I wrote an article for last November’s issue of Computer Arts magazine. Here it is:
As a kid, after kindergarten, I walked over to my Mom’s working place - she had an office job. Pre-computer days in East Germany nonetheless. There were typewriters, big green linoleum desk covers, blue carbon paper that would stain your fingers and a wicker-style cup with ball-point pens, rulers, geometric triangles and a couple of blue and red pencils - Czechoslovakian Koh-I-Noor 1561 copying pencils, as I found out later.
While my mom would finish her last hour or so of working I was set down to spend that time, quietly with the office supplies. That might not sound all that exciting, but for this
five-year-old, it surely was. Taking stock of my supplies on this desk I remember thinking: I could spend hours like this and I probably did.
I coloured the boxes in squared paper with geometric patterns (only red and blue mind you). Filled in little trees and cars from architectural stencils and who knows what else. This set of supplies, the red and blue coloured pencils at the center, represented a world of possibilities, a chance to experiment and explore. My own imagination, perseverance and my Mom’s working time being the only constraints.
This is how I still see a box of coloured pencils. For me they are, just as back when i was a child, toys – in the best sense of the word: a source of joy.
Lately, this all came back to me, as I became more interested in drawing with traditional media. The original blue and red are still with me, as I discovered a box of unused ones in my parents’ house a while ago. I also collected my Polychromos from all the various places they had scattered to.
I gave some away as presents and I also bought some new ones for the kids. (Apparently the aniline dyes in old copying pencils are quite a health risk, and they are not suitable for children.)
I started to use them more again, to draw my home, my kids, my life, and also in the concept stages of my work.
The coloured pencil is one of the most basic instruments we can use to describe our surroundings, to record events, to work on ideas, to try out new things. You do not need a lot of colors (red and blue are a good start).
Our work and its end result as graphic designers, illustrators, artists, animators, is dominated by digital methods today.
But I think it is easy to forget or underestimate these simple, immediate tools, in a world that often feels once-removed, filtered by a screen, attention at a premium. We are rushing often into execution, and it almost seems to me, that we sometimes use our digital tools to dress up missing substance with a slick exterior.
Let’s linger a little longer, allow not only our minds to think, but also our hands. They need to work together. Grabbing your pencils and a sheet of paper is also a good start to overcome learned conventions (or traumas) that inhibit our drawing and maybe even our thinking.
It is interesting for me to see my children draw. They are still young enough to be not yet burdened by any secondary thoughts. They draw a mole or a frog and it is exactly what they want to show, or better: to create. Ideas are not separated from substance. The medium is a direct creator of joy. Things you want are made into being with the help of a simple coloured pencil.