These are pretty amazing. (More.)
Word. sent us a pack of their new limited-edition Bandana edition books last week. You’ll remember that I loved Word. books, especially their paper. These are very cool notebooks, with a wonderful printing job. I like the vintage feel of this design, being a Bandana/Hanky Carrying Man myself. While Word. says that they don’t recommend wiping one’s brow with these books, I did spill coffee all over one. It was fine, and now it smells like French Roast!
Long associated with tireless work, devilish deeds and classic American style, the bandana is entrenched in U.S. history. Despite its global popularity, the paisley accessory is perhaps most strongly linked to the cowboys out West during the 19th century who wore them to protect against dirt and dust on the trail.
The latest Word. Notebook is inspired by the classic Western staple. It’s an ode to hard work and sharp design. Sporting a unique paisley pattern, each is perfect for tossing in your pocket to keep track of all the things you have to get done even if a cattle drive isn’t on your list.
While we wouldn’t recommend wiping your brow with it after a day in the sun, you’ll be glad you have it by your side.
We have the black version here, and there is also a red version that looks very Autumnal and attractive.
And have you seen The Standard Memorandum? I have added one of these to my Christmas List. Check out the video, which features vintage diaries written in pencil. And I have to repeat that I love this paper for graphite. Everything feels particularly…crisp on this stock.
Thanks again to Word. for the review samples, which were a very nice surprise to find at HQ one grey day last week.
Just like some folks enjoy Field Notes that are well-loved (and I do, too), I love pencils that have shortened themselves (or, rather, have been shortened or had themselves shortened) in the Service of Work and Art and Other Worthy Pursuits and even Totally Worthless Pursuits. My current pencilbox of choice is a battered Harry Potter case (don’t judge) with two levels*, both of which are full of pencils with a little more than half of their useful life left. The odd New Pencil that makes its way into the box stands up and proves the adage true: it gets dulled and sharpened promptly. This could explain why my pencils hit the four inch mark quickly and then take considerably longer to become too short to grip in my bent fingers.
Last week, I was admiring Elizabeth’s pencil photos, and I remembered a few other sites full of photos of pencils that get Utilized very lovingly and thoroughly. Both Gunther and Matthias have posted photos of well-loved pencils in various stages of length. And there are myriad other Pencil Users with such photos of Useful Pencil Goodness for the browsing. Comrades can get started with Elizabeth’s ongoing Chronicle of Pencil Utilization.
Are there photos that Comrades have which they might like to share? We could do a whole series of posts on Pencils that Have Seen the World and Lived to Tell the Tale.
*(I passed up an expensive new one on eBay for a cheap battered version that wound up costing me only a few bucks. It came smelling like the ashtray in a 1982 Ford Fairmont. I got the smell out and can help anyone else who has a smell that they’d like to replace with the Heavenly Aroma of Cedar and Eraser, for the asking. But this is a bizarre footnote.)
Mr. Vero Ricci wrote to us recently, telling us about rediscovering pencils and asking about a good electric sharpener for use with colored pencils. Alas, I only own one, and I don’t think I’d recommend it. But I had to share this essay on a life in pencil. If you grew up in the 80s, you almost certainly encountered Vero’s designs of such things as coffin candy (which a semi-creepy kid like I was couldn’t get enough of) and burger boxes, which I really enjoyed as well. Below, please find Vero’s essay (and be sure to check out the site devoted to his designs set up by his son Steve here).
Pencils, I guess we can go back to early childhood, say about 4 years old. I’d watch my aunt Gilda sketch while she played cards with my folks. She had a way of making amazing things appear on paper. With my eyes reaching just above the kitchen table, I copied her every move. She taught me how to make a straight line without the aid of a straight edge. This aside, I became attached to pencil and paper. God’s gift of allowing me to draw was evident when we replaced wallpaper in my home. My parents constructed the house in 1938-39. I was then 5 years old. I couldn’t resist the fresh plastered walls that took a year to dry. I sketched a 1939 Dodge automobile in all its splendor with my trusty soft lead pencil, 4 feet above the floor, smack in the middle of the wall. Evidence of this act came when the old wallpaper was stripped off some 50 years later. There it was in all its splendor, for anyone to see, my 1939 Dodge. The most amazing thing to me was the wonderfully accurate detail made by a 5 year old. God’s gift came when I was very young.
