mad in pursuit memoir notebook

DISPATCHED FROM THE intersection of yesterday and forever

Rapidograph Retro

rapidographNothing says "geek" like Rapidograph.

Rapidograph pens lay down dense, even-flowing ink lines of controlled and predetermined widths... Technical pens were the mainstay of the designer and illustrator's craft before the development of computer graphics. Now, many artists and design professionals are rediscovering the technical pen because its handiwork, in expert hands, stands out almost magically against the bland precision of computer rendered graphics.

I owned 10 of these pens, which I used back in the day when I was inking tiny letters and cartoonish figures for the local aerobics company. Before Pilot Razor Points. Before Pigma Microns. Before home computers. Ah, the Eighties!

When I moved in with Jim in 1993, I was busy with my day job and enamored of computers. I tucked them away in a Rubbermaid box labeled "Art Supplies."

I take pride in all I've learned on the computer, only recently knuckling down to learn the mysterious Pen Tool in Adobe Illustrator. Totally modern.

And to tell the truth, I always had a love-hate relationship with Rapidographs. The most desirable narrow points require tender loving care or they plug right up. High grrr-factor.

But suddenly, here I am in this cartooning course. And we're supposed to ink our beautiful drawings the old fashioned way: with pen and/or brush, with india ink, on 2-ply bristol. Gedouttahere!

Of course hand-inked cartoons are the most beautiful, so I'm game.

I dug out the old Rapidographs. If I'd known I wasn't going to use them for 13 years I might have cleaned them before putting them in "Art Supplies." Luckily I still have my ultrasonic cleaning machine. Twenty-four hours and a bottle of cleaning fluid later, it looks like all my pens have come back to life.

For the first time since I graduated to bifocals I'm back lettering with my favorite 00-gauge pen. Micron brand pens can't come close! (But when it's plugged up tomorrow, I'll be cussing a blue streak.)