Cartoonists, writers all reveal “The Secret Life of the Pencil”

The Secret Life of The Pencil

The Secret Life of The Pencil was published last week – a hardbound book of super-close-up photos of pencils!

Before you start wondering if this is another example of University researchers getting money to engage in crazy studies, it’s not – it’s a wonderful  homage to the 500-year old drawing tool, and aims to emphasise its importance in an increasingly tech-focused world.

The Secret Life of The Pencil by Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney, which started as a photographic exhibition back in 2015 that helped raise awareness for charity Children in Crisis, but now has its own web presence, isn’t about any old pencils. These pencils belong to artists, photographers, architects, designers, writers, and  a couple of cartoonists, including Beano’s Nigel Parkinson, artist on “Dennis the Menace” and more. (In fact, he’s on the same spread as pop artist Peter Blake).

“Since software programs have come to dominate offices and studios, the pencil has become a symbol for creative freedom.,”say publisher Laurence King, “In other words, the work you do on the computer is what you do for work, to pay the rent, whereas the stuff you do with your pencil is the stuff you do for fun. Apart from stimulating the world’s most important creative minds, the pencil has become the modern creative’s ultimate fetish.”

This book presents a unique collection of close-up pictures of pencils from some of our foremost artists, designers, writers, architects and musicians, the pictures somehow reflecting the creative personalities of their owners.

The Secret Life of The Pencil - Nick Park
Nick Park
The Secret Life of The Pencil - Gerald Scarfe
Gerald Scarfe
The Secret Life of The Pencil - Posy Simmonds
Posy Simmonds

Along with Nigel Parkinson, also in the book, which includes brief interviews, doodles and more, are David Bailey, William Boyd, Sir James Dyson, Tracey Emin, Nick Park, Gerald Scarfe, Anish Kapoor, David Shrigley, Sir Paul Smith, Philippe Starck and many more.

“Who would have thought huge blow-ups of pencil tips could be a) so intriguing and b) all look so different!” says Nigel.

Alex Hammond is a designer specialising in product and packaging. He also applies his art and engineering background to the wider design field, producing branding, photography and CG visualisations. You can watch him wax lyrical about pencils here in a TED Talk…

Mike Tinney is a British-born still life and documentary photographer. His clients include Casio, Dior, Gucci, Haagen Dazs, Jameson, Nike and Ted Baker.

Buy The Secret Life of Pencils from (using this link helps support downthetubes)

• The Secret Life of Pencils:

All photos © Mike Tinney

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

%d bloggers like this: