Artist as Parent – The family that draws together

Drawing by Andrew Conti Artist

Drawing for my wife and I is a very serious thing. We both work as artists and draw a lot for our professional practice. But drawing is for also an elemental component of our being alive, like thinking or breathing. It is how we think, come up with ideas, share our thoughts, and understand what we are feeling and imagining.

My wife and I are always drawing by ourselves, working out ideas and developing our skills. We also often took time to sit and draw together when we were dating and after we married. This was a silent time for two introverts to simply share a room in meditative silence. We would draw each other, or just sit and draw, zoning out from each other and the rest of existence.

With the birth of our daughter this time was –as with so many things– disrupted. For the first few months there was just the general disruption of our whole schedule and approach to daily life being altered. It took a while to come back back to equilibrium and a sense of routine. Then there was a period of a month or two (I vaguely imagine/remember this being around the time my daughter was 3 or 4 months old) when things appeared to be going back to normal. We would sit as we always did,with tea, and simply draw. Of course, the new and greatest subject matter was now our daughter as she slept.

Then things got disrupted again. This is of course as things go with babies. They have there own schedules, and they are getting used to your schedule just as much as you are getting used to theirs. And every few months (or is it weeks) the whole thing goes pear-shaped and you have to repeat the process of understanding each others needs again.

Sometime at the end of her 1st year of life, our daughter began to discover and understand drawing. She began sitting in her high chair with a little paper and some animal shaped crayons and scribbled, scribbled, scribbled. She spread colors around with joy, and it seemed as if we would have a new member of our little drawing collective to share drawing time with.

This did not however go according to plan. Because, I suppose we believed there could be a plan. But there are no plans with 1 year olds. Everything takes longer than it ever did before, and all plans slow and get off track. And our drawing time was never the same.

There where frequent crayon drops. Screams to get out of the chair (and then back up in the chair). Screams to use whatever mom and dad were drawing with. Interruptions of hunger, diaper changes, sudden fits of crankiness, and any and all manner of activity that a one year old takes to.

In honestly, this deterred us. Our drawing time was no longer what it once was, and it seemed clear it would never be again. And then again it didn’t stop us. We just did what must be done by all parents who wish to not succumb to their children’s fits and whims. We adapted and persevered.

What was obvious was that we all enjoyed drawing. We knew we loved it, and it was obvious that our daughter enjoyed it as well. So we altered how we did it. Focusing on having 15 minute drawing bursts followed by other activities, rather than our several hour long sessions. We could have 4 or 5 of these bursts with our daughter throughout a weekend afternoon if we spaced them well enough, and did enough other stuff in between.

We added drawing to other activities. If we are imagining a monster chasing after us, we take a few minutes to draw that monster. If we are at the grocery store, we might draw the kinds of fruits we want to buy. Mom and Dad are working on something, please draw us a tool, or some object to help.

You see, it’s important for me to point out that drawing is really important to us. It’s about thinking and engaging with the world as much or perhaps more so then creating a beautiful end product. Drawing is a life skill. That’s what we have tried to share with our daughter. If we are playing another game, working on another project, shopping, traveling, or just about any other activity we might do as a family, we are always trying to find a place for drawing. This is just how we think and operate.

I am a major proponent of drawing as a way to interact with each other, and I can’t recommend it enough for having family time. Drawing can encompass every other action you could take, every other thing in the universe if you just let it lead you there through stories, visions, games, and conversation.

Drawing time in our family is quality family time. We sit together, we talk, we share, we watch, we listen, and of course we keep on drawing. I imagine in many families they go outside and throw the ball around together, or play a board game, or do a puzzle together. We do some of those things occasionally as well. But drawing time is our time to be a family and to grow together.