What is Elephant Art?

by Annie Saxena on Mar 31, 2023

What is Elephant Art?

Elephants are a representation of power and knowledge in many different cultures, notably Buddhist cultures. This magnificent and noble creature is a loving family pet with a reputation for excellent parenting. Their friendly and humorous personality cannot be ignored, despite the fact that they are viewed as being very serious and dignified. Elephant art is a large variety of artwork, including depictions of both Asian and African species.

Elephant art refers to paintings or drawings created by elephants, either in captivity or in the wild. Elephant art is often created by providing elephants with non-toxic paint and canvases, and allowing them to express themselves by using their trunks or feet to create abstract or representational images.

What is Elephant Art?

Elephants, either in captivity or in the wild, may paint or sketch. These works are referred to as elephant art. Elephants are frequently given non-toxic paint and canvases to use in the creation of abstract or realistic works of art. In addition, artists frequently give the elephants free reign to express themselves through the use of their trunks or feet.

Elephant paintings now sell for thousands of dollars, and the genre of elephant art first gained popularity in the 1990s. Elephant art is controversial, nevertheless, as some individuals contend that training elephants to produce art for human amusement and profit constitutes exploitation. Others contend that creating elephant artwork can be a sort of enrichment for elephants kept in captivity, giving them a stimulating activity that promotes their natural habits.

What is the History of Elephant Art?

Elephants were first utilized in circuses and zoos during the beginning of the 20th century, which is when elephant art began. Elephants were frequently trained to do stunts and entertain audiences, and some trainers started experimenting with teaching elephants to handle paintbrushes and make rudimentary sketches.

Unfortunately, elephant art didn't gain more popularity until the 1950s. Hanako, a juvenile elephant in Thailand, was taught to paint by her owner, who was inspired by the traditional artwork of Thai elephants, who were trained to decorate ceremonial artefacts. Hanako's paintings were displayed in Japan, and her success led to the emergence of an elephant art movement in both that country and Thailand.

Elephant art attracted attention on a global scale in the 1990s as a result of efforts by a number of groups and individuals to use it to enrich animals and spread awareness of the need to conserve elephants. Elephant paintings started appearing, and some of them were sold at hefty sums in galleries and auctions.

The welfare of the elephants used in the artwork, however, came under scrutiny as it gained popularity. Elephants were put through stressful and unnatural conditions, according to some detractors, who said that training them to paint was a form of abuse. Others supported elephant art as a way to enrich and intellectually challenge captive elephants as well as a tool to spread awareness of the condition of elephants in the wild.

How to Create Elephant Art?

Elephants are usually given non-toxic paint, a canvas or piece of paper, and given the opportunity to express themselves through movement when making artwork. Here are some fundamental guidelines for making elephant art:

Decide on a good location: Choose a place where the elephant can work in safety and comfort. This might be a room with enough room for the elephant to move about inside or outside.

Choose your art supplies: Choose paints that are safe for elephants to use, washable, and water-based. Choose hues that will pop out on the paper or canvas.

Get the canvas ready: To keep it from shifting, provide a sizable canvas or piece of paper that has been firmly taped or mounted to a flat surface.

If you wish to make several pieces, you can alternatively use a smaller canvas or piece of paper.

Describe the paint: Before beginning, show the paint to the elephant and let it sniff and investigate it. Encourage the elephant to use its foot or trunk to distribute a small bit of paint on the canvas or piece of paper.

Motivate the elephant to produce: Permit the elephant to roam the paper or canvas and investigate the paint. Ask them to move their boot or foot in various ways to produce various patterns, shapes, and textures.

Complete the artwork: After the elephant has completed producing it, let it thoroughly dry before touching or exhibiting it. Also, you might highlight or outline particular portions of the artwork to give it a final polish.

Always keep the welfare and comfort of the elephant in mind when making elephant-themed artwork. To guarantee the safety and health of the elephants involved, it's crucial to collaborate with a respected organization or professional who has experience in elephant care and training.

What are the Different Types of Elephant Art?

There are various forms of elephant art, each with an own aesthetic and set of qualities. Some of the most popular forms of elephant art are listed below:

Abstract art: In this style of elephant artwork, the elephant's motions are used to create abstract shapes, lines, and colors. Bold, expressive brushstrokes with an emphasis on texture and composition are a common feature in abstract elephant art.

The term "realistic art" refers to artwork that uses a realistic or naturalistic approach to depict real-life objects or scenes, such as landscapes or animals. The elephant must be able to produce increasingly intricate and recognized images, which calls for more talent and training.

Working with human artists or trainers to produce artwork is referred to as collaborative elephant art.

This may entail directing the elephant's motions or providing the artwork with the final touches. The elements of realistic and abstract painting are frequently used in collaborative elephant artwork.

