It’s hard to get artists of every variety to agree on much. Writers see the world differently than painters. Editors extract completely different meanings from a scene than a director would. Animators and photographers? FIGHT! But there is one thing most of us agree about. Pencils are fat.
In America, as we get ready to give thanks for the important stuff, let’s take a moment to be thankful for an office supply.
I remember my mother’s obsession with pencils. Her collection covered the house, from kitchen to bathroom to the garden. Everywhere you looked you found wooden sticks waiting for your hand. A 2B in the geraniums. An 8H next to the toilet (who the hell uses an 8H?) Over time I caught on. Her love was well-placed. As a writer, I’ll tell you the process of writing can be elusive, or cruel. It can be caustic and pleasurable. But a good pencil can make purple prose feel tiptop. They look good, they do what they’re supposed to and they connect you with your idea in a way that typewriters never managed to touch. Now, with computers and cells, we’re yet another generation away from considering the pencil to mark down a percolating idea.
But the pencil will always thrive. Below, I’ve included some links that show the history of pencils. Time after time, the pencil could have been lost to time, and time and again it came back stronger, ready to help inspire thinkers to think on paper.
The pencil museum’s brilliant timeline is the one link you should hit, if you only have time for one. It’s fun and informative. I think MFAVN faculty and infographic-maestros Alicia DeSantis and Jennifer Daniel would agree, though I’ll have to check at the water cooler.
Brainpickings is always ready with a sublime collection of quotes and links!
The Blackwing pencil was the tool of choice for Chuck Jones. It went out of production for a number of years. In that time, pencil-lovers grasped their chests and cried out in pain before they checked every attic from here to Paris for forgotten stockpiles. The links above give a good overview of this fandom-tastic story. I love happy endings!
To wrap, here’s an ode to the pencil, by Anon (via Bristol). I couldn’t have said it better myself…
I am the Pencil
“I am the pencil, the first chronicler of new-born thought. I come from the sleeping graphite beds, and the balsamic frills of kingly cedars. In my heart, I carry the black carbon of Pluto’s world-half-brother to the diamond.
“I memorandum the business of continents, and strike the trial balance in the traffic of nations. I am the hub in the wheel of theory – the keystone in the structure of fact.
I note the doings of the world in the dizzy hours of the morn while presses wait like couchant beasts to fling my efforts to sleeping millions. I am man’s best friend. I am his only confidant.
I am the major factor in the world’s great things, and millions of nervous fingers fondle me every hour. I make the creed of yesterday and the statute of tomorrow, and plan and perpetuate the accomplishments of man. With me the pale-faced scholar summons Grant and Lee and Moltke and Hannibal, and makes their phantom armies shake the world once more.
I tabulate the passing of Kings and, alike, the date from the crucibles of wizard men whose alchemy distills new brews to baffle death. I trace the drunken letter of the child whose dimpled fingers try to ape the art of Spencer. I sketch the songs of the eager poet, and trace again the battle march of Alexander.
I am the democrat, the whittled comrade of the ragged urchin, confidant of the diplomat, book-keeper of the lonely shepherd upon the mountainside.
I am the cosmopolitan, known in every mart where money clinks, in every port where commerce spreads her sales, in every town and hamlet where the brain of man connives. I am the PENCIL and my mission is service.”
[post written by Ben Zackheim]