Friday, December 05, 2008

And the Artist is…An Elephant?

As a close to the semester, I thought it would be nice to write about a good cause that is still related to animal behavior. This behavior is quite unexpected , but it shows us how amazing and intelligent animals can be. This is also an example of a learned behavior.

In 1999, two artists started the Asian Elephant Art & Conservation Project at the Bali Elephant Safari Park. The artists taught the elephants how to paint in an attempt to “raise awareness and funds for the Parks own Elephant Foundation.” The Elephant Foundation raises money to help the endangered Indonesian elephants. The elephant artists hold the paintbrushes in their trunks to paint pictures, which are then sold by the park.

Click Here to see a video of an elephant painting.

Posted By: Sasha Rogers (11)

Elephants learn to paint the same way humans do. First, the artist teaches the elephant how to hold the brush with his trunk. Once the elephant can do this, it is allowed to paint whatever it wants to paint. Those picture that you see an elephant make of another elephant form, etc. are probably due to long training with the artist, who has been using the one example painting to teach the elephant. Other than the first example painting that has been burned into the elephant's memory, the elephant creates works of art that often look less structured, but it is still art. The differences in paintings is based on the different ways an elephant holds the paintbrush and the supplies available to him at the time.

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At 10:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was really cool! The elephant is a better painter than me. I'm impressed with the dexterity of their trunks. How did they teach the elephants to paint? Was it just repetition? Are elephants better suited to paint than other animals (i.e. are they more aware of colors and better able to follow lines?) I want one of those pictures!

Amy Kawazoe

At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow that is so cool! Did they teach the elephants this by classical conditioning?

Mia DiFabbio

At 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There must be other animals that can excell in painting just as the elephant has. The artists simply harnessed the natural habit of elephants to draw pictures in the sand. Amazing how well the elephant painted the picture though, with such a steady trunk.

Posted by Jordan Grinstein

At 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mentioned that that is a learned behavior. How did the elephants learn to paint? That is very cool! Interesting article.

Hanbing Guo

At 10:28 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is amazing. I have always heard about monkeys taking part in what we categorize as "human activities", but I never would've thought an elephant could have a talent in art. How were these elephants taught to paint? The picture shows an elephant painting something like flowers. I wonder if they recognize what they are painting.

-Helen Thi

At 10:51 AM, Blogger PWH said...

Thats awesome,

How do I get one of these paintings? Do you think that this behavior (tool using) is teachable to other species, other then primates?

-Joe Alonzo

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I wonder if the elephants somehow learn to copy the other images or if they just move the brush around without really making distinct shapes. Cool article, very interesting!

Ericka Adey

At 12:33 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Wow thats amazing!!!! I wonder how much time it took the artists to teach the elephants that behavior? In addition, how long do they remember the learned behavior through time? Great article!!

Posted by: Joanne Philippeaux

At 12:59 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is incredible. How do they teach elephants? Any special skill?? The elephant, I saw in video, was very good. I wish I can have one of the elephants picture. That will be awesome.

So Jin Lee

At 3:55 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4:00 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Elephants must have a consciousness somewhat similar to us if they can do something like that. How intelligent do you think elephants are in comparison to humans?

Jimmy Sullivan

At 5:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is incredibly ridiculous! That elephant on youtube can definitely paint better than me. I'm sure this took practice, right?

- David Huynh

At 6:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is pretty cool. I think it's kind of funny that a painting by a human that looks this way could probably go for hundreds of dollars if the artist is well known. I'm kind of curious about the doodles elephants do in the they add color in any way, by choosing specific dirt shades for example? Do the elephants in the zoos have color preferences, i.e. does one elephant use blue more than another elephant will?

Corinne Delisle

At 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have heard of Elephant panting but it still amazes me as each time I hear it. I really like the fact that all the art’s money goes to help the endangered Indonesian elephants. And I love the video; it’s really interesting to see how much control they have on their trunks. Their trunks are so precise yet so powerful. And the elephants draw way better than me.. lol. Thanks for the interesting and fun article.

Tenzing Y. Dundutsang

At 9:35 PM, Blogger PWH said...

That is very interesting that these elephants can learn how to paint. I wonder how they went about training these elephants this technique. What other things do they draw? Are they only taught how to draw certain things or do they draw various portraits? It is comforting to know that they are selling the paintings to support funding to protect endangered elephants of Indonesia. Nice article.

Carlos A. Varela

At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! That video was absolutely amazing!! How were they able to actually teach them to paint so nicely? What sort of techniques were used?

Tazneena Ishaque

At 11:26 PM, Blogger Dan said...

That is pretty unbelievable. Do the elephants paint things that they have been trained to paint? or do they also paint original art too.

~Dan Hong

At 12:53 AM, Blogger PWH said...

cool! does the article mention how long it took these elephants to learn to paint?

Hessom Minaei

At 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is so awesome. I have heard of some thing like this before. Overall, elephants are pretty complex and emotional animals. They are my favorite.

Michele Copeland

At 11:23 AM, Blogger PWH said...

It is pretty cool to see that human artists are bringing out the best artistic ability of the elephants, but was there any difficulties in getting the elephants to make the art? I know that elephants are intelligent, but elephants sometimes do not cooperate as well as the handlers expect them too.

-Kiel Boutelle


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