While deciding what elephant I would sketch for today’s prompt, I ended up getting lost for a bit watching videos of baby elephants. Their sheer joy and exuberance was intoxicating to watch as they experienced the world around them. Though we don’t actually know what an elephant is feeling precisely, since we don’t speak their language, it’s easy to observe that they approach life with quite a bit of joy. The birth of a baby elephant will cause the entire herd to blare and circle the newborn with excitement. In fact, it’s thought that an elephant’s emotional bond with its family members may actually rival our own. Since, as I said, humans don’t speak elephant, the list of things that we think brings them true joy is rather short. Their enjoyment in life is basically summed up as being with friends and family and playing games. It made me realize that when it comes to true joy in my own life, the list isn’t really much longer than that. While I encounter things that make me smile each and every day, they don’t quite bring the incredible level of delight that can be truly be known as joy. This is, as it turns out, is much rarer than it seems.
The topic of joy has been on my mind lately as Philippe and I recently watched a few episodes of the Netflix show “Tidying Up” based on the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō. In truth, it’s a wildly simple concept of organization that’s not terribly difficult to understand. But, the idea becomes rather magical as Kondō guides people through a process of discovering which items in their home “spark joy” and which do not. Rather than just a simple level of happiness, these are things that physically make one feel a “zing” and positive feelings in every cell of their body. It’s a way to discover the things you truly need in life as well as the things you could just as easily do without. And though her method is used for home organization, I find it a rather uplifting way to look at everything in life. Does the way that I approach my work bring me joy? Are my current daily routines simply habits or something that makes me truly joyful? Is my approach to my art giving me that “zing” and delivering true joy each day? I’m still debating the first two questions, but as for the last, I have formed some thoughts about my daily sketching and painting.
Some days, I will just randomly grab for a reference and sketch it without really thinking too much about it. On those days, I feel a sense of achievement, but nothing that would be considered joyful. Truly, I simply don’t have time to do much more on some days, and practice is always a great thing in whatever form it comes. But this month, I’m trying to invent my own concepts and compositions, studying multiple references and then using my imagination a bit more, whenever I have a tiny bit of extra time. My recent post with storybook mushrooms or my colorful parrot and palm leaves was a good example of this. And this little two-color doodlewash of an elephant is a combination of a couple I saw in the video as I tried to capture the sparks of delight I witnessed from these wonderful creatures. And this always makes me happier as well. When I’m no longer just painting an animal, but also an idea of the story I want to convey. I’ve a long way to go in my practice. Even though saying I’ve been sketching for 1,317 consecutive days sounds impressive, the reality is that it’s an average of only 40 minutes a day. Were this my full-time job, I would have only been at it for about 5 and half months. So, I’m still very much like a baby elephant in my art journey, gleefully dancing through it and enjoying each little discovery as it comes. Trying new little things with a constant spirit of hope, optimism and curiosity, while I attempt to master the art of joy.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Terra Cotta and Cobalt Blue. 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!