Monday 14 April 2014

Attainable Perfection

I suppose it all began at my grandmother's house when I was a small boy and asked for a pencil and a piece of paper. I guess it just wasn't that high a priority at that particular location. Relatives started going through drawers in the kitchen and branched out into the living room and down to the bedrooms. They eventually came up with a blunt stub of a pencil that required some sharpening and a crumpled piece of paper torn out of a notebook. It served my requirements, but it was the shock that my request was not as fundamental as a spoon or a slice of bread or a torque wrench. Those were easy. The paper and pencil was almost an epic challenge.

I still love pencils and graphite and erasers and quality paper. I still sketch and draw all the time, but the idea of writing and drawing over the years has expanded to include rare and exotic pens. No, I'm not a collector of Montblanc pens, although I wouldn't turn one down. I wouldn't turn down a Cartier either, but expensive or valuable is not the point. It is more about how it performs and feels than how it looks. Of course, appearance is important, but so is weight and colour and texture. There's nothing like a sleek, slim silver shaft of a pen made of cool, smooth metal with a slick "roller ball" contact point so the ink can flow like a river through a generating station. That is all about power and control.

Then there's the quill (tiny metal nib) and the technical pens with pigment ink and let's not forget sable brushes dipped into Speedball Super Black India Ink or Dr. Ph. Martin's Black Star waterproof India Ink. There's nothing more beautiful than brushing that black magic onto artboard or good paper and combining it with perfect lines with great design. There's also the added thrill of anxiety and pressure from knowing how truly permanent that ink is and what it can do to an article of clothing or wall to wall carpet. Spills just add to the excitement.

Every pen has it's own unique purpose, and I'm not including the prosaic and mundane. I don't retain common stick pens or fine points that skip or globby devices that leak or ones that gush unexpectedly. I've learned how to avoid those. This is a serious passion requiring years of experience and expertise. It's kind of like being a connoisseur, but it really develops out of necessity. The pleasure of perfect control is just another part of writing along with perfect word selection and turn of phrase. It's all part of the creative process. Can you imagine a carpenter building a house with only a pen knife? Can you imagine an auto mechanic tuning a car with just a hammer? Can you imagine a plumber trying to work with just cellulose-based adhesive tape? Of course not. The pen has become an object of extreme desire, but not for mere value, but because perfection has finally become attainable. We're talking about the pen here. The trouble is, I seem to have an unquenchable thirst for the attainable. 

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