Judy and I have been married for 36 years. I started to call her “Jude” for short when we dated. She seemed happy to have a fond nickname, but has put less trust in my other creative activities involving her. In particular, she’s been skittish about letting me draw her as I tend to focus on the gritty details. She recently decided to pull her hair back in a tie as her long hair kept getting in the way. She used to do that when we were first married and when the kids were little. Her hairdo reminded us both of more innocent and carefree days. She let me take some photos. I felt drawn to a shot that captured her warm, loving personality best.
I began to make a drawing from the photo for an on-line class. I needed a step-by-step series to explain the process of making a compressed charcoal portrait.
I felt encouraged when Judy approved of a beginning stage of the drawing. I had a pretty good likeness at that point and wanted to quit while ahead. But I pointed out the rough spots and lurking errors to Judy. She acknowledged that it would be good for me to proceed. (I still needed more lesson images showing developmental stages and had mostly decided to go further.)
I got to the point where the changes I made did little to improve the likeness and feeling of the drawing. I showed it to Judy and told her it was finished.
She asked me to send a jpeg so that she could use the drawing on her Facebook profile. “Are you sure?” I said. She hesitated and queried, “What’s that white streak on my eye?” I said, “That’s a reflection on your glasses.” “Could you get rid of it?” she asked. “But it’s perfectly natural and gives the drawing an everyday sense of realism,” I countered indignantly. An artist has to take a stand for artistic freedom and integrity…I made the alteration later that day and sent her a revised jpeg.
Judy surprised me again a few days later. She had turned in a research paper to a plant biology journal this summer. One of the reviewers rejected it, but the editors encouraged her to do some rewrites and submit it again. She turned it in again about a month ago and expected another rejection. I heard her laughing an odd laugh (a mixture of glee and disbelief) at the other end of the house. I put down some work and ventured into the living room. “You’ll never believe it!” she said. “What won’t I believe?” “They accepted my paper!”
She’s been slowly working on this project for the last ten years. Illness severely restricted her ability to work more than a half hour at a time on it. She laid it aside for months and years at a time but found recent inspiration to make a final sprint. And then she jumped through the hoops to satisfy a reviewer who had misread the paper.
It’s hard to describe how much perseverance and effort it took for her to complete her last research paper. But she’s done it, and we’re all so proud.