's amazing and the flower is really beautiful that elephant better get some major treats for that painting

Lucia Mendez
 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 03:28 PM

Definitely still amazing. :) The thing that's a shame is... ellies can make valuable abstract art ON THEIR OWN, and doing this makes them seem dumber than they are. I was watching a TV program in which ellie abstract art was put in an exhibition, and art critics (who didn't know it was ellie-made) valued it the same as for human abstracts. XD They could get tons of money for elephant conservation that way, and do in many places :)

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 03:29 PM

"Why Cats Paint" was a hoax. Even the authors admitted that fact a few years after publishing the book.

As for this video, I watched it a couple days ago and was astonished at how advanced the drawing was. As an animal artist, I know how much anatomy study must be done in order to represent or stylize the animal form with believability. The anatomical structure of the elephant in the drawing is far more advanced than a human child, and even the vast majority of adult humans. The jaw, placement of the eye and ear, the joints in the forelegs, the shape of the abdomen, the size difference of foreleg to hind legs... these are all anatomy points that most humans, even artistic humans, would miss without close observation. If this stylized elephant was created by rote or guided by the mahout, there is definitely an accomplished artist behind it. I can't even wrap my head around the possibility the elephant created this himself.

Placement of legs behind each other (perspective) in 2D human art has been done for 30,000 years and is present in the oldest known human paintings - hardly recent artistic advances. The oldest known human paintings cannot even be dated accurately within "hundreds" of years, so there is absolutely no way to make a claim that it took humans hundreds of years to recognize and develop an eye for representing perspective. Some humans, somewhere, perhaps.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 03:33 PM

Perhaps he was taught "hand over trunk"? :)

Ms. McPantiesInaBunchnuff
 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 03:39 PM

ok, even though that may have technically been a human painting...through the elephant...THAT WAS STILL TOTALLY ADORABLE!!!!!!
(if i could paint like that, i would so be getting an A in art!)

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 03:42 PM

djt, it's not a human arm. This elephant is famous for painting elephants, and you can see several videos of her doing just that.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 03:52 PM

(picking jaw off the ground...)
that was freaking cool. his trunk is steadier than my hand.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 04:00 PM


For those who would like to read it all from the elephants trunk rather than human speculation and Nuffing

The elephant who paints elephants is called PAYA if you go to the link above you can read about them read about the training methods and how the elephants work not only with their trainer but each other. If you click on an elephants name you learn about the individual and see some of their other paintings.

There are also videos of the elephants painting and when you look at the paintings you can see the different styles of the elephants as they paint.
By the way if you have never tried to help someone paint by guiding their hand, I have and let me say this. If the elephant didn't have the artistic ability itself it could not do this.

anyway if you want to find out about it for yourself go to the link and browse a bit.
you may find yourself thinking a bit differently about the animals around you.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 04:01 PM

Elephants paint better flowers than I can. Dammit!

Elephants are crazily smart, as I found out recently -- they have some very interesting death rituals (their observed behavior when they come across one of their dead). Apparently they'll mourn and bury a "stranger" elephant not even from their group.

And anyway, like cats, you probably couldn't make an elephant do what it didn't want to do. :P

Yubi Shines
 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 04:02 PM

This is the elephant version of those children's drawing books that teach you to draw cartoon puppies starting with three circles. There is no originality or direct observation involved. I too would have much rather seen this beautiful animal paint what it wanted instead of what it was trained to do! HOWEVER...I am totally blown away by the precision and control of the trunk and brush handling. And anything that helps to support the welfare of these amazing creatures gets a thumbs up from me.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 04:03 PM

I am sobbing! SOBBING. Can it be real? This is simply amazing.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 04:13 PM

This elephant is actually Hong:

"Two years ago, Hong began painting with her mahout, Noi Rakchang, and has steadily developed her skills. After learning how to paint flowers, she moved on to more advanced paintings. She now has two specialties. One is an elephant holding flowers with her trunk, and the other is the Thai flag. An elephant with so much control and dexterity is capable of amazing work. 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."

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 04:19 PM

The painter's hand is inside a long trunk-like tube. Note that the tip of the "trunk" does not really close to grip the brush. Add a few American voices saying "Oh my God!", "Oh my gawsh!" and "Awesome" and you have a nation of believers. Elephants are actually too intelligent to paint, they do mental astrophysics.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 04:45 PM

Yubi, they do react to deceased stranger elephants, but what is really astonishing is that they react much more strongly (spend much more time lingering around and handling) the bones of their kin. In other words, they recognize the bones, they remember their deceased kin, and they know that the bones are somehow connected to those deceased kin, and they have strong emotional responses. All that is highly abstract cognitive behavior.

Such intelligent, beautiful creatures should not be kept in captivity and forced to perform for the purpose of entertaining humans.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 04:48 PM

I've been there and seen it! (American-born Thai girl.)

The elephants actually ARE doing it, but they are trained to. The paintings are for sale afterwards and I can't remember how the proceeds are distributed, but there are definitely funds directed toward conservation efforts and care of older pachys.

There are lots of elephants that can paint, but that makes it no less entertaining to watch.

 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 04:56 PM

That's so awesome! It's clear that the elephant is trained to do it. Still, whatever the method, the elephant no doubt has skill on its own.

Very impressive! :)

Annie J
 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 05:38 PM

I don't care if the handler is directing or not. It's still a better picture than I draw. I think it still shows a modicam of self awareness.

Blue Ayez
 |  Mar 30, 2008 at 05:56 PM

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