whole and complete

Front Body – Toddler Male.   Male Toddler – Anterior. I’m thinking about the title. It will probably be the latter but for now I call the image Whole and Complete.

This composition began last summer while trying to get Lawson to stand still so I could outline him. He wasn’t having any of it. Mom takes hold of one hand and my husband takes the other while I quickly photograph him. He continues to laugh, jump and squirm.
I didn’t understand then what I know now – toddlers really do not stand still.

IMG_7870I set in the skeletal system as structure. I carefully render a small ribcage. It feels like I am working on lace. If I was only sketching I could call it done. I want record of this  before I lay in the organs and eventually muscle. In the meantime the real (3D!) Lawson changes almost every time I see him. He’s just shy of two.


I watch him record and react. Senses seem to activate as he learns about the world around him.

He touches everything. What’s this? he says loudly. He chases my cat. She won’t let him touch her. Gentle! mom directs, as he keeps trying. He puts one finger on a cactus (needle) one morning, takes it away quickly and then slowly cries. Does this means he won’t touch it again. I’m not convinced he won’t.

His eyes, all the time looking and seeing. I think of this as I teach my students to heighten these particular skills (look and see). Senses can continue refining into adulthood, I know. One day I decide to represent the five primary senses  as I watch him play with wooden blocks.


  • Smell, vital to everyday existence. I focus on the olfactory bulb and the nasal nerves.
  • Touch so necessary for survival. I read somewhere if you can’t feel something you can’t take care of it. That’s powerful understanding. I use skin and nerve endings to represent it.
  • Taste is the gate-keeper. We taste everything before it enters our body. I love drawing taste buds also called papillae.
  • The playful cochlea representing hearing, seems perfectly suited for this study.
  • An eyeball represents sight. I am reminded images are sent in upside down and the brain turns them right side up.

I’ve wanted to draw a tooth for a long time and now I finally have a good reason. As one of the parts of the first stage of digestion, deciduous teeth or baby teeth (temporary teeth) erupt (ouch!) from about 6 months to twenty-five to thirty-six month. Considering how long it takes for them to surface, the hours I spend on this one seem like no time at all.

Only natural that I follow-up with the last stage of digestion – bowel movement and urination. They have to have presence in this composition.  I never tire of rendering kidneys – in this case very small intricate kidneys, colon and bladder – he’ll soon learn to control.


What I’ve learned from other anatomy drawings starts to come together as I finish this painting. In puberty testosterone will cause Lawson’s ribcage to grow larger in size (than a female of his same age). Males (in general) have broader shoulders and expanded chests, allowing them to inhale more air to supply their larger muscles with oxygen.

Lawson represents a particular truth to me – change is a constant.  I see a level of freedom, curiosity, and trust as he moves in the world at this stage – so big and so much a part of him. He gets supported and directed everyday to move out into the world (one day his life) with awarness.

Is it a cliché to say I believe all life enters this world complete and whole? I’d also like to think life can exit in the same way.


While working on this painting I come across Mohave Indian symbolism about the hands: to offer the right hand is a sign of authority (in this case mom’s) and to offer the left hand is to offer friendship (in this case Eddie’s hand). This is a valuable and unplanned detail.


Mapping a two-year old and raising a two-year old – are two very different things. Thanks mom for letting me draw your son. Thanks Lawson for allowing me to observe you.

4 thoughts on “whole and complete

  1. These works are very endearing, very sweet but in a very honestly loving way. I truly enjoy looking at them, not only for the love and attention they exude for this child, but they are really nice compositions. Great work!


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