A View From Great Heights

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.

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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!
 Day 21 - Giraffe Watercolor - #doodlewashJune2018 Doodlewash

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. 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!

Recommended5 recommendationsPublished in By Charlie
13 Comments
  1. Sandra Strait 2 months ago

    Your giraffe is beautiful, Charlie. You’ve captured the stateliness of the beast. I love following the news about Koko, Michael & Ndume, the gorillas that knows sign language. It’s still unclear how much they truly understand and how much they are just trained. But I think that uncertainty applies to homo sapiens as well.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sandra! 😃💕I agree! I think we living being still have a LOT to learn about each other. But that’s what makes life so interesting!

  2. SnehLata Maheshwari 2 months ago

    Your Giraffe is awesome . Animal can understand the expression of love indeed .
    Then human.
    Yes i am ready to jump on July charlie good art n story of today love it. thanks

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Aww thanks so much, Snehlata! 😃💕 Glad you liked my giraffe! And yay to jumping into World Watercolor Month! It’s going to be SO much fun!!

  3. Lisa 2 months ago

    If you paint the same thing over and over, you’ll better find what really belongs. And maybe more important, the things that don’t belong. The editing eye, is a gift I think.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      I totally agree, Lisa! 😃💕 It’s been fun to finally revisit the same subject again. Each time I learn so much. And even cooler, each time I look at the reference less and less and just focus on the sketch.

  4. Sharon Nolfi 2 months ago

    A beautiful sketch of a truly elegant animal! They are gentle giants, while humans, as a species, are greatly overrated.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Haha! Totally agree! 😃💕 We humans do try our best though! But giraffes… so cool!

  5. Yolimar Cabello 2 months ago

    So cute! 🦒
    Enjoy your weekend

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks so much, Yolimar! Hope you’re having a lovely weekend! 😃💕

      • Yolimar Cabello 2 months ago

        You’re welcome!

  6. smzang 2 months ago

    “in the end, it’s just another sketch of a giraffe,”

    Ok, Chahwee, here’s where we disagree. You give unique personality to each and every painting.
    Sometimes I think your brush mirrors your mood even more than you realize.

    About Mario’s kiss, I think animals are much more empathetic than humans could ever be. I’m
    guessing that not only was Mario recognized, but the giraffe understood that Mario was near the
    end of his life. I think the reason animals have a higher sense of empathy is because their minds
    are less cluttered and so they rely on instinct more than humans do. A visit to doodlewash always
    sets my mind to wandering to the most delightful and unexpected places. Thank you!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 2 months ago

      Thanks, Sarah! 😃💕 hehe… yeah, I do think my brush often mirrors my mood. So happy you enjoyed this post. I agree… animals don’t have all the noise in their brains that we humans do. That must be a really lovely thing!

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