At the moment I’m reading a book of short essays called Evocative Objects, edited by Sherry Tuckle. In this book a number of academics from various fields including philosophy, neuroscience, art and physics have written about their favourite object. These objects range from a raincoat, a laptop or ballet shoes, to antidepressants, a rolling pin, a vacuum cleaner or a suitcase.
I had lunch with my mum today and she picked up this book which I’d brought with me, glanced through it, and asked me what my ‘chosen object’ would be. This was easy, and so I told her, a black fine-liner pen. She then set me a challenge: ‘I bet you can’t write 750 words about your favourite object’.
Challenge accepted, mother!
A black fine-liner pen
I love my black fine-liner pens. I cannot be without one. I have to have one near me. There must be one in my bag as well as close by me at home. I can quite happily sit and talk to someone while twiddling a black fine-liner pen around in my fingers. Without it, conversation flows less easily. I watch TV contentedly clicking the lid on and off a black fine-liner pen (much to the annoyance of anyone else in the room). I feel comforted by the feel of this type of pen in my left hand. It makes my hand feel complete. Without it, I feel slightly off balance. The black fine-liner pen is my ‘thing’.
I’m not sure when this obsession with having a black pen began. Possibly, I have loved pens since childhood. I remember transitioning from pencil to Berol fine liner pens at Primary School and the difference in seeing my work in stark black compared to smudged grey had quite an impact on me. Also as a child, I loved stationery, possibly more than your average child (most children love stationery). I got a particular joy out of trips to town and the opportunity to go to Smiths to spend my pocket money on turquoise cartridges and smelly rubbers. However, I imagine that the black fine-liner pen thing began later, perhaps once I started to take drawing seriously. At secondary school I would sketch my teachers on the covers of my books, with mixed reception from those teachers, using only a black fine-liner pen. So perhaps it is from teenagehood onwards that my love affair with this type of writing and drawing tool began.
There are many black fine-liner pens to choose from but for me, the ultimate is a uni-ball eye fine liner, made by Mitsubishi (those clever people in Japan). I have tried other brands, such as Pilot (a good second choice) and Sharpie (an acceptable third choice) but neither of these, or others, match the uni-ball in my estimation.
The size of the line this pen creates is just right for me. The blackness of the ink is perfect. I like my writing from this pen. I like my drawing from this pen. This pen is reliable. The nib doesn’t easily get damaged. The pen feels just right in my hand. It glides just right on the paper.
The extent I go to to mean that I am never without a working uni-ball eye fine liner pen means that I have quite a few of them within a two feet radius of where I am sitting right now. I will go and count how many I have.
It seems that I have eight of them at the moment. Two in my bag, two in my pencil case, an opened three-pack in reserve (containing two pens) for when the current ones in circulation run out, one in my art bag and one right here by my laptop.
I get quite fidgety if my children ask to borrow one of my black pens. I feel fury if I find one sitting abandoned next to my husband’s computer keyboard. He’s borrowed one of my pens (fine) and NOT RETURNED IT (not fine)!
My need to have a black fine-liner pen with me at all times is because it is my favourite drawing tool. In addition to a good working fine-liner pen I must have a sketch pad of some sort on the go at all times. But somehow I don’t feel the need to accumulate sketchpads as I do fine-liner pens. I think this is because my children and husband are less likely to walk off with my sketchpad. If I have both these object with me, pen and pad, I am content. There are so many opportunities to sketch when out and about: in cafes, on trains, at funerals, at art galleries or in Asda. So I find myself in a cafe sitting near a fine specimen of an ordinary person eating a muffin in an ordinary yet interesting way, and I don’t have my sketch pad and or a piece of paper and my fine liner pen then I feel agitated.
If I find myself at my sons’ school needing to write a cheque out for their dinner money and I don’t have a fine-liner black pen, then I feel annoyed. If I find myself in Smiths near the pens, and I see that fine-liner black pens are on special offer, then I feel twitchy. If I’m in bed and I wake up with a 3am idea, I need to find my fine-liner pen and my journal to write it down (and no other pen will suffice, certainly not, horror of horrors, a biro), without it, the idea will inevitably be lost.
So you see, the black fine-liner pen is essential to my mental health and my art practice. It is my thing. What’s yours?