You can tell a lot about a person based on their choice of writing utensil. For example, pencil-users cautiously anticipate their mistakes before they have even begun, as if they are asking permission to be creative. They are an overly careful bunch; bottling themselves up, staunching the flow of their creative juices to a narrow trickle.
There are also the monomaniacal marker-types. Unlike the pencil-pickers, whose overly-cautious approach to art stifles their creativity, the marker maniacs are not cautious enough. Instead of holding back too much, they release broad, sweeping strokes, carelessly colouring out of the lines with two-dimensional shades.
I, myself, prefer to use a pen. “Why,” You ask? Well, primarily, the pen is a perfectionist. Bold, yet precise, the pen is the “happy medium” or the “best of both worlds”, if you will. Bolder than its faint-hearted counterpart, the pencil, and yet more precise than the marker, with its often messy wide tip, the pen is the ultimate tool of the leader and creator.
The pen is permanent. Every detail, down to the indelibility of the ink is in itself significant. Every move the pen makes is irrevocable; every stroke leaves behind a recorded diary of the creative process in its wake. The pen’s permanency leaves a legacy for all students of art, enabling them to witness Dickens’ ever-changing drafts while writing Bleak House, and Da Vinci’s shifts in perspective while sketching, as witnessed by the faint charcoal “ghosts” that still haunt his work to this day. These fading lines and squiggles whisper of what was and might have been, and reveal more about their creator than the final work of art. The pen harkens back to a time before man was able to delete his own thought processes with the click of a button; when the artistic journey, traced by that fading ink, was as significant as the final destination.
The pen is personal. Unlike the technological tools of today, the pen adds a personal touch to its works, by connecting the page directly to the master’s hand. The result is a warm physical connection between the artist and the work that cannot be achieved with a cold keyboard and screen. With this added intimacy, the distinct persona of the artist is expressed –we see the uniqueness of his soul traced in the movements of his hand. True, one could say the same for other manual utensils like the pencil or marker, but there is something undeniably special about the pen, as it provides an even more intimate link. We sign documents not with markers or pencils, but with pens, and our signatures capture far more of our identity than our name. We write intimate letters (those of us who still write them) with a pen and not a pencil. Just as the ink flows down the length of the pen to the tip, so flows the pool of our innermost thoughts from our hearts down our arms to the pen, before being transferred to the page. For this reason, ink has been compared to our life’s fluid and blood. And, with this life’s fluid coursing through its veins, the pen takes on a force of its own. The pen is a sensitive creature, much like us, that requires gentle handling and care. When the creator exerts too much pressure on his pen and wields it harshly, the pen voices its discomfort through squeaks and scratches, but when the creator uses gentle tenderness on his instrument, it hums, the ink rolling off the point like words rolling off the tip of the writer’s tongue. In this way, the pen is alive, helping the living artist breathe life into his work.
Therefore, when I write, or sketch, or attempt to express myself in other as yet unexplored ways, I shall always reach for a pen, for the pen is the boldest way for me to leave my mark on the page and on the world.