Elephants Artists

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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Elephant Artists

Chiang Mai,Thailand

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

At first, I couldn’t believe it; Elephants who could paint pictures? There must be some kind of trick here, something akin to a Las Vegas magic show. A quick slight of trunk, perhaps, but no way could it be real. Billy and I spoke of it for weeks as I tried to fit this event into my hectic schedule; the First Elephant Art Exhibition with live demonstrations of the actual painting on canvas.

Finally arriving, I spent my time looking at the finished artwork proudly displayed, the souvenirs and trinkets, and wandered about taking some photos of the elephants hanging around. Pondering where I might like to sit in order to get a decent view of the action, I momentarily looked up only to see 6,000 pounds of elephant running in my direction! Flat at me and more quickly than you can imagine 3 tons moving!

Golden Elephant head with vermillion tusk

Golden Elephant head with vermillion tusk

Apparently elephant artists can have a bout of stage fright as well, and Duanpen, a five year old creative beast, was having second thoughts about this evening's performance. She headed straight away for the small opening between the tables and benches set up for tonight’s viewers and easily knocked them down.  This is no big deal, supposedly, except that the tables and benches are made of solid concrete and weigh more than I could ever pick up to put back in place. They fell over like empty cardboard boxes. Like it was a nonevent, Duanpen’s mahout gently grabbed her by her ear, and led her back to her enclosure.

At this point, I reconsidered my seating placement, deciding to be freelance, and stand up, in case there was a need to escape quickly. Other viewers did not seem nearly as disturbed by this beastly outburst, and they, along with their children, easily took front row seats. As for me, I began to get a bit clammy.





These animals are massive. They are children, of course, only five and six years old, but tiny they are not. Their immensity was fascinating. I love animals, and always had a few dogs and cats, turtles, even a monkey while I was growing up. However, my animal care taking history had nothing to compare with this experience, and I surprised myself with my timidity.

Duanpen's escape path through concrete benches and table

Duanpen's escape path through concrete benches and table

Soon paint was poured into pools on plastic plates, and brushes were readied. The easel was set up, with art paper attached, and a cardboard frame placed over it to keep the paint inside the lines.

Enter the star, Kong Kum, a six year old male elephant, with his mahout at his side. The art instructor who was on the left, loaded up the brush, and Kong Kum eagerly reached for it with his trunk. Over and over Kong Kum took the brush, and the instructor made differing motions on the blank piece of paper so Kong Kum knew where and what to paint. He followed directions impeccably.

Kong Kum in intense concentration

Kong Kum in intense concentration

Placement after placement, color after color, with determined concentration, this little boy elephant was eager to please his teacher. Mesmerized, we watched.  Before we all knew it, a painting was completed, and proudly, he bowed and curled his trunk for us.





Going back a second time, both to take more photos and to see these fascinating gentle giants once again, I was no less afraid, and could not bring myself to sit on the elephant’s knee when it was offered.  However, I was able to feed them sugar cane, and this I considered personal progress.

Elephant artwork and supplies

Elephant artwork and supplies

These animals are awesome in their physical presence as well as in potential.  For their size, they are light and gentle on their feet, and can perform exacting tasks.  This attempt to train them to paint is a fairly new enterprise, with great hopes that it will attract income to pay for their pricey maintenance. 

The number of elephants still in Thailand today is debated, but most of them live in camps. To learn how to paint, these elephants must go to painting school! For more information on elephant artists, click here

For more stories and photos on Thailand, click here

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

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