Philippe and I have a running joke that while we’re out during the day, our dog Phineas has his friends over. These friends consist primarily of a raccoon named Bob and a little squirrel that we’ve dubbed Michael. The reason for this entourage is that they are what he sees from the terrace and more than once, each of these animals has crept over to see him. Since Phineas is a basenji and doesn’t bark, he just stares at them and his lack of barking fascinates them equally. It’s funny to watch as normally sworn enemies simply seem to apprise each other of the day’s latest events. So, we decided they must certainly be his friends now and he has them round while we’re not watching. Michael the squirrel is actually his best friend in our story, though they aren’t currently on speaking terms since Michael lost in a game of poker and scurried off before paying Phineas. Some people just talk for their dogs, but since ours can’t even bark, we invent rich histories. Oh, there’s a black cat named Cindy that he doesn’t like at all, and frankly during Halloween month, having Cindy slink across your path is a bit ominous. I’m not superstitious it’s just that she’s a bit creepy and seems to really know how to work it. Yes, we do have human neighbors, but making up stories for them would just be weird.
Since Philippe and I are happily polite, but not overly social, I’m quite sure the neighbors have created stories about us to fill in the gaps. We only attend one garden party a year, so much of the “catching up” bit is a touch more like a game. Us revealing the truth as they compare it to the stories they’ve created in their heads. And as I type this, I realize we’re not much different than poor Cindy the cat who is likely also an introvert since she can always be found wandering alone. To a highly social and gregarious human who refers to herself as a “people person” we come across as downright odd, and maybe even a bit creepy like Cindy. Though I like to think of it as just being a bit mysterious. In truth, like many artists and writers, a quick google will reveal more than you ever wanted to know about me. It will lead you to these stories filled with truth and brimming with the actual events of my life. Far more than I would ever chose to reveal if we were chatting at a party. I’m probably not alone there, we don’t often tell each other our deepest thoughts while chatting at a gathering. That would also just come across as a bit weird.
Yet art has that wonderful quality of freeing us from those pedestrian constraints and inspiring us to reveal deeper bits about ourselves. Yeah, even when you’re just sketching stuff, like me. An artist’s view of the world is a wonderful thing indeed. It’s not built from facts as much as truth. Sketching is always a vivid retelling of life, no matter what is sitting before us when we create. Regardless of any mad sketching skills we bring to the table, our own hearts will tip the pen or brush in another direction. Though we might be trying to faithfully recreate something from life, our imaginations take us on a different journey. There, anything is possible. I can, for example, create a portrait of Michael, who appears to be only a bit of wildlife, yet is actually my dog’s imagined best friend. Crazy, to be sure, but the very best kind of crazy. The version that makes life richer and dreams more beautiful, not for the pure events that happen, but for the ideas they create in our minds. And can be made entirely possible by the most unexpected of things, like that one little squirrel.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Vermilion, and Indigo (my “Vintage” Trio!). Photo Reference (CC BY-SA 3.0): Nicko Margolies . Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black 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!