In Sketching Our Children I Find a Fleeting Freedom

It seems a fruitless task, the sketching of our children, for how can I in anyway capture adequately the beauty of the child that sits or sleeps in front of me?

A sketch of a sleeping child by Jonathan Fenske

P asleep

So interesting, and against my perfectionist nature, to know that my attempts will be subpar at best. But in this realization there is a release of sorts: the usual pressure to perform subsides, for these sketches will not be masterpieces, but moments thrown down to revisit at a later date, tangible proof of a special point in time after so many other points are lost to life’s too-quick passing.

A drawing of Jonathan Fenske's middle daughter

C in a rare moment of stillness

This need to capture these moments is my challenge and motivation. There are the technical aspects of course. Twenty minutes, tops, is not really much time before the daughter in front of you asks once too often “Daddy, how much longer do I have to sit still?” and you realize creation is crossing into torture for both sitter and artist.

A drawing of a child by Jonathan Fenske

Preschool P

The sleep sketches are even freer of predictability: five, perhaps ten minutes, the knowledge of a coming change pushing my pencil rapidly along. And then, the change made manifest with a snuffle and a roll, and deep sleep recovered in a different pose.

An infant sleeping by Jonathan Fenske

F, thumb firmly in mouth

But for these small swatches of time I get to look unabashedly at my children’s faces, studying, remembering, tucking away the geometry of their features. Features I now recall when they are at school, or I am on the road. Features I hope to still recall when they leave their mother and me and stretch toward the horizon of adulthood.

Sleeping child drawing by Jonathan Fenske

Yes, that is C’s ubiquitous flower blanket

As you who are parents well know, at the end of a hard day, full of sassiness and scuffles, whining and tantrums, there is a voice of despair that tells us we are underappreciated, that our failures outweigh the successes of our parenthood. Sketching my daughters is one of my releases from this voice, for as I study the peacefulness that attends their slack mouths and soft faces, I find in their letting go I am able to let go myself. Today’s slate is wiped clean. Tomorrow’s is as smooth and unlined as the calm brows of my lovely children.

Wet headed daughter sketch by Jonathan Fenske

A young P at bath time

 

A quick sketch of a sleeping baby by Jonathan Fenske

Sometimes they move too quickly

A sketch of a surprised baby by Jonathan Fenske

Sweet P

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3 thoughts on “In Sketching Our Children I Find a Fleeting Freedom

  1. Jonathan, these are the best sketches ever as far as I am concerned. They are beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. They were sketched with your love for your girls, what could be better than that?
    I don’t know if you ever saw the painting Grandma did of me but I hated sitting still then & I was older! Plus I got my hair cut during that time and she had to “cut” my hair in the painting.

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