Monday, September 16, 2013

"Tools of the Trade"

I like to sharing trivia about various mediums we used at the Walt Disney Studios before the digital age came upon us so here are a few you might be interested in.

First, here's an interesting ad from the Saturday Evening Post published around the release of BAMBI,  showcasing Walt Disney and a vintage Everlast pen and pencil set. As fine a quality as these were, they were only used for writing and not drawing at the old studio. The fellows in animation production who sometimes used pens like Ken Anderson definitely favored the Montblanc brand with sketching nibs. 

With the "ONE-TWO " punch of a strike and war, Walt had to embrace even these little opportunities when they came along to put something back in the dwindling studio reserves. The set pictured was most likely used by Walt for a short time any way and I'm assuming as is the custom of many companies trying to sell their items, some free sets were probably given to the studio to be used as publicly as possible. More likely by writers though than by artists.

Just a note to anyone still using the old KOH-I-NOOR pencil holders like the ones we used to use for story sketches and roughs at Disney Studios. The various quality leads are becoming hard to find and lately I've picked up some very inferior ones at local art stores loaded with filler and binding material that fracture and break off in tiny specs while drawing.

However, I just received a pack from GIOCONDA 6 that are actually made for KOH-I-NOOR/HARTMUTH from the Czech Republic in SEPIA that exhibits no filler problem, goes onto paper in smooth soft strokes and the leads really hold up to hard use. I hoarded a couple of boxes from the old studio that date back to the 30s and these really match them for handling and appearance.

I should add that a number of manufacturers make various versions of these pencil holders that work pretty well if you can't find a KOH-I-,OOR the lead is the most important element of the two. 

The holder pictured here is a vintage 5649 that dates to 1937 and was given to me by Ken O'Connor.


  1. At least they're still around at all I suppose. Knowing how the digital age has since put such demand for these tools into decline so quickly. have to look for one of those holders myself.

  2. I probably do about half of my work in digital which leaves the other half with the old techniques, so I'm only too glad to try to keep up with the traditional methods and materials as well as trying to learn the latest software programs and hardware devices.

    However it is becoming tougher finding QUALITY materials these days. With fewer demand by customers, art stores are not carrying as much and in fact many of the vintage high end art supply shops here in Burbank and Hollywood have closed.

  3. Hey there, Mike! I just stumbled across your blog today and I've already wasted so much time browsing when I should have been painting. It's fantastic! (I'm a big fan of both you and the Mouse!)

    I have to agree with you about the dwindling supply of quality art supplies out there. I'm a theatrical set designer in NYC and during the design process, I work mostly the old-school way of hand-rendering, modeling, and drafting. It's so difficult to find the good stuff out there, and when you do, it's so dang expensive due to lack of supply and demand.

    Oddly enough, in this age of computer aided design and its prevalence in the theatre world, I've had many clients confess they've kept me around because of my hand-done artwork. I'll take that! Now, that said, I'm currently learning VectorWorks, a computer drafting program. It's a slooooooow process. I'm pretty sure I could hand draft an entire show in the time it takes me to draw a single flat on the computer, but I'm learning!

    Keep up the good work, Mike! I can't wait for your next post!

  4. I apologize for taking your time away from painting Kyle but am glad you are enjoying my blog. Like so many businesses in this country these days, the small "mom and pop" art stores once sprinkling the cities have been reduced in number and replaced with larger chains. unfortunately many of these carry inferior art supplies compared to the products stocked a few decades ago.

    They tell me it's based on supply and demand and that when I enquire as to a specific brand or material that no one else has asked for it or that people are very happy with the 12 color no-name Watercolor set for only $4.95.. I can't help but think if they were to try a better quality brand they would find more saturation, smoother application to board, purer mixing of colors, and even a more solid light fast formula that won't fade as nearly as fast. But with many things you get what you pay for and their argument has always been people don't want to spend the extra money some of the materials I request would cost.

    I'm happy to hear you are also keeping up with the digital age as it will not be leaving us. I have always believed for example that an electronic pen and wacom tablet is just another tool and one I use frequently. Take care Kyle and thanks for writing.