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.

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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!
Day 7 - Baby Elephant Watercolor Art Of Joy - Sketchbook Detail

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27 thoughts on “The Art Of Joy

  1. I don’t have Netflix but I should check the library and see if the show is out on DVD. Although, as intriguing as the idea is, the thought of actually going through all my junk and then deciding how to get rid of a good portion of it does not bring me joy. Maybe I can talk my hubby into it – he’d probably love to jettison the whole bunch, lol.

  2. I haven’t even begun to read yet,
    I am absolutely enthralled by that frolicsome baby elephant with the spring in his step,
    the twinkle in his eye, and clearly, the joy in his heart.

    Okay having stared at him until I fear he might think I’m stalking him, I have now read
    the absolutely awesome article…It has put zing in this Zang’s day. Thank you!

  3. This is a wonderful essay! I watched the entire Tidying up series and I’ve made some inroads, but I told a friend about it, and she and her wife have hauled away a huge amount of stuff. She feels joy looking in her almost empty closet now! And speaking of joy…It is one of my biggest guiding principles. I try to find a moment of joy every day. From what you have written here I think my definition of joy is much broader than yours. For example, today we were having an ice storm. I could whine and complain about it, and believe me, I do, but, when I looked out the back window and saw that each step on my deck was festooned with dozens of inch long icicles across the tread, I had a zing of joy. And I had another when I imagined you getting lost down the internet rabbit hole looking at baby elephant videos. Especially because after I’m finished hete, I may follow you down that same hole😀!

    1. Awww I adore that, Lisa! 😃💕 Yay to getting lost in the moment, even if the moment isn’t quite what we hoped for. This includes gorgeous ice on branches along with those insanely addictive baby elephant videos. The world is filled with more joy than we can ever truly appreciate!

  4. Letting go of stuff. We have been doing that all month after purchasing 7 pieces of antique furniture( 10 if you count dining room chairs). It was a freak purchase, went after a painting, came home with furniture, that we did not need or have room for. I am enjoying our revamped house and a joy has come back into it. I am going to have to look for some baby elephant videos, they are my favorite animal, next to kittens. You captured the feel of this little guy. Love him!

    1. Thanks so much! 😃💕 Yeah, joy is an elusive and funny thing indeed. Some of my guiltiest purchases are so memorable and wonderful that they actually count as joy! lol It’s all a process that I’ll never understand, but will enjoy smiling throughout!

  5. yeah I’ve been thinking the same these days. Jut last nigiht I saw this video of James Victore advising us to think about what we want to say with out art and say it. Your paintings are beautiful and I enjoy your stories. I love to write books and they truly bring me joy. The problem is I struggle with learning and practicing my painitng skills. I’m learning and I do it because I must.

  6. He’s adorable an full of happiness from the smile on his cute face to the spring in his steps. You’ve come along way in sketching elephants, compared to Baby Elephant Walk, 11/15/2015, he’s cute. Enjoy seeing your sketching grow with each new art piece. Have a fun day of sketching an both you an Philippe enjoy the weekend. Oh! I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up , an it does wonders letting go. Bye

    1. Thanks so much!! 😃💕 I’m so thrilled you see an improvement! I think this one is much fresher than the last attempt. Philippe and I are just getting started with Tidying Up, but it’s really wonderful! Hope you have a fantastic weekend as well!

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