From that day on I sketched quite a bit, but it wasn’t the most important thing in my life. Baseball, football, basketball and the Cowboys and Indians lead the way. In High School my teacher pulled me aside and taught me to paint with oils. She taught well because I won 1st prize two years straight in the Philadelphia Gimble’s Art Exhibit.
Most of my work was done when it was expected from me. While in the Army they nabbed me and I ended up drawing and painting just about everything imaginable. By profession I became an Industrial Designer. The tools that earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for me were my creative mind, a soft pencil, an eraser, a 3-inch triangle and a white 8 ½ X 11 pad of white bond paper. I prefer, to this day, soft lead. Most of the time I used the No. 2 Dixon Yellow Boy pencil with the endless aid of a rubber eraser. I enjoy simplicity and well-thought-out drawings that possess intelligent use of line.
In recent days I joined an elderly group of artists that holds drawing classes every Friday afternoon. I embarked on the use of colored pencils and have not yet come to terms with it. The points break too often, and sharpening the things breaks the points just as well. I know there are good answers out there and I’ll eventfully find the solution. Great pieces of fine art have been made with colored pencil. So hopefully there is a chance for me to enter the arena. Unfortunately, colored pencils don’t result with the contrast I seek. The black pencils are not dark enough. As a result, I started to use a 6B lead pencil to achieve the desired darkness. Unfortunately, the soft dark lead smears the soft pastel color work.
My life can be defined by drawing, painting and product design. All being inter-connected into a single 80-year-old human, and distinguishing one from the other is not possible.
Read more about Vero Ricci on the website created by his son here. If those little plastic coffins are a design by Mr. Ricci, then I have eaten my own weight in sugar from one of his creations.
Brain Pickings is always full of something good to read and some new book recommendations. Lately, they featured a piece about Jim Henson, including some pencil sketches from a book of them. Check it out here. As someone who watches Sesame Street a few times a week (!) and who grew up with a lot of Mr. Henson’s characters, I really enjoyed that piece.
Inspired by this Mason jar pencil sharpener I forwarded to a few Comrades recently, Brian has created a jar-based pencil sharpener in less than a day. I was hoping one of the Creative Minds to whom I sent that email would attempt this, seeing as how I am…not very good at things like that or, at least, not confident in my competence. Beyond, a jar-based pencil sharpener by Brian in Baltimore:*
Well, here are some pics of my attempt to make a jar sharpener. Not too bad for a 15 minute first attempt, and shelling out a total of $.40. The trickiest thing was drilling the appropriate sized & spaced holes, and finding small enough screws. (I repurposed screws used to hold together a old audio cassette — a trick I highly recommend.) It works fine, but I would prefer a metal sharpener. Also, the one screw is a hair too close to the pencil hole — I’ll have to correct that the next time around. I am also not too sure how durable the set-up is — only time and use will tell if the screws will hold the plastic. If I were serious about making these I would contact the Dux Co. and try to buy some in bulk from them, with the pre-drilled screws. Also, I didn’t use a Mason jar this time around for fear of messing it up. What do ya think?
Personally, a large-ish clear container to hold a month’s shavings is attractive to me. I collect mine in a stoneware vessel my wife brought back from a trip this fall. (Then I store them for tinder.) My method is not pretty. It’s actually a little sooty. Brian told me this is a Faber-Castell sharpener he picked up at our local Plaza Art in Mt. Vernon. I can’t find a link, but I have two. They are very good little sharpeners, though the opening is a little narrow to accommodate Japanese pencils (Palomino, Hi-Uni, et. al.).
