Thursday, July 25, 2013

In praise of Prismacolor®™©

Our son's looking at cars … I put this monster in one of his top choices …
For bouts of drawer's block, I recommend inventing monsters.

Who knows what monsters lurk in your heart, after all? Only you. Release them. They want out, to live and move and have their being where and when your pencil goes. So let your pencil go; follow it around until the first line meets the last. Monsters form, drawer's block disperses.

This monster came to in such a way. With two projects looming last week and doubt about where to start, I took black Prismacolor©™® (Item PC935) pencil to sketchpad, circling around the inflamed eyeball until this dude tattooed the page.

In one swell foop, I inflamed two long-lost loves, one going all the way back to childhood.

The other is Prismacolor©™pencil, which I'd abandoned years ago. But looking over old stuff — stuff predating the necessary evil of digital illustration — reminded me how much I love it. It's just my speed, not slippery like pen, not thin and wanting like graphite pencil.

Prismacolor®© black skates over the paper in full rich black black lines, which take repeated goings over to thicken and feather outlines, but can also whisper over the paper for texture, letting the unseen nooks of the paper show.

The "lead" is soft enough to flow, but hard enough to keep its point a while, and doesn't break within the wooden shaft like other pencils do. Too many times I've sharpened lesser pencils down to the nub in futile exercise, as the lead falls out with each sharpening.

I like to photocopy Prismacolor™® drawings onto thicker bristol board and paint them with watercolor. The toner resists water, so the color falls around the black line, letting it stay true and bold over the color.

Thus this monster was colored.

Black ("Noir") Prismacolor®™ pencils come dear, though; I had forgotten. They are the only pencils missing from the Prismacolor©® display in art stores. I might have to score a black-market supplier.

In this sketch I married my beloved pencils to my beloved monsters.

How I craved those bug-eyed, lamprey-toothed monsters that drove hot rods so hard their very chassis warped in the frozen motion! I always stopped what I was doing as a kid to stare at the stickers and cards and magazines where they lived. The beasts of Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's airbrush come foremost to mind, but he was not the only one. In fact, the research this sketch impelled tells me it was Bill Campbell's "Weird-Ohs" who stole my child heart.

The bulbous wild bloodshot eyes, the rambling wayward tongue! The stuff of waking dreams. A childhood friend from long ago, Emile Duronslet Jr., showed me how to draw Martians that sort of looked liked this (left). I'm thinking Emile too had fallen under Bill Campbell's spell.

Campbell had one of those careers to die for, a career made dead by the 21st Century: He painted the cover art for the boxes of plastic models of cars and planes, depicting the real things in four-color action. From that he unveiled his monstrous "Weird-Ohs" and "Silly Surfer" creatures. That's what Emile always called them — creatures — as he made up stories about them.

Drawn by the art and caught up in the zeitgeist, I began making those models; every boy was. It was the logical next step.

Just not the right step for me. I was a butcher.

The patience required, the fine motor skills! Good god! The emotional plummet of realizing, upon successful completion of Step 9c, I missed a fold on the instructions and skipped over the crucial and linear steps 3 through 9b, with their sanding and priming and painting.

And mom incessantly and feverishly warning me not to sniff the glue. "There's a reason it's called dope!!" I was convinced even the smell of glue would melt my brain out my nostrils.

Elbows locked, fingers failing, patience shredded, I was doomed to leave a miniature glue-ruined pick-and-pull lot in my bedroom for years to come.

The model manufacturers took pity on me and created Snap Tite™© kits, no glue required, simple steps, water-based adhesive stickers the only trick. It was like having a toy car with some assembly required, except once assembled nothing worked except for the ample swooping surfaces, which were good for collecting dust.

They matched my inchoate skill set, though. I could put the parts together and stare at the 3-D realizations of the cars "Big Daddy" and Bill Campbell and others drew. An industrial designer named Tom Daniel, I learn, created the concepts for many of those models that saved my dignity.

Sometimes I muse about testing my model making skills as an old child; so far, no move made. But I still love to draw them to my heart's content. I've even riffed on this genre for pay. I'll make more and post here.

Draw yourself a monster.


  1. Such an artistic work... My appreciations for you.Excellent
    Which brand of prismacolor colored pencils you are using for it? Fantastic out puts.

    1. thanks. i guess it's prismacolor premier brand.