Illustrator Daniele Stolle on how a coloured pencils inspired his career
As a kid, after kindergarten, I used to walk over to my mum’s work place – she had an office job. Note, this was during the pre-computer days in East Germany. There were typewriters, big green linoleum desk covers, blue carbon paper that would stain your fingers and a wicker-style cup with ballpoint pens, rulers, geometric triangles and a couple of blue and red pencils – Czechoslovakian Koh-I-Noor 1561 copying pencils, as I eventually found out later.
While my mum finished her last hour or so of working, I was set down to spend that time quietly with the office supplies. That might not sound all that exciting, but for this five-year-old, it surely was. Taking stock of my supplies on this desk I remember thinking, ‘I could spend hours like this.’ And I probably did.
I coloured the boxes in squared paper with geometric patterns (only red and blue mind you), filled in little trees and cars from architectural stencils and who knows what else. This set of supplies, the red and blue coloured pencils at the centre, represented a world of possibilities
– a chance to experiment and explore. My own imagination, perseverance and my mum’s working time were the only constraints.
This is how I still see a box of coloured pencils. For me they are toys, in the best sense of the word, and a source of joy – just as back when I was a child.
Lately, this all came back to me, as I became more interested in drawing with traditional media. The original blue and red are still with me, as I discovered a box of unused ones in my parents’ house a while ago. I also collected my Faber-Castell Polychromos pencils from all the various places they had scattered. I gave some away as presents and I also bought some new ones for the kids. (Apparently the aniline dyes in old copying pencils are quite a health risk, and they are not suitable for children.)
I started to use them more again, to draw my home, my kids, my life and also for use in the concept stages of my professional work.
The coloured pencil is one of the most basic instruments we can use to describe our surroundings, to record events, to work on ideas, to try out new things. You do not need a lot of colours
– though red and blue are a good start.
Our work and its end result as graphic designers, illustrators, artists and animators, is dominated by digital methods today. But I think it is easy to forget or underestimate these simple, immediate tools in a world that often feels once-removed, filtered by a screen – attention these days always comes at a premium. We are often rushing into execution, and it almost seems to me that we sometimes use our digital tools to dress up missing substance with a slick exterior.
Let’s linger a little longer, allowing not only our minds to think, but also our hands. They need to work together. Grabbing your pencils and a sheet of paper is also a good way to overcome learned conventions (or traumas) that inhibit the way we draw or perhaps even think, on a deeper level.
It is interesting for me to see my children draw. They are still young enough to not yet be burdened by any secondary thoughts. They draw a mole or a frog and it is exactly what they want to show, or better: to create. Ideas are not separated from substance. The medium is a direct creator of joy. Things you want are made into being with the help of a simple coloured pencil.
Above: A self-portrait of Stolle as a young artist. Stolle by Stolle, circa 1987