Pen To Paper

I have a thing for stationery. Being both a cartoonist and a writer, this shouldn’t be a surprise, but sometimes I amaze myself. I am the sort of person that will wander round Staples or WH Smiths with a slightly glazed look on my face, fingering the markers. There are several art shops within five minutes walk of work that are under a self-imposed embargo. I’d blow my pay packet, and creep out the staff if I went in as often as I wanted.

My obsession with stationery comes from it’s potential. Every pen I buy, every pencil set has the possibility locked inside to become a piece of art, or a story, or a comic. It’s just a case of finding the right pen, the correct pencil, the absolutely perfect block of paper. Once I have that, everything will be perfect, and I can make my masterpiece.

Problem is, I don’t draw half as often as I used to. I’m out of practice, and it shows every time I put pencil to paper. “Bloody stupid pencil” thinks I. “Not letting me draw properly. It keeps going blunt. I need one of those cool Japanese self-sharpening ones.” And so the cycle begins all over again.

I know, I know. The bad craftsman always blames his blahdiblahdiblah. The implement isn’t the problem. I am. While I am endlessly patient and productive when it comes to my writing (for which I can probably thank NanoWrimo, a discipline that actually gave me the habit. Seriously, I’m twitchy and irritable if I don’t write something every day, even if it’s only Twitteration) drawing is a different matter. If it’s not perfect out of the gate, then I lose interest fast. Drawing is much tougher than writing. It’s slower and much more work intensive, and requires a different work ethic.

One of the most accurate renditions of the "joys of cartooning ever. Clicky for the full strip.

Put it like this. I’m writing this post on a rattling train bouncing through the Home Counties, and it’s no problem. If I were to try drawing something in the same setting, I’d end up with a page full of jolty scribble. I can’t slot drawing into my daily life in the way I have with my writing. In a connected note, cartoonist Marc Ellerby has just wound up his excellent autobio strip Ellerbisms, partially because it became too tough. It was taking up too much of his time. I can sympathise, and can only bow to his efforts. I wish I could hammer out quality work on an almost daily basis in the way he does. I understand the effort that goes into seemingly effortless cartooning, and that’s partially why I’ve almost given up.

However, never say never again, as I believe Sean Connery once said just before he gave up completely. I still carry notebook, pencil and pens with me, and still scribble when the urge lands on me. And I still indulge in the occasional purchase. Bizarrely, if I’m having a bad day nothing cheers me up more than getting a pack of pens and a notebook. It soothes me in ways I can’t really explain. I love manga-style brush pens, and very nearly squeed myself at the announcement of the Sharpie Liquid Pencil. Imma get me somma them sweet thangs.

And yes, ok, I did spend a very enjoyable couple of hours browsing around the subject of tactical pens yesterday. These are great. They’re designed for the Special Forces wannabe that demands MOAR from his writing implement. It needs to write in all conditions, upside down, underwater, and double as an offensive weapon. Which is why they’re all made of aircraft grade aluminium and have spikes on the end for jabbing into nerve clusters. Or eyes. My personal favourite? The Uzi Tactical Pen. Yes, the Israeli spray-gun makers now make a pen. Look at the crenellations on that bugger. Some of the commenters call it a “DNA collector” with a dry humour you don’t often see on these kind of sites. Grind that into the back of someone’s hand and watch them not thank you for it. Owie.

More on this coming up from an unexpected direction, Readership. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to look for a notebook that’ll double as a life raft.

***UPDATED*** after TLC pointed out that I was extolling the virtues of being motionless rather than office supplies. What a doofus.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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