So maybe you've heard that it's our favorite holiday today. National Pencil Day, to be precise. Today marks the day that Hymen Lipman was granted a patent for a pencil with an attached eraser, and thus the day that the classic eraser-tipped pencil is celebrated.
But that's not the tone I'm setting for this month's Pencil Prompt.
Here in NYC, winter still has her claws sunk deep into our souls, and as I see spring collections rolling out I become more and more bitter that I can't don bright yellow sundresses just yet. In short, I've become a little tired of gray. Sorry graphite, no hard feelings!
On to something brighter! Specifically colored pencils.
From subversive political messages to mindfulness and meditation, there's a surprising amount of things to consider in the ways of coloring books.
I digress... Let's get back to colored pencils. Wax and pigment have been mixed for centuries to create mediums with which to deliver or preserve color. Pliny the Elder (the scholar, not the beer) described encaustic drawings, which was a form of using hot wax and pigment to bind color to surfaces in ancient Roman times. Fayum mummy portraits were painted using wax and pigment as early as 100 B.C.
Colored pencil history is a little trickier to track down specifically, but it's pretty widely accepted that Faber-Castell and Caran d'Ache were the first to create a market around artist-grade colored pencils.
This How It's Made video depicts how a colored pencil is made in the Caran d'Ache factory, from pigment to core to delicately dipped tips. It's funny - it's actually the exact same place and process we were privileged to see in 2016 when we took a trip to the CdA factory!
As for pencil yellow and eraser pink? Well, if you peruse the section on Pencil's and the World's fair (page 77) in Caroline's book, you'll learn that pencils being yellow had a lot to do with following trends. At least in the U.S., the 1934 National Bureau of Standards also had a lot to do with the permeation of yellow pencils for schools - they set the rules for how pencils could look and cost and be marketed in certain demographics.
Eraser pink is based a little more in practical reasons than fashionable ones - the type of pumice that was originally used for pencil erasers was a reddish-pink color. The material was cheap and available, and even if erasers aren't still made out of that shade of pumice, you can bet that its use certainly started a tradition.
So what am I doing with this colored inspiration? Doodling the hell out of it, for sure. In celebration of NPD and springtime, I've been putting my Prismalos to use more than I have in months and months and months. Between blank sheets of paper and my exciting library of coloring books, I'm sure I'll find more than just mindfulness and meditation in my little box of colors. (Pictured: my colored pencil box I've had since I was 10.)
Winter is gray, but erasers are pink (the subversive pink of both nostalgia and the accepted millennial color of gender neutrality), and pencils are yellow (the color of sunshine and happiness, right?) and there's a heck of a lot of inspiration to be found between the two.
#PencilPrompt of the month: Break out those colored pencils! Anyone want to do a doodle exchange? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll swap addresses.