One of my passions is painting with elephants. I have now been painting with three different elephants on four different trips. My favorite elephant, Thongpetch, was only six years old the first time I painted with him in 2010.
The second painting trip, in 2012, when Thongpetch was eight, was the last year he painted with someone other than his mahout. Here is Thongpetch painting with my son.
On this same trip, Michael Campagna videoed a three year old elephant making a painting. How inspiring to see a prodigy of the elephant kind.
When I returned in 2015 to paint again, Thongpetch had been retired from interacting with the public as he made it clear he no longer enjoyed that. I decided to have my new elephant, Pangquan, do a landscape of Mt. Tam, since she was an experienced landscape painter.
And on the fourth and final trip in 2019, I had a young elephant, Nam Petch, who wasn’t that interested in painting, so I made two quick abstracts with her and then let her enjoy her bananas and sugar cane as her reward.
However, my son’s elephant, Au Ga, loved to paint and in addition to painting a tree, did a totally unassisted abstract.
It was on this trip that I saw changes to the camp that I did not feel comfortable with. The original owner had died and the new camp owner no longer had the use of the nearby mountain. Although their was still a wonderful river going through the property where the elephants could have their daily baths, they could no longer go up the mountain at night time to roam for their evening forage. It was sad to see the elephants crowded at the base of the mountain at nighttime. So my days of painting with elephants has come to an end.