Knowing that it brings a smile to my kids in the middle of the day, when I’m not there, if they’re maybe having a rough day, who knows, just something to look forward to at lunch time, I think that’s what keeps me going more than anything. —Garth Bruner

SANDY — While some dads may try to connect with their children by cooking their favorite meals or fixing a broken toy, Garth Bruner has learned that he can use his artistic talent to let his three children know he loves them every day.

It all started about five years ago when Bruner began doodling on note cards that he put in his children's sack lunches before they left for school. Initially, he only created the custom doodles every now and then, but the practice soon evolved into an everyday occurrence.

"They were enjoying it, and so I thought, 'This is fun' and started doing it every single day for the last three years," Bruner said. "I've got over 900 drawings."

Bruner, who works as a senior designer, realized that spending five to 10 minutes on each drawing in the morning was a good way to warm up his creativity for the day. But it is the opportunity to share his love for his children that keeps him drawing.

"Knowing that it brings a smile to my kids in the middle of the day, when I’m not there, if they’re maybe having a rough day, who knows, just something to look forward to at lunch time, I think that’s what keeps me going more than anything," Bruner said. "It's a little connection there, something that hopefully they’ll remember me by when they get older and move out of the house."

Themes for the drawings have included Mario, Harry Potter, monsters and animals. Many times, Bruner incorporates something significant to each child in the drawings.

"It's kind of like a pseudo journal because I'll draw things they're interested in, or if something happens that day or the day before, I'll draw something that relates to that," Bruner said. "It gives me a reason to really pay attention to what's going on in their lives because it gives me ideas. ... Sometimes you get all wrapped up in your own garbage, and you forget that the kids' lives are very, very important."

Although Bruner's oldest child, Preston, is now 16, it's still something he enjoys.

“I always love the lunch bag doodles," Preston Bruner told the Deseret News. "My friends in middle school would always come over and see what new doodle there was that day, and some of them still even ask me if my dad is still doing them."

He hopes the tradition never ends.

"I like when my dad takes requests and takes a scene from, say, a video game and re-creates it in cartoon style," he said. "I think I'm gonna miss the quick drawings on lunch bags when I'm finished with high school. Maybe I'll just have to have home lunch when I start working too!"

Although creating three drawings each day isn't always convenient, Garth Bruner recognizes that these years of his children's lives are precious.

"My time with them is so short," Bruner said. "You realize that when they get 16. When I started this, he (Preston) was in sixth grade, when I was still writing 'Daddy' on the bottom, and I don't anymore because they told me, 'Write Dad now, please.' ... And that's totally fine. I expected this. But it's a little sad to see them grow up and how their tastes change and things change. But that's how it is, and it's also exciting. So it's more than a doodle to me. It's a lot deeper."

For the first few years, Bruner kept his drawings for his children private, but after he shared a few photos on Facebook, friends expressed their appreciation for his post, and Bruner decided to continue sharing his drawings.

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"I think every dad has something that they can give," Bruner said. "I see my talent of drawing, artwork and illustration, I really do see it as a gift from Heavenly Father."

Bruner shares his artwork in hopes that other parents might be inspired to use their talents to connect with their children.

"If it helps someone that way, that's worth it," Bruner said. "We've all been given these talents for some reason, and I think it's very important for us to use those to help other people."

To view more of Bruner's work, visit www.artofgarth.com.

Email: spetersen@deseretnews.com | Twitter: @Sarah_DNews