Blog / 2009 / Drawing Life

November 2, 2009

Recently, I spent a few weeks visiting with my grandmother in the retirement home in France where she lives now. On the third day of visiting, I started to draw her on a whim while my mother painted her mother’s nails.

sketchbook drawing of a grandmother
Gwenn Seemel
Mamy Doubled
2009
marker on paper
5 x 8 inches

Every day, I would start multiple drawings, following my Mamy as she interacted with us and with the world around her. I would finish whichever ones her natural movements allowed me to focus on.

sketchbook drawing of a grandmother
Gwenn Seemel
Mamy Sucking on a Hard Candy
2009
marker on paper
8 x 5 inches

My grandmother found my drawings more interesting than photos, all of which are of people she does not recognize anymore—including those of me, my mother, and my Mamy’s own dead husband.

She didn’t necessarily see herself in my sketches or even like my representations of her, but she enjoyed my attentive gaze and appreciated the human touch of an image produced by marker and pen on paper.

sketchbook drawing of a grandmother
Gwenn Seemel
Mamy in Bed
2009
marker on paper
7 x 5 inches

On the last day of our visit, Mamy was not feeling well. She was napping in her room when we arrived instead of waiting eagerly in the lobby for my mother and me—two people whom she doesn’t recognize but does rather like. It was sad visiting her daily and knowing all the while that we’d have to leave her for another year all too soon, but it was sadder still on our final day in Brittany when she was sick in bed.

Then again, it’s always been like this for me with my grandparents—intense moments of love and togetherness followed by a year without seeing each other while I went back to my life in the US. And it’s always been hard on me and on them, but, as my grandmother once pointed out, at least we have those weeks together now and then.

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