Monday, February 22, 2021

Notable: Vintage Red/Blue Editing Pencils


6/19/19 A values study made 2 years ago with a
Uni vermilion/Prussian blue bicolor pencil.
Within my overall obsession with colored pencils is my special love for bicolor pencils (rooted in nostalgia), and a subset of that is my fondness for red/blue editing pencils. Although I didn’t set out to collect vintage red/blue pencils specifically, I have acquired enough over time (as a subset of my more general collection of vintage colored pencils) that they seem to have formed a collection on their own. I do love contemporary red/blue pencils too, and they are getting harder to find.

A couple of years ago, I went through a period of urban sketching with a red/blue pencil specifically to help me see and interpret values more accurately. Without having to think about the “real” colors I saw, I could focus on the values and convey them relatively quickly compared to monochrome. It was a useful tool. (I liked the idea so much that I still have thoughts now and then of someday developing an urban sketching workshop around the concept.)

My favorite contemporary red/blue bicolors for sketching are the Uni Mitsubishi Vermilion/Prussian Blue and the Caran d’Ache Bicolor 999.

Two of my favorite contemporary red/blue pencils for sketching.

Beyond sketching, I don’t have many uses for red/blue pencils, though I wish I did. (Ironically, I worked for more than 30 years as an editor, but I never once used a red/blue pencil to mark up copy.) Now my red/blue collection is mostly for admiration rather than use.

Shown in this post are select favorites and some of the more unusual specimens from my collection. The more exotic ones came in a lot from my favorite eBay vendor. Others came from Brand Name Pencils. Still others were gifts or swaps with fellow pencil afficionados.

Look at the A.W. Faber Castell in the center -- very unusual for a red/blue pencil to have a green barrel. The Canadian Eagle Ensign's all-red barrel is also unusual.

For a truly inspiring look at red/blue bicolors and interesting information about how they were traditionally used (and still are), you must see Ana’s posts at the Well-Appointed Desk (here’s a good place to start, with more info here). She’s the one who made me realize that collecting red/blue pencils could even be a thing!

Edited 3/4/21: My dentist uses a red/blue pencil! Explaining the work he would do on a molar that needs a crown, he sketched my tooth in blue, then indicated the cracks with red. Ideal use of a bicolor! Unfortunately, I didn’t see what kind of red/blue it was . . . I was too distracted thinking about the cost of that crown.

Edited 8/16/21: This blog was recently brought to my attention, and author Gunther has unearthed fascinating information about how red/blue pencils have been used historically. This blog is worth bookmarking . . . tons of great info on colored and other pencils!

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