Creating art and combining it into a live performance or exhibition is known as "performing elephant art." This can entail enhancing the aesthetic experience with the use of sound, lighting, and other visual elements. Elephant performance art may be both amusing and thought-provoking, and it's frequently utilised to promote elephant conservation.

Elephants in Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations engage in the ancient decorative arts known as "elephant art." These arts include the use of elaborate and vibrant designs to decorate ceremonial objects like parasols and screens. Natural materials are frequently incorporated into traditional elephant art.

What is the Importance of Elephant Art?

The significance of elephant art can be seen from a variety of angles:

Awareness-raising for conservation: Elephant artwork can be used to spread information about the predicament of wild elephants, particularly the dangers they suffer from habitat degradation, poaching, and human-elephant conflict. Organizations and individuals can raise awareness of these problems and advance conservation efforts by producing and displaying elephant art.

Elephants kept in captivity who might otherwise be restricted to limited places and deprived of opportunity for natural behaviors can benefit from mental and physical stimulation through the creation of art. Elephants who participate in artistic expression are encouraged to experiment and express themselves in novel ways, which enriches them and improves their welfare as a whole.

Elephant art has a long history, and it is of great cultural and historical relevance to see it practized now, such as in Thai ornamental arts. We may appreciate and celebrate these regions' distinctive cultural legacies by preserving and promoting their traditional arts.

Unique artistic expression: Compared to other human-made art, elephant art gives a special way to express one's artistic self. Elephant art is unpredictable and impulsive, which can result in unexpected and visually stunning images that can be appreciated for their own distinctive traits.

It's crucial to remember, though, that elephant art also raises ethical questions, particularly in light of the wellbeing of captive elephants and the potential for exploitation. Working with trustworthy organizations is crucial if you want to produce and market elephant art in a way that prioritizes the elephants' welfare.

What are the Elements of Elephant Art?

Similar to other visual arts like painting and sketching, elephant art has many of the same components. Elephant art's primary components are as follows:

Any drawing or painting must have lines as its fundamental building pieces. The movements of the elephant's feet or boot can be used to create different thicknesses and textures of lines in elephant art.

Form: When referring to a drawing or painting's essential forms, we use the term "form." Elephant paintings often feature geometric or organic shapes that are produced by applying paint on a canvas or piece of paper.

The use of color in elephant art is crucial since it can be utilized to evoke a variety of different feelings and moods.

By combining various pigments or adding paint in layers, the elephant may produce a variety of hues.

Texture: A work of art's surface finish is referred to as its texture. The manner the paint is applied, such as with thick or thin brushstrokes, can add texture to elephant artwork and give it a feeling of depth and perspective.

Composition: A piece of art's composition is the way its visual components are arranged. The composition in elephant art can be produced by the elephant's movements and can range from abstract to realistic.

Form: The three-dimensional characteristics of an artwork are referred to as form. The way the elephant layers the paint and how it is applied to the canvas can produce the form in elephant painting.

Elephant art may produce a broad variety of distinctive and expressive works of art that capture the spirit and imagination of these majestic animals by utilizing these aspects in various ways.

What are the Materials Required to Create Elephant Art?

Depending on the technique or approach employed, several materials may be needed to create elephant art, however the following materials are some of the most frequently used:

A non-toxic paint: The vibrant patterns and motifs are painted onto the canvas or paper using non-toxic paints. To protect the safety and wellbeing of the elephant, these paints are frequently water-based and produced with safe synthetic or natural ingredients.

Canvases or paper: The artwork is built on a basis made of canvas or paper. The elephant can paint the canvas or paper by applying paint with its trunk or feet.

Tools such as brushes: Applying paint to the canvas or paper can be done with brushes or other implements like sponges or rollers.

The tools are held in the elephant's mouth or can be used in its trunk.

Protection equipment: Handlers or trainers may employ protective equipment, such as gloves or masks, to ensure the elephant's safety and ward off any potential injury from the materials used in the artwork.

Enrichment toys can be used to stimulate the elephant to explore and engage with the materials, resulting in a more impromptu and expressive artwork. Examples of enrichment toys include balls or other things.

Elephant art should only be created with non-toxic, environmentally friendly materials that are safe for elephants to handle. While employing elephants for artistic purposes, ethical considerations should also be taken into account, and animal care should always come first.


Elephant art refers to any form of visual art created by elephants, either in captivity or in the wild. It can take many forms, from traditional decorative arts practiced in Thailand to more contemporary forms of painting and drawing. The process of creating elephant art can be spontaneous and unpredictable, resulting in unique and expressive artworks that capture the spirit and creativity of these magnificent animals.

While elephant art can be visually striking and captivating, there are also ethical concerns surrounding its creation. It's important to work with reputable organizations that prioritize the well-being of the elephants and use ethical practices in creating and promoting elephant art. This includes using non-toxic materials, ensuring that the elephants are not forced to create art, and respecting their natural behaviors and movements.