When I hear the terms “animals” and “art” in the same sentence, I think of that famous kitschy painting of dogs playing poker. But apparently there is an entire genre of art actually painted by real live animals!
If you search online for animals making art or paintings by animals, wild colorful images appear created by paintbrush-wielding rabbits, seals, chimpanzees and elephants. I remember seeing a documentary about elephants painting in Thailand. Googling around, I discovered an entire website gallery featuring “original abstract art” painted by Asian elephants in Thailand. The elephants use acrylic paints to create their vibrant slashes and blobs of colorful art.
On this particular site, you can learn the names of the artist elephants and see examples of their work. There are several photos of elephants applying paint to canvases propped up on easels outdoors. The paintings are available for purchase. Along with the artwork, you will receive a certificate of authenticity and a printed profile with a photo of the elephant artist and the mahout (elephant caregiver).
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Elephants at the Melbourne Zoo in Australia were given paints and canvases to add enrichment to their daily lives. Scientists observing these elephant Picassos concluded that “the benefits of this activity appear to be limited to the aesthetic appeal of these paintings to the people viewing them.”
But several zoos have found that animal-generated art is a fun way to raise funds and help protect endangered animals. The St. Louis Zoo in Missouri offers paints and canvases to sea lions, penguins, snakes, turtles and lizards. The reptiles slither and crawl through non-toxic paint to create their own special art on canvas. The sea lions grasp paintbrushes in their mouths. Penguins walk through the non-toxic paints in various colors and then parade all over the canvas to create “stunning abstract works of art!” Check out the colorful one-of-a-kind masterpieces created by alligators, orangutans and other non-human zoo residents. The artwork for sale ranges from $25 for a 5 x 7 to $114 for a 16 x 20 wild art masterpiece.
Pet owners can also get in on the wild art action. You can buy an art kit for cats on the internet that includes five specifically formulated non-toxic paint colors, three sheets of art paper, three paint shields, a cat toy, and a picture frame. The cat’s paws do not come into direct contact with the paint. Once the paint colors are dotted on the paper, the paper is then covered with a plastic-looking “paint shield.” Owners are encouraged to entice their furry felines to “pounce, dance and run across the paint shield” to create the abstract art. The description states “your pet can create masterpieces you will cherish.” What a fun gift for the cat lady on your holiday list!
More Googling brought me to a site with directions to make your own at-home pet-friendly paint to create dog and cat paw print projects. Mix non-toxic powdered tempera paint with water and place the paints in shallow containers before dipping Fido’s paw into the paint and making his mark on greeting cards, etc. This idea is probably best attempted outdoors.
Every few years I try to be creative and make my own holiday cards. I’ve used watercolor paints, markers, colored tissue paper, and glitter. The results are almost always amateurish. I prefer to think of my style as “primitive folk art” like they say on the Antiques Roadshow.
I had been resigned to purchasing a box of generic holiday cards this year. But now I have a new, more creative idea. I just need to find that chipmunk!
Kim Kovach encourages creativity in adults, teens and children. The winter session of her Creative Writing and Reader’s & Writer’s Theater classes for children and teens at KAC starts in January. Visit kimkovachwrites.com.