There’s a saying, referrring to humans, that “the eyes are the windows to the soul”. I believe this is every bit as true for animals. Now, whether or not, in the religious sense, animals literally have something that could be called a soul, is a question I’ll leave to others. But in the sense of consciousness, sentience, “isness”, I believe that absolutely. Animals experience emotions such as happiness, grief, depression, hopefulness and silliness, feel pain, form a wide variety of relationships, communicate with each other within and across species, teach and acquire wisdom and culture, use tools and, in some cases, clearly demonstrate self-awareness in the human sense. They have as much right to a safe and decent life on this planet as we do.
Whatever it is that vanishes from an animal’s eyes when it dies, before that point, there was an individual someone at home in there.
That is my starting point for drawing and painting animals. And so, in a sense, the “eyes” have it. I often do the eyes first and, not infrequently, there is my subject looking back at me. I’ve even been known to say out loud “Well, hello there.”
Here are five drawings of eyes, using the Wolff Carbon pencils on vellum bristol. I did a little something different with a simple border, an idea that I picked up from fellow student when I was in art school. It lets simple designed compositions occur instead of just having the drawing randomly trail off.
A reticulated giraffe that I photographed in the Samburu, 2004
A Holsteiner stallion, who I did a portrait commission of year before last.
A bighorn sheep ewe from the Denver Zoo.
A serval, also from the Denver Zoo.
And our own dear tabby girl, Persephone, aka The Princess.