ARTWORKS London: The Secret Life of the Pencil

April 5, 2016 / Arts and Culture

By Alex Reeves

An exploration of the most basic creative tool.

Dougal Wilson's pencil


As anyone who has ever had the pleasure of visiting the Keswick Pencil Museum will agree, pencils don’t get the credit they’re due. The Secret Life of the Pencil is a photographic project that grants them their deserved respect.

Each photograph in the exhibition by Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney explores the pencil of a notable creative talent in stunning detail, revealing every knife stroke, scratch and tooth mark made in the process.

Recognising the pencil as a common denominator across almost every creative discipline, Alex and Mike have found a unique way to celebrate this fundamental tool. With the digitisation of the creative method, the feeling of lead on paper is becoming more rare every day, so maybe it's a good time for appreciation.

Michele Burke's Pencil


The series of images was made in aid of Children in Crisis, a UK-based charity helping children who are suffering the effects of conflict & civil war, granting protection, education and freedom from discrimination. The proceeds from the book and exhibitions will go towards these efforts.

Having been exhibited throughout much of 2015 the pencils have now landed in the offices of Glassworks London as the eighth private exhibition of their ARTWORKS initiative. Sir Paul Smith, David Bailey and Stephen Fry are just some of the many remarkable creative talents whose pencils have been catalogued, but to keep the exhibition relevant to the advertising professionals filing through Glassworks’ doors Blink director Dougal Wilson added his own stylus to the exhibition to be auctioned off as a special edition framed print.


Anish Kapoor's pencil


The intense detail displayed in the collection makes each piece feel intimate, as if you’re looking down at these people working from some CCTV control room.

And they’re a beautiful set of photographs. Symmetrical, colourful and minimalist, they’re exactly the kind of piece that would look at home on the kitchen wall of a sleek urban apartment.

It’s incredible how varied the collection is. These lauded visual professionals aren’t buying multipacks of HBs from Rymans, apparently, and if they are then they’re subjecting them to a beating. Also, very few of them seem to know about pencil sharpeners, choosing to do things the old-fashioned way with a knife. Maybe that is how people work, but it’s convenient that a knife-sharpened pencil has more interesting contours, making for more distinctive photographs. Alex and Mike are familiar with the concept of artistic licence.

Cynicism aside, they’re a gorgeous set of pictures for a great cause and you can go and see them if you're lucky enough to be in the Glassworks London office between now and August 2016.

Comments (0)

    There are currently no comments for this article.

Post a new comment