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Modern Art: Gorilla


A modern artsy pastel drawing of a gorilla. Here the pastel is not blended or smoothed. This allows the texture of the paper to show through so you can create the appearance of fur without actually drawing it. The only problem is when you want to do this type of pastel you cannot erase.

This was not exactly rendered from life but instead was drawn using a photograph taken at a zoo. Lest purist get huffy about using (ptui) modern technology as a crutch for fine art, using photographic models was a practice of many famous painters such as Thomas Eakins for his outdoor scenes, Norman Rockwell for his portraits, and, yes, even Paul Gauguin for his Tahiti paintings.

Our friend here, by the way, is Jabari, one of the Philadelphia silverbacks. Jabari was born at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo in February 1985. He then lived for 9 years at the St. Louis Zoological Gardens made famous by its director, Wild Kingdom's Marlin Perkins. Then Jabari pulled up stakes and moved to Philadelphia in July 2004.

Some biologists believe that gorillas - along with other great apes like chimpanzees and orangutans - should be reclassified as belonging to the species homo - that is, the same genus as humans. This recommendation is not just because of genetic similarity - 98 % of gorilla and human DNA is the same - but also because tests have shown that the great apes have greater mental powers than previously believed. IQ tests administered to gorillas - gorillas can be taught and can communicate with sign language - have shown IQ's as high as 95, which is within the normal range for humans. Of course these tests have to be modified and the questions adapted to fit the educational background of a typical gorilla. After all, it's not likely a gorilla can answer a question like "If one train traveling at 60 miles an hour leaves Baltimore and at the same time another train leaves New York traveling at 70 miles an hour, how far from each starting point will the two trains pass each other?"

Jubari was a western lowland gorilla as are all silverbacks. You won't see the critically endangered mountain gorilla in a zoo. They just don't survive in captivity.

And yes, we said "was". Sadly, Jubari is no longer with us. He died on August 9, 2013 - the day after the photo that served as the model for this drawing was taken.