We ask six brilliant illustrators to tell us about their weapons of choice

20 October 2014

Because no return to school is ever complete without a mammoth haul of stationery – think gel pens, scented glitter rollerballs, erasers as big as your 12-year-old fist and some kind of novelty pencil sharpener – we asked some of our favourite creatives to tell us what one piece of kit in their vast pencil cases they could never be without. Turns out they’re all attached to some pretty bizarre objects. Meet their weapons of choice…


Eleanor Davis’ Maru Pens

My husband Drew Weing and I both draw with crow quills a lot, and for years we used the industry standard Hunt 102. I can’t remember who told us that the Japanese Maru Pens are better but they are – immeasurably. Now we use Deleter or Nikko brand Maru Pens and they are great. They’re more flexible than a 102 while at the same time offering more control; they’re less scritchy, they last longer, and they’re more reliable and consistent. This one is in a wooden Tachikawa T-25 pen nib holder which is easier to grip and better for your hands than the skinny plastic brown ones. We get them from Jetpens.com. Japan is better at comics than we are and their comic-making tools are better too. I’m sorry, America, those are the facts! 

I use these nibs to do almost all my black-and-white work. I like drawing freehand with them, growing little black plants and flowers, making small people appear on the paper to live discrete and static lives. It brings me a lot of joy.



Tim Lahan’s China Pencil

The one tool I enjoy the most from my junk drawer is the china marker. I think it’s more of a utility writing utensil for making marks on glass or metal, but I use it nearly every day for drawing. I dig the unpredictable line quality it gives, and the peel-away paper wrapper enclosing the wax is both frustrating and fun, in that you never know how it will unravel. I first picked one up when I couldn’t find any pencils laying around my desk and was pleasantly surprised with the texture – the line of a chalk stick, but the grip of a pencil. 



Edward Cheverton’s Corner Rounder!?

I picked up this corner rounder (I’m not entirely sure that’s its actual name) in New York two years ago. It wasn’t cheap at ten dollars but given its function has provided me a disproportionate amount of pleasure. It does nothing more than round the corner of a piece of paper – trivial but delightfully satisfying!

Given that I work predominantly with paper; collaging and constantly working with any combination of materials, the corner rounder seemed a natural addition to my toolbox. I’m never precious with my work; pieces find themselves shoved in drawers, dumped in stacks with books, trampled under a chair leg or simply chucked about in general disregard. Corners unsurprisingly find themselves dented, bashed and squashed. My corner rounder will fix this instantly.

I’ve found it to be quite the conversation starter too. When meeting new people at drink-and-draw sessions, it naturally became the centre of attention (Only if I brought it along. When I didn’t, I found myself less interesting to my colleagues). A number of times I did have to pry it out of friends’ hands, as they were mesmerised by rounding the corners of all the angular objects in sight.

Sadly in recent months its blade has begun to dull and its once bright white form has become scuffed and scratched. Yet still it sits on my desk often employed as the finishing touch for a postcard, a drawing, collage – anything I want!



Alice Tye’s Anglepoise

I bought my Anglepoise about four years ago from eBay and it was pristinely cream. I love that it is now covered in paint, scratches, dents and fingerprints – it’s like a document of all the work I’ve done using it since and I plan on it lasting me for many more years.



Doris Freigofas’ Mouse

When I was 12 I was obsessed with the simple graphic painting programme Paintbrush. I used to spend all my afternoons at the computer drawing elaborate illustrations with my mouse, fascinated by digital lines, shapes and patterns. It felt so futuristic to have my drawing digitally on screen, backlit with dazzling RGB colours. My preference for the mouse as a drawing tool might originate from that time. While the Bitmaps of that era are gathering dust on floppy discs somewhere in the attic of my parents’ house, I still use the mouse for illustrating today.

For drawing the mouse is a rough and clumsy choice, I have to admit. But perhaps that’s exactly what’s so exciting about it. I could get myself a drawing pad like Daniel did but I like my tiny cheap mouse with the fraying wire. I’ve always used exactly the same model. Once my mouse broke in the middle of a tight deadline and I had to get myself another mouse in the computer store around the corner. I finished off that assignment with the new, way-too-big and unwieldy mouse, but immediately afterwards I ordered myself two of these laptop mice again, one for work and one just in case…



Eline Van Dam’s Pen

We got together around ten years ago.
He has never looked like something special to me, neither his talents. It’s just that I grew close to him as he always stuck around. He is one of the few possessions that never got lost or broken, although I am extremely chaotic and used to move house or country every other year. He turns up in the weirdest places and on those moments I always plan to give him a special spot or case but I never did. I kind of panic when I can’t find him and I need to draw. This is why I always pick up a new one whenever I have a chance. But they never work for me and always get lost at some point.

We know each other so well now. My hand embraces him perfectly. He corrects my vision. Nearly every piece I’ve produced started with him – from small handbills to giant posters. I feed him with 2B or B. Sometimes I am impatient with the feeding and he spits out everything in little bits. My kids were not allowed to play with him, they put clay, snot and sand in everything. But recently my son Milo started to learn writing and he sometimes wants to practise with him. Those moments when I see him gently leading my son’s small hand, I feel really tender.


Back to School
Throughout the month of October we’ll be celebrating the well-known autumnal feeling of Back to School. The content this month will be focusing on fresh starts, education, learning tools and the state of art school in the world today – delivered to you via fantastic in-depth interviews, features and conversations with talented, relevant, creative people.

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About the Author

James Cartwright

James started out as an intern in 2011 and came back in summer of 2012 to work online and latterly as Print Editor, before leaving in May 2015.

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