After seeing the art challenge prompt of “giraffe” today (yeah, I’m just as surprised or more so than you as I never really look ahead after I make them), I decided on a simple and demure little doodlewash. Giraffes are truly lovely creatures, and I normally opt for a more comical version of their angular faces. But there’s so much grace there and a strange wisdom that I figured I should take a second look. In reality, giraffes tower over other creatures, seeing a world that only they can see. They are indeed the tallest animals on the planet, giving them a perspective of life that simply no other living creature can ever possess. I often wonder what they might be thinking up there, looking down on all of us. Are they amused at the endless world they see before them? Or are they just happy to be conveniently tall enough to get to those delicious leaves on that tree? Giraffes are not thought to be the most intelligent creatures, yet each day we humans learn more and more about how we can tend to misjudge animal intelligence. Like good humans, we have a horrible habit of comparing other mammals to ourselves. We only tend to engage in similarities while missing so many of the wonderful differences. I like to think giraffes have far more to tell us than we are actually able to understand.
There was a video circulating a few years ago of a giraffe at theRotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands. A former maintenance worker who had cleaned the giraffe enclosure for over 25 years was taken back for once last visit as his last wish. One of the giraffes leaned through the enclosure and planted a kiss on the dying man, known only as “Mario,” leading people to wonder if the kiss was actually “real.” By real, they were trying to determine if the kiss meant what it might mean to we humans. Did the giraffes have emotional feelings for this man and was the kiss a manifestation of that? The very idea that an act of affection could only be real if it followed a certain set of criteria is to me, the real mystery. We each experience life so differently and the way we humans experience emotion has wonderful similarities and beautiful differences all at the same time. My definition of love is similar, but always just a bit different than someone else’s version. So comparing our own interactions to animals can be a bit of a fool’s game. It first imagines that we actually understand each other fully.
No, to me, I love that both animals and humans remain a wonderful mystery. This is what makes life so intriguing and the pursuit of it so powerful. It’s what keeps us exploring new ideas and looking a bit more closely at things we thought we already understood. Seeing the world through these fresh eyes as an artist is truly a gift. When I started this blog, I almost never repeated my subject matter, feverishly sketching my way through the world one new bit of stuff at a time. These days, I’m rather thrilled to paint a familiar subject with a new perspective. There’s always something new to learn each time I do it. Bits of detail I missed on that first little sketch or brand new revelations that I ignored entirely. Sure, in the end, it’s just another sketch of a giraffe, but in my mind and imagination, it feels like something transformative. Like actually becoming a giraffe for just a brief moment and experiencing a view from great heights.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Terra Cotta, and Cobalt Blue. Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!