Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Fur in My Paint: Art-Making Animals - from Rhinos to Rottweilers

In the second episode of a multi-part series on animals and art-making, I visit with Tifane Grayce, author of Fur in My Paint. Pictured and profiled in this full-color, hardcover, high-gloss coffee table book are art-making creatures from scorpions to beaded lizards, from macaws to elephants, from rhinos to gorillas, from sea lions to white tigers.

Tifane Grayce
with a jaguar baby. Photo
provided by 
Tifane Grayce.

Tifane explains how, quite early in her life, her interest in this area of study was piqued by her mother’s inspiration and cemented through a TV feature on the gorilla, Koko. In the program, Koko was shown painting and, at a point, this Great Ape stopped and carefully removed a hair from the canvas she was painting. Tifane was hooked.

I explore with Tifane how the Fur in My Paint project came to fruition. The two also explore questions related to animal creativity and aesthetic sensibilities. From Tifane, we learn about some of the animal parks and conservation centers across the country that are offering art in the "curricula” for their charges. We hear how animals are trained in art and how human/animal relationships have been enhanced or changed through these interactions.

Timu is a Black Rhinoceros
that paints with her upper lip
(Racine Zoo, Wisconsin).
Photo provided by Tifane Grayce.
Jack Hanna, Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and host of TV’s “Into the Wild,” has called art-making “a brilliant activity for any animal in any animal park or conservation center. Painting stimulates the animals and acts as an important ‘enrichment’ activity.”

Kali is a White Tiger
living at the Knoxville
Zoo. She paints with her
paws, face & body. Photo 
provided by Tifane Grayce.
Julie Scardina, Animal Ambassador for SeaWorld and Busch Gardens, has expressed great delight with Tifane’s book: "Fur in My Paint is really fun and interesting! It showcases not only stunningly beautiful artwork created by wild creatures cared for at zoological parks, but in a few words, provides an exceptional insight into unique individual personalities – each animal showing preferences, and at times apparent intent, in how they choose to paint . . . The close relationships developed between the animals and their caretakers are exemplified, as is the length keepers and trainers will go to provide stimulating opportunities for their charges.”

Tifane and I conclude our time together discussing how folks can work with their pets - from cats and dogs to birds and pigs - in creating art. And we hear from the author about two more volumes on which she is at work: Water Colors, that focuses on the art-making of marine mammals, and Bear Naked Paint, that introduces folks to the work of ursine artists. Learn more at


  1. What an excellent article! I can't wait to see the new books come out.

    If I'm not misunderstanding - the proceeds from the book go back to the facilities who participated, right? In a newspaper article shortly after the book was published, it mentioned that this project was not just about the animals and their artistry, but educating and fundraising to help support these programs.

    Way to go Tifane Grayce - a great way to share your passions!!

  2. Hi Sylvia,

    Thanks for writing! Tifane tells me that, yes, a portion of the proceeds from each book goes to support the programs in the facilities profiled.

    Best, Donna