August 28, 2005

Pencils.

Here's a blog that's charmingly and prettily about pencils. I noticed it just now as linked on Drawn! and then realized I'd also seen it on Metafilter.

On Metafilter, somebody links to a 1988 Apple animation — a classic of some sort — called "Pencil Test." You just know guys came up with that title, because for women, "pencil test" means something (which the animation is not about). Or are my female readers going to tell me they don't know what the "pencil test" is?

Anyway, me, I don't like to use pencils. Too much friction. And never dark enough — unless you go with a very soft pencil, which is going to be quite smudgy. Even if you want something to draw with, and you'd like to use smudging as a technique, a pencil is inferior. If I want to smudge up a drawing, I'm going to use charcoal. It's blacker and it's not all shiny and metallic.

I like the idea of the physical object, the pencil. It's perfectly lovely that they figured out how to get graphite inside of wood, the pink erasers are cute, the sharpeners make a satisfying grindy noise, the shavings curl touchingly and smell nice, and they're wonderfully biteable. But they are not for me.

Sorry, pencils!

19 comments:

Bob Mitze said...

I found this site

http://www.infofreako.com/jad/enpitsu-e.html

A year or so ago. The best pencil carving I've ever seen.

Ann Althouse said...

Bob: I remember seeing photos of the graphite part of pencils intricately carved. Widely linked a while back.

Ken Stalter said...

Um... so what does "pencil test" mean for women?

amba said...

I'm a woman, and nope, I don't know what the pencil test is.

I agree with Ann -- pencils are nice objects, but not nice writing implements.

Didn't somebody write a whole book about pencils a few years back? Somebody named Henry?

Yep, here it is. And he is named Henry. If you want to know how they get the graphite inside the wood, I guess he's your man.

Jeffrey Boulier said...

I'm not a woman, but I am appallingly well-read.

If you're a woman, and without your hands can hold a pencil under a certain portion of your anatomy, of which you have two, then you're sagging. Otherwise, things are still perky.

If you're a man, and even considering the question of whether you might pass the pencil test, you should really go on a diet.

purple_kangaroo said...

I thought the pencil test was where you dangle a pencil on a string over your pregnant belly and see whether it twirls in a circle or swings back and forth. One is supposed to mean the baby is a girl and the other means it's a boy.

I am totally a pen junkie. I am picky about pens and I like different pens for different types of things. I love pens and collect them, but also constantly lose them.

I do like pencils for drawing, though. You can get a much sharper line than with charcoal, and the smudging you can do is softer and more subtle. IMHO pencils give a great variety of possibilities regarding type, thickness and darkness of lines that most other mediums don't allow for.

Of course, you really need quality drawing pencils in different levels of soft and hard. Probably at least 3 pencils, maybe as many as 10. And then, of course, you also need two or three different kinds of erasers and blending sticks. You can't do nearly as much with a regular writing pencil.

Ruth Anne Adams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

Jeffrey nearly has it. The test is to tell whether you can get away with not wearing a bra. Standing up, you put the pencil horizontally under one breast. If the pencil stays put when you let go of it, you have to wear a bra. I guess guys can use it to tell if they need a mansierre. Or surgery.

Ann Althouse said...

Purple Kangaroo: For a really sharp line, you could use a charcoal pencil, but I agree that at some point, you can put a sharper point on a pencil. I think the main thing people like about pencils is the ability to erase.

Independent George said...

Well, there's always Number 2 Pencil, Kim Swygert's education & psychometry blog. That's been one of my favorites ever for a while.

As a purely mechanical artist, I love the mechanical pencil. If all you're interested in is drawing straight lines, nothing beats the crisp, clean look & feel of a 0.5mm mechanical pencil.

Sol said...

"Pencil test" has been a standard term in animation for decades. (I'm too lazy to get up and check, but I'll bet its been in use since the 1940s.) Comes from running the rough penciled animation in sequence so you can see how you are doing.

amba said...

PK, about two years ago my mom gave me a Cross Ion pen, a chubby little purple thing that slides longer with a pleasurable snick, and the rollerball point comes out. You push the two halves back together to close it, with the same oiled click, and turn it back into a little blimp. It's nothing short of miraculous that I haven't lost it.

Ann Althouse said...

Sol: Then I guess we bra-burners should have come up with a different object for our test. Maybe a dowel.

Kathy Herrmann said...

Ugh! I hate wooden pencils. They give me the chills as the graphite scritches across the paper. Ever since 2nd grade, I've used mechanical pencils. The best is either a Pentel variety with a cap (no puncture wounds if you put it in your pocket) or the fat grip versions like PhD.

I've had the same green Pentel pencil since I started working after college. If I succeed in hanging onto it, am planning on being buried with it. Heh heh.

Henry said...

I quite like very soft pencils for drawing -- the 5B, 6B kind. They aren't as black as charcoal, but they have a very nice slippery feel. They work great on a hard smooth paper.

Sol said...

Okay, I just got around to looking it up. According to The Illusion of Life, "pencil test" specifically refers to filming the pencils of an animated sequence so you can get an idea what it will look like when it is done. Apparently Disney built a special room for watching them in 1931, so the term has definitely be around for a while.

WoodChuck said...

Roaring Tiger: Where's the logic in your comment that graphite pencils scratch and a mechanical one doesn't and therefor you hate wood-cased pencils. On that feature it's all about the quality of the graphite core production. Perhaps you're remembering the teacher's chalk board from 2nd grade.

All wood-cased. All the way!

somross said...

I love soft pencils (#1) for crossword puzzles on newsprint. The newsprint absorbs enough of the pencil to make a satisfyingly bold line. Martha Stewart once wrote about liking extremely hard pencils - #4 - that make almost invisible fine lines.

Ann Althouse said...

That says more about Martha than it says about pencils. I have to use pen for a crossword. Pencil is too hard to see. I even use pen for the diagramless, which is a bit of a challenge.