My “Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies” Interview

“My Most Unforgettable Art Supply Moment” is a series of blog interviews by illustrator Lou Brooks with artists who have survived careers in the graphic arts. (That’s me in the above photo, circa 1964, labeled by Lou.) Each participant was asked the same five questions.

1. Can you recall your worst most unforgettable art supply experience?

Actually, it was a series of “worst” art supply experiences. It was way back in the days before anyone had ever thought of such a thing as a PowerPoint presentation. I was a Visual Information Specialist for the Social Security Administration. The job included a lot of late night overtime — even the occasional all-nighter — preparing large statistical charts that the SSA Commissioner used in his presentations to Congress. I was a very fast layout man, so it was usually my job to plot the points on the “fever” charts, rough in the percentage slices of pie charts, etc., and hand off my pencil layouts to the Speedball pen and brush letterers. Then it was back to me to add Chartpak tape to the plot lines, Pantone color paper cutouts of the pie chart slices and to erase the penciled lettering and stat guides. I LOVED the fast and dynamic layout stage, but I HATED that Chartpak tape and color paper … not to mention all that erasing!

2. Other than your first answer, is there an art supply that you’ve hated having to use more than any other?

The electric eraser – you can see it there on the windowsill behind me in the photo. I kept it out of sight there, so I’d “forget” I had it. Using the damn thing required a light touch, and I was more the slap-dash-speedy sort. I’d usually press too hard and destroy some part of a cartoon I’d just inked, or a type galley, or an expensive 30″ x 40″ sheet of illustration board.

3. On the other hand, can you think of an especially favorite art supply that you miss the most that has unfortunately left us for that big art supply heaven in the sky?

My trusty-dusty Roto Tray (note its place of honor in the picture) probably doesn’t completely qualify as being “forgotten,” at least not by me, but Roto Trays have been around as long as I can remember. I use it just about every day. It’s a dandy desktop storage setup for all kinds of pens, pencils, X-acto knives, erasers, and rulers. Besides its clever lazy susan design, it’s a beautiful object. Plus… it’s fun to spin!

4. Are there any other art supplies that you’ve just plain thrown away that you wish you still had?

Just the other day, I put a capped Sharpie Fine Point in the breast pocket of my favorite shirt, only to discover later that it had somehow managed to leak. Of course, now the shirt can only be worn under a sweater. So I’ve been reminded once again how much I love and miss my nerdy clear plastic pocket protector. Look closely at the picture and you can make it out, complete with a pen or two inserted. Also likely in that same pocket — at least until 1973, when I quit cold turkey — was a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes.

5. At one time or another, a lot of us have purchased something that we thought was soooo cool when we saw it at the art supply store, then we ended up never ever using it. Has this ever happened to you?

That would be my Koh-I-Noor Pen Cleaning Kit. It cost me $19.38 — I still have it and the price sticker is on the box.

To read how several other ink-and-paint-stained wage-slaves responded to these five questions, tap one of the many Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies links in the side bar.

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