*Makers of the famous Inkwell Sharpener, a very fine jar sharpener indeed.
Not mine! Gracious, I have at least 60-70 full from the last 2 1/2 years in a Beer Box* upstairs that I need to find, so that I can archive my last three notebooks since mid-July. Santa brought my daughter a set of the Summer Camp Field Notes books and pencils for Christmas 2011. She scored one when she started Serious Potty Training a while back. We carry it with us when we go to the coffeeshop, BMA, etc. She finished it last week.
Full! It’s stocked with drawings and is covered with stickers. She started to eraser pictures so that she could draw more when we were out two weeks ago, prompting the introduction of the next book for her drawing adventures. At 3, she can draw recognizable pictures. Seriously. I don’t have a picture of it yet, but a recent drawing session went something like this:
Charlotte: Daddy, what do you want me to draw for you?
Daddy: A lion. And trees.
Charlotte: (two minutes later) Daddy! Here you go.
Whereupon she presented me with a two-page spread featuring a lion. And trees. And here I was thinking we didn’t get to the zoo often enough.
She’s always had a fondness for drawing and writing tools. It’s almost like our house has pencils,pens, paper and accessories everywhere. Eh…
She stole my wife’s Balsam Fir Field Notes when she was about 9 months old and spilled coffee on it somehow, and she claimed a green Mongol HB pencil from me around the same time.
At the risk of offending some of my Fellow Field Notes Fans, I joked that, with one full notebook, Charlotte probably has finished more than a lot of people who own an entire Archival Box of limited editions. For myself, I enjoy the photos folks put online of their notebooks that are beaten up badly and full of Good Stuff.
I have enough “rare” Field Notes editions that I could fund at least a decade of subscriptions by selling them — if I hadn’t filled them up. Like pencils, I think of them and treat them as tools. I use them. I use the hell out of them. I have had a few people ask to trade for my Fab.Com edition. I had to break it to these good folks that I filled them within 3 weeks of getting them.
Certainly, Charlotte has other notebooks. She has a serious fondness for Composition Books, sometimes asks for her pink Moleskine, not to mention her Fairies books. I gave her a new pink pocket notebook last night, and she stole an old Golden Bear from my cup, claimed it as her own, and drew 3-4 pictures before I had to drag her off to bed.
*[Box in which 12 bottles of Excellent Beer arrived, before their cheerful departure.]
Via Comrade Kevin Grace on our Facebook page. Thanks, Mr. Grace!
The following is some really cool artwork submitted by Jesse Patrick Ferguson. Many thanks to Jesse for reaching out and for allowing us to publish his work on our humble site. (Click images for larger views.)
“Figure-Four Deadfall is a piece of environmentalist visual art by Jesse Patrick Ferguson, a Canadian poet and musician who also dabbles in the visual arts. It was displayed in the Cape Breton University Art Gallery in February 2013, and it is based on the figure-four deadfall—a type of trap used to catch small animals for food using a baited trigger mechanism. Ferguson has replaced the usual heavy stone/log with a book on humanity’s environmental impact (Fragile Earth, 2006). He has also replaced the usual rough sticks that make up the trigger mechanism with wooden pencils, and he has replaced the food bait with a Canadian one-dollar coin. The symbolism is fairly simple: if a person makes a hasty grab for the money, the trap activates and the “fragile earth” falls in on him/her, literally rapping the thief’s knuckles. The message is that short-term financial gain often results in long-term environmental problems.
The pencils used are a Papermate Canadiana (not a very good pencil) and two free promotional pencils (fairly decent writers, actually). The pencils are carefully notched to form the figure-four shape, and the erasers help by providing friction on the book and the pedestal.”
(Text and images, JPF. Used with kind permission.)
We are very happy to share some art work from Cuban-born artist Federico E. Rodríguez Guerra. We’ll let Federico do the talking, along with his fine drawings.
Drawing for me has become a metaphor for knowing a world that can only be known when one surface touches the other and conveys ideas, thoughts, feelings as the surface of the paper and that of the pencil touch or not. Something about it has to feel right, honest. My first instinct is to grab an envelope or scrap of paper and work through these surfaces the image.
I was born in Cuba and the experience of exile is still part of my work. My drawings are small. On average 2″ X 3″. I always find myself limiting my means, an 2H and HB, aiming always to explore and exploit the colors of graphite. More than texture, it’s color tone than I’m engaged with. I work on a chair with a small wooden board and a box – in which I keep drawings and paper – across my lap. Always ready to go and start elsewhere. Avoiding always any disruption to the drawing.
Graphite is an honest means, it’s not an extension of the arm but part of it. Le Corbusier said that drawing “leaves less room for lies”. To paraphrase Joyce and Beckett: drawing is not about it, but drawing it. Of course these are all promises that I’ve made myself over and over again, and see no end. So I continue.
Check out more of Federico’s work at federico´s drawings: los dibujos de federico e. rodriguez guerra.
(Images, text, FERG. Used with kind permission.)
For several months, whenever I’ve been too lazy to use my wall mounted sharpener, I’ve been sharpening my drawing and list-making pencils into a small glass on the coffee table. I’ve used grades from H to 9B, as well as Ebony, Layout, carpenter’s and water soluble pencils.
Over that time I developed a habit of rapping the glass against the table a time or two to send the graphite dust down through the shavings before leaving my sharpener and eraser on top. It started as a way to keep things clean, but as the layer of graphite grew at the bottom of the glass, I started thinking there had to be something I could do with it.
Eventually I scooped out the wood shavings and ended up with more than a 1/4″ layer of gritty black shards, fine dust and larger lead pieces. While pure graphite powder makes a great dry lubricant for things like sticky door locks, this was anything but pure. It contained all manner of fine wood shavings, paint chips, and who knows what else. I could have tried filtering it somehow, but it still would have enough clay, wax and other additives mixed in that I wouldn’t want to use it as a lubricant.
In the end I decided I would try reusing the mix for its original intended purpose, marking on paper. That translated into an experiment in graphite fingerpainting, the results of which you can see below.
Some tips if you try this yourself:
1 – Use loose leaf paper. I didn’t and it was very difficult to funnel the leftover graphite dust back into the cup without making a mess.
2 – Be sure there aren’t any unwanted indentations in the paper…because they’ll be highlighted by the graphite rub. I’d drawn a stick figure on the previous page of my sketchbook and its head was clearly visible on this page.
3 – Try making a shaded field and using an eraser to subtract an image from it. Tell people you did this on purpose, not that you made a big gray mess with an accidental circle in it and the eraser was the only way to make it look like anything recognizable.
4 – Think about how you’re going to clean your fingers off before you start. This way you won’t end up with black marks all over the bathroom door knob and light switch.
(Text and images, L.L. Used with kind permission.)
Sarah Melling sent us some of her wonderful pencil art, which is featured below with some prose from the artist.
“As a former interior/graphic designer with grown children, I have found time to return to something I love – drawing. After spending so much time at the computer as a graphic designer, digital drawing does not interest me at all. I love being ‘unplugged’ and using just pencils and paper. Most of my work is botanical subject matter – I’m quite taken with the art forms and patterns found in nature. My colored pencil work is done using Prismacolor pencils, and for graphite work, I use Derwent Graphic pencils.
I love the simplicity of using pencils and colored pencils; they’re not messy and they’re perfectly portable. Pencils are a humble instrument, to be sure, but they have such a long history and are capable of so much. Some of my favorite works of any artist, even the Great Masters, are their pencil sketches.”
We used to feature artists’ work fairly frequently, and we’d definitely like to do this more. If anyone has some art they’d like to submit, please use the CONTACT form, and we’ll get in touch!
(All images copyright Sarah Melling 2011. Used here with permission.)