500 joyful pencils

By Ingrid Fetell Lee


Art supplies are an addiction of mine. I love to go into art stores and walk the aisles, running my eyes over the rainbows of pastels, crayons, and pencils. I like to choose each color individually, reading the names, and feeling all the potential of that concentrated burst of pigment I’m holding, imagining what might become of all that spruce green, lilac, or vermillion. This obsession goes back as far as I can remember. While some kids dreamed about thousand-piece Lego sets or a full collection of Beanie Babies, I craved 30 different shades of blue.

So you can imagine how this set of pencils from Social Designer sent my inner child abuzz this morning. First there is the abundance, the sheer delight of 500 pencils, more than four times as many colors as Prismacolor makes. But then you don’t get them all at once. No, you get them in stages of 25 pencils at a time. Which means you have the feeling of abundance but at the same time you get the pleasure of anticipation, waiting for your pencils in the mail, wondering which colors will come in the next batch, dreaming about what you’ll do with them.

The batches create new forms of inspiration. With 500 colors you could be overwhelmed, but if this month the yellows arrive then perhaps you will be inspired to work in that palette and see where the color leads you. I also love to imagine what the set will look like when complete, because you will have had more time with some colors, you will have found favorites, and they will be shaved down to all different lengths. At the moment the set is complete, it is already in the process of being consumed.

When you buy a set all together, the set is complete at the beginning and is whittled away. As you make art, the set is slowly dissolving. But when the pencils arrive in stages, it’s like an evolving collection, and the art and the tools evolve together alongside each other.

As a writer, I also love the names. Of course, I love traditional pigment names too: ultramarine, scarlet lake, burnt umber, yellow ochre, and the already-mentioned vermillion. These names come from traditional natural and chemical pigments, and even if they are no longer made in those old ways, I love the connection to the past they imply. But the names of these pencils are deeply evocative and emotional, much in the way that CB‘s fragrance names are. I wonder about the smells of Burning Leaves, In the Library, and Memory of Kindness just as I wonder what I would draw with the colors Lobster, Mrs. Smith, Drizzly Afternoon, and Chicanery.

Via Daily Candy

August 13th, 2009


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    Discussion (2 Comments)

  1. Trudie on August 14, 2009

    Joyful pencils, indeed! I share your enthusiasm. As I read about 500 color, my heart started beating faster and the smile was spreading like wildfire. Somehow now my set of 50 colored pencils seems like a starter set. Inspiration has begun with the sight of the pencils and looking at the color names.

    Simply abundant! One month at a time.


    The Gratitude Sprinkler

  2. cathy on February 9, 2018

    Would love to know where to get these. Has anyone used them or know where to get them


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