Thursday, 17 May 2012

Janey and me

Sketching at animal parks is a lot of fun, not only because you can really observe the animals, but also because the animals are likely to observe you. They are used to people mimicking them and taking flash photography, but they are not so used to see a human scribbling on a piece of paper and watching them without direct eye contact. Meerkat sentries take a keen interest in your sketching and so do parrots, but obviously apes and monkeys even more so.
I had the opportunity to visit San Diego Zoo recently and I was sketching away while one of the orangutans came to the glass pane to show off to the audience. I thought it was very funny. She was showing her teeth to the ohhh and ahhh of an amused audience. So I started sketching her and she seemed to observe me with such an intensity, that I turned the sketch around to show her. She came closer to take a look and then seemed to ask me for my pen. I felt very sad that I could not hand her my pen through the glass and she looked sad too, but perhaps it's just the way orangutans look. I kept on showing her my pen moving on the paper making marks, and she kept on watching me and the drawing forming on the paper. Then she came up really close, two inches from my face and stared me right in the eye. It was not a threatening stare, and in fact it looked like she was entering my soul, exploring what was past my eyes, into my very being. I did the same to her, wondering what kind of magical bonding moment was happening between us. I was deeply touched.
Later I found out that her name is Janey and that she is an artist in her own right. She paints, draws and wears makeup. What a bizarre fantastic experience.

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