Last week, at a meeting with a senior executive we were discussing design thinking and digital product management when during the final moments he asked me a question quite unexpectedly – what I would do with a box of 10 pencils. And adding that my answer cannot be related to using the pencil for any writing purposes.
That question involving a ‘pencil’ evoked memories of my art school and the innumerable creative assignments. By the way, if it wasn’t for my long stint at the school I could have never identified myself with the pencil types (H, HB, 2B, 6B) and how each grade could bring a proportionate effect to my artworks using the pressure of my fingertips, sketching actually became like an addiction. I have preserved some caricatures and most recently switched to a dedicated sketching book for collecting my artworks. At the school, I was pretty average at drawing the human anatomy with a live model where some of my classmates excelled beyond imagination, but I had picked up caricaturing on my own with pencils that gave me an opportunity of applying my style to any human form, which somewhat eased my discomfort of committing mistakes in art, besides being a great way to unwind after a hard day’s work. The pencil was that friend, that helped me grow in confidence. However, my colleague wasn’t expecting this answer, he was looking for something where the pencils were used in more ways than a common writing device.
This new inspiration took me to my childhood experiments of using a bunch of just any sort of pencils to arrange into geometric shapes or using them to create animal forms such as a dog or a deer, and also in altering the figure of the pencil to achieve finer results or using them on the head to mimic a devil with horns. In short, this ubiquitous apparatus has been part of all my adventures in several ways and even today, I experience a boylike excitement of filing the lead with a cutter until I get a razor-like edge, sometimes reducing it to nothing in the process – the 6B for instance, is the toughest to work with. Despite being so useful in my school assignments, in my sketches at art school, or even solving puzzles while waiting for my food at a restaurant, I have never acknowledged my rapport with the pencil so assiduously. But one thing’s for sure. Be it coloured or graphite pencils, the 0.5 mm mechanical version, or the carpenter’s tool for markings, I would not have recognised the influence of the pencil without that curious question coming my way!