I was introduced to the joy of pen and ink in junior high school. In the 1950’s we used tiny crow quill pens with a bottle of India ink. The main task, of course, was not to get it all over yourself. With such a fine pen I could make thin, tiny lines and shade surfaces with minute dots of ink spaced close together for dark places and dots spread out for light areas.
In ninth grade our assignment was to find a black and white photo of a building in a book and draw a copy of it with pen and ink using all the shading techniques.
At that time, my proclivity for turning any and every project into a colossal production emerged. I chose a picture of Rheims Cathedral in France from my history book. The photo was a full front view about the size of half a page in the textbook. I drew out the shape and main lines with a light pencil on 18”x24” illustration board.
I don’t recall being told this was too big. This church has hundreds of stone figures in little cubby holes all over the building, plus a stained glass rose window, and two bell towers. The drawing took forever to finish.
About the same time, I was learning to sew at home. On one of my trips to downtown Cleveland, Ohio, I bought a pattern to make a pant and vest outfit, and purchased a nice plaid fabric in yummy fall colors. When my mother saw the fabric, she was not pleased. She explained that with a plaid we had to cut it out very carefully so the lines in the plaid pattern lined up, connecting with each other. I learned I had to slow down and be very careful about the sewing as well, because if the lines didn’t match up I had to tear it out and redo it. Abandoning the project was not an option. I’d spent the money and I had to finish it.
These were good lessons that paid off later. A year out of high school, I was hired to draw tiny pictures in pen and ink for a company that wrote math workbooks for elementary schools.
In the mid-1970’s I decided to weave drapes for my living room. When I encountered problems with the size of the project, quitting and trashing the yarn and the work I’d already done was unthinkable.
In 2009, when I dug a seventy-five-foot dry stream bed across my back yard, I learned that hauling river rock was hard, tedious work, but it built some mussel and I enjoy seeing my stream everyday now.
I still get excited about big, challenging projects and have some in mind as soon as I finish the one I’m in the middle of now.
Do you enjoy a challenge or does it scare you?