Growing up I had lots of special drawing tools in the house. My dad, a former illustrator, was a Rapidograph devotee. This was a ’60s holdover, but mostly it was an exercise in madness. The pens themselves took baths. They had to be dismembered, soaked, and intricately rinsed. As is true with humans, their hygiene was recommended to be a daily performance, but under my care it became more of a moratorium. These “technical pens” came in various weights and were $30 a pop. When using a Rapidograph, one truly felt the feat of the impressive mechanism in your fingers, gears almost whizzing, as you made marks that never lived up to the instrument’s own perfection.
The lines they made were balletic at best, meaning always tight and controlled. They constrained me. The price tag constrained me. The tip bent. They pissed me off.
One of its finest attributes is its waterproofness. And its fadeproofness. It is reliable. It is disposable. It is trustworthy. It creates a line that is buoyant. It is as free as you can possibly let your mind be. It is also roughly two bucks at a stationery store, $13 for a pack of 12 on Amazon.
I can’t say that this is the pen for you. What I can say is that much like my childhood friend Juliette’s father, who buys Gold Toe brand socks by the bounty, I just keep coming back.
Recently I tried to stray. I ordered a thicker roller-ball pen from Japan, the Ohto Fude Ball 1.5. Late at night I danced with a Kaweco Sport Fountain Pen from Goods for the Study. My friend Liana Finck, also an illustrator, traded me an impeccable Muji pen whose line could be mistaken for a single strand of hair. But none of them would stand out of the way enough to let my ideas flow in unself-consciously.
Opting for a pen of simplicity is a great life lesson: I’d like the hard work to be in figuring out what’s in front of me, not in getting this fucking contraption to unclog so I can get there.
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