Why I Love Elephants

Why I love elephants

by Kristina Bogdanov, 2017

The reason why I love elephants is because elephants can draw and paint. 

My father used to tell me I should not consider being an artist as a profession because everyone can do it. Seeing an elephant paint a very expressive yet quite accurate rendition of the elephant, I wondered how it relates to what my father had said. Everyone can paint, even elephants but can everyone do accounting? It bothered me for long time that I could not find a strong answer back to argue the claims of art being easy and careless act of whim. Somewhere inside me, I knew art is much more; I had a glimpse of such notion but I forgot it before I could put it words.

Until, one day in drawing class with my mentor Ross Zirkle, I remembered; a memory crawled back from the brain, condensed inside my head as I was drawing a model. Delineated line on my paper matched with the line in memory…must be one of my earliest recollections, I must have been three years old or so…I was in a hallway of our small apartment. The hallway was unusually long for the size of the apartment and my parents just put the new wall- paper. According to my mother’s choice, all the walls were covered in this strikingly white, slightly textured paper. The bleached looking surrounding must have had some influence on me, as I grabbed a pen from the stable phone’s stand. From the center of the hallway, I went left and right, drawing a vibrant set of lines…I don’t remember exactly my drawing, I know there was the sun and buildings and people, randomly organized shapes, encapsulated in a vigorous gesture of a child’s hand until a loud scream broke the afternoon’s silence and made my dad jump from the couch, suddenly awakened from his nap. My mother was standing at the kitchen doorway, with her hand over the mouth, shocked and angry to what I have done to the new, not white any more wall -paper.

That day, I learned a lot. First, art may not always be appreciated nor accepted. I got spanked quite badly that day. But, the more important lesson was the feeling I had inside, the sense that I made that wall better. The whiteness of the wall transformed. It wasn’t about my drawing, it was the process of drawing it, the attempt to make it better, to envision the potential of what the wall surface can become…feeling that you can make things better, the belief…I forgot it as growing up, I forgot why I wanted to be an artist, but once I was lucky enough to remember it, I would never let go. As an educator, I firmly believe that art can and does make things better, art that evolved from a true impulse of observation and genuine response. My father was an artist, even not knowing that. He designed tools and machines, employed by the army and state, he patented several gadgets still used nowadays. My grandmother was an artist not knowing that. She weaved carpets and even though illiterate, she made her own, unique carpet patterns. Whether we become aware or not of our purpose is related to many intricate complexities of life where memory is surely a very involved thread.

They say that elephants never forget. I guess it is true what Steven Assael told me once: “When you draw, you look and you look down…to your page, and it is in that moment that you need to “see” from inside, in your memory, what have you seen… and draw that. You always draw from memory, it comes from your head…the difference is in how much you are aware of what you have seen and what do you see…”