Analog Art (mostly)
July 2, 2009 12:33 PM   Subscribe

God I'm old.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:36 PM on July 2, 2009

It's missing a picture of an art school degree.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:37 PM on July 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

There is no universe wherein X-Acto blades and eraser brushes are forgotten art supplies.

Well, no good universe.
posted by cheap paper at 12:40 PM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sigh, I've used every single one of those implements. I still have some of them in the back of my office closet.

The page appears to be missing the rolls of rules printed on transparent tape, similar to this. They were handy to string across doorways at eye-level to snare unsuspecting coworkers. Half-point worked especially well.
posted by jamaro at 12:44 PM on July 2, 2009

I still use like half of these. It's almost always faster to get the effect I want by actually doing it than by wrestling with the computer to create it. But that's own bias/training showing. I'd die without an undo key.
posted by The Whelk at 12:46 PM on July 2, 2009

We used to have a typewriter museum, but that got surplussed during the renovations. I was actually sorry to see that collection go. Of course, no one misses the Graveyard of Broken Office Chairs.
posted by marxchivist at 12:47 PM on July 2, 2009

I used some of these in a manual drafting class back in high school. Oh man, back then I thought erasing shields were the coolest ever. They still are, but I guess I don't really have a reason to use one since I don't do any drafting. Oh man, are pen and ink really being abandoned? Ink, ink, ink, give me all your inking related tools I needs them.
posted by Mister Cheese at 12:48 PM on July 2, 2009

Darn you nostalgia, stop creeping up so fast.

Site critique: The info-hovers on the thumbnail view would be more useful with the name of the item instead of the name of the submitter.
posted by sageleaf at 12:51 PM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

What about the Rolling Ruler?

Screw you, T-square! I will not be confined to the table's edge again! Yes, I am willing to sacrifice your "accuracy" for the freedom of lines only parallel to each other! HA!

Probably the last infomercial for analog art supplies. It was a bit goofy and amateurish to use, but it was useful.
posted by chambers at 1:04 PM on July 2, 2009

Those Thinner Dispensers make me want to get my hands covered in ink.
posted by bradbane at 1:18 PM on July 2, 2009

Forgotten??? What about stolen, eh? What sort of scumbag steals a bag of acrylic paints and brushes and some pads from a drunken guy who has fallen asleep on the bus after a mate's birthday party? Huh? Tell me.

Thanks, this is a nice post.
posted by Elmore at 1:20 PM on July 2, 2009

I have heard of a French Curve, but really now...
posted by idiopath at 1:27 PM on July 2, 2009

Hey, I still have my Polaroid one-shot camera! I was trying to find film for it, in fact, so I could make up an album at my son's 16th birthday party and have the other teens write in their own comments under the pics, but no one has film for it any more. *Sigh*

I took pics with the iPhone, but it just wasn't the same...
posted by misha at 1:37 PM on July 2, 2009

idiopath, my dad, an architect, had one of those. I guess it was my first porn.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:38 PM on July 2, 2009

What? These are mostly all still used.

I appreciate the concept that artists have supposedly moved beyond these tools, but the fact that some twelve-year-old running a cracked version of Photoshop on his MacBook hasn't seen these tools, doesn't mean that artists have forgotten them.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:53 PM on July 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

i wish i had a pic of my old can of real mica glitter. see, glitter used to be made of minerals dug out of the earth, not plastic. it was champagne colored and beautiful stuff.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:11 PM on July 2, 2009

Oh, man, Rubylith. My back still spasms a little when I think of the amount of time I've spent hunched over a light table cutting masks out of the stuff for color separations.

The best part about working in a print shop was the looks I'd get when I told people I was a stripper.
posted by Graygorey at 2:20 PM on July 2, 2009

Wow. A Leroy letterer. I