Saturday, January 15, 2011

Elephant Painting Style

Nature's great masterpiece, an elephant - the only harmless great thing.
John Donne

A JBCStyle Insider made a visit to Thailand to see if the elephants really were painting by themselves. We've been hearing about it for years, but you know us. We like to see for ourselves, and share our discoveries with you Here's our exclusive photo and our confirmation that this is all REAL:

Photography credit: Anjali Ahooja

The organization behind this effort is The Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project:

Elephants, particularly Asian elephants (Elephas maximus), seem to possess an innate impulse to draw. Unprompted, an Asian elephant in captivity will often pick up a pebble or stick with the tip of her trunk and casually doodle on the floor of her enclosure. Of course, the leap from doodling in the sand to painting on canvas requires training, encouragement, and art supplies-for both elephant and human artists. We were thrilled to find that Thai elephants, conditioned by years of close collaborative work with their mahouts, were exceptionally quick learners. Not only did they swiftly master the fundamental techniques of painting, they also began to develop distinctive sensibilities and styles.

We are particularly partial to 18 year old elephant Somjai's paintings. Somjai started to paint at age 10 and unlike some of the other elephants who paint, er, more abstract pieces, Somjai is described as a friendly, social elephant, a "gentle giant" who loves to paint portraits of his elephant friends.

By Somjai the Elephant

By Somjai the Elephant
You can purchase a painting here - or if you specifically want a painting by Somjai (the ones above are available) you can go to Somjai's direct page here - each painting comes with a signed certificate of authenticity and a biography of the elephant, both of which have a photo of the artist at work on it. Elephant Paya is pretty talented, too:

We think it might be the most beautiful gift you can give someone - or yourself, and after reading AEACP Director David Ferris' letter on the current plight of elephants we also think it's a noble purchase:

All over the world, people want to see animals of all kinds roaming free within their natural habitat, as would we, but the reality of our circumstances is not so.  Asian Elephants, for instance, were employed in logging the lush teak forests of Thailand and its neighboring countries for many years.   This was until approximately 98% of the forests were completely gone.  The Thai government eventually banned logging in 1990 in an effort to save what little forest was left.  Although the ban was very much needed, it left thousands of domesticated elephants and their mahouts (caretakers) unemployed.  Also, as sad and ironic as it seems, the elephants helped us destroy their own habitat within Thailand, thus leaving them with no wild to return to.  Similar situations are occurring all across Southeast Asia, most acutely at the moment in Cambodia and on the Indonesian island of Sumatra.  It is in these places that the elephants’ natural habitat continues to disappear due to continued, often illegal logging practices, to the encroachment of slash and burn farmers, and due to that hot topic of the moment – climate change.
-David Ferris, Director of The Asian Elephant Art and Conservation Project

2002 Ashes and Snow by Gregory Colbert
Animals melt our hearts style.

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