For the love of elephants: Watercolors that help them roam free

Asian elephant
Stone thrower (African Elephant)
Visit my Etsy shop to learn the story of this elephant

From now until World Elephant Day in August in I’m offering a limited run of prints of two of my watercolors of elephants. These elephants live at the facility of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS). You can buy the prints at A portion of the proceeds for each sale will go to PAWS to help support the elephants.

I’ve always had a thing for elephants, ever since watching the documentary The African Elephant when I was a kid. The more I learn about them, the more I think they are a sentient species (as far as I can understand sentience). They have complicated family relationships, they mourn death and celebrate life, and they display a sharp intelligence. And don’t forget their proverbial memory.

It was the highlight of 2015 that I was able to get close enough to really observe these magnificent animals. Last fall I was privileged to visit Ark 2000, an animal sanctuary of the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), an organization that rescues animals used in the entertainment industry—think circuses, animal shows, and, yes, zoos—and provides a place for them to retire. They have large roaming areas, ponds, heated barns, good food. And they don’t have to work any more. They just get to be the animals they are.

I’ve blogged about that trip before. Here are some of the highlights.

Some of the elephants at PAWS had been mistreated in their former working lives, or were stolen from their mothers as little babies. Some witnessed elephants killing elephants; possibly some witnessed humans killing their mothers. It’s a wonder that the animals at PAWS have been able to overcome their past traumas to form attachments with the humans that care for them.  There are a trio of Africans who throw stones at cars, but other elephants we met were just as curious about us as we were about them.

We got to meet Nicholas personally. He rumbled low as his keeper showed us how they had convinced Nicholas to open his mouth for dental inspection, or show them the bottom of his ottoman-sized feet. I don’t like to use the word trained. Really what they’ve done is learned how to communicate with the animals, and they’ve done it in a way that doesn’t involve pain or punishment. If these animals consent to a dental examination, or present their ottoman-sized feet for a checkup, it’s because they want to. Not because someone is stabbing them with a bullhook.

(click here to read the whole post).

That brilliant day I couldn’t stop sketching. I could have drawn Nicholas all day long as he snuffled through a pile of bran meal on the floor and purred his elephant growl.

Drawing portraits in person always brings me closer to my subject, and drawing Nicholas was no different. I could feel an intelligence there, a being that knew exactly who he was and who accepted that a small female humana was observing him while he observed her.

Nicholas: Asian Elephant
Visit my Etsy shop to learn the story of this elephant

PAWS also does education outreach about “energy conservation, conservation of wildlife habitat, and recognition of animals as individuals with a right to peace and dignity.”

You can own one (or two) of these beautiful prints and help support the elephants at PAWS.

Read more about PAWS at their website,

10 thoughts on “For the love of elephants: Watercolors that help them roam free

  1. I have a special place in my heart for elephants! This is more than gorgeous. And I love your watermark.

  2. I also have a special place in my heart for elephants. My great grandfather came to America with a circus. He cared for the elephants. When it was time to leave again he’d met my great grandmother and stayed here. He always had photos and figurines of elephants. It’s what I remember of him best.

  3. Wow, lovely post. That sounds like such an amazing experience. And I love looking at your paintings after reading about PAWS and Nicholas. So much more meaning!!

  4. Your paintings are so lovely! What an amazing experience for you and Nicholas! 🙂 As an animal lover and creative, I love everything about this! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you Karen. It was an amazing experience, and to know that Nicholas was happy and well taken care of and no longer doing anything other than being an elephant made me so happy.

  5. I have always loved elephants. The thought that they need so much help is disturbing, and thank heaven there are those who are there to do it. I also thank you Maggie–for your work on this piece of art–it captures the intelligence and intensity of this magnificent creature–your soul is clearly in these works! I just purchased one of your prints and I cannot wait to get it 🙂

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