Sketching the Soul

“For homework this week, I want you to draw what you think the soul is. The soul, or human consciousness, as a part of the body. Take time to think about it, do some soul searching, if you will. Don’t even try to do it the hour before class”

Thus spoke my art professor last Monday at the end of my figure drawing class, staring us all down as he gave us what seemed to be an impossible task.

I spent the whole week trying to figure out what the soul meant to me. Walking to classes, distracted moments while doing homework, in the shower, cooking dinner, and nothing, and I mean nothing, came to me. Part of the reason for this mental block was due to not knowing what part of the body I should depict. Was the soul in the head? The eyes? The chest? A lung? The abdomen? I had no idea. I knew I was probably going to do something with words, or maybe draw part of the body made up of art materials, but nothing deep about my personal philosophy was bubbling to the surface.

By Thursday night I was getting kind of worried. Normally I know what I’m going to do for my art homework by then and I spend Friday night or Saturday morning working on it. It wasn’t until I went to the Meet and Eat sponsored by CCSJ that I had an inkling of what I saw as the human soul.

The Meet and Eat is a dinner held by CCSJ in conjunction with various Baltimore agencies which help the homeless get back on their feet. Last year I went with my Alpha class, and again this year as an aide. It was fantastic both times. Students get to meet new people, talk about their experiences, eat good (and free!) food, listen to the Belles and Chimes, enjoy the open mic aspect, and participate in a reflection at the end.

As I listened to the guests read their own poetry and the accomplishments or memories they shared, I realized that part of human consciousness is about understanding. We seek recognition in others and require empathy to live our life to the best of our ability. We aren’t robots who are given direct instructions on how to function, instead we have choices and it’s that free will which shapes our souls.

I quickly sketched out some ideas during the dinner and the next day spent some time on the porch of Humanities continuing those thoughts. Confession: I had some help from Wikipedia to jump start that process. Sometimes reading other opinions helps me formulate my own.

After coming to the conclusion that words would be the best representation of my concept of the soul, I still had to figure out where it “lived” in the body. Memories of drawing the ribcage quickly moved me in the direction of the skull. How hard can that be, right?

HA.

The human skull is way more complex than it looks. In the end, here’s what I cam up with:

Pencil sketch of skull

I erased most of the lines and inked it the next day:

Inked skull

Then added shape by crosshatching and highlights with white conte crayon:

Finished skull

Reason, Emotion, Desire, Choice, Senses, Experience

I never thought I’d have to do literal soul searching for an art class, or any class for that matter. It seems Loyola’s professors have a goal of challenging me weekly this year. From art to philosophy they have me asking questions of myself I normally wouldn’t consider relevant to the class.

The best part? I’m actually starting to enjoy it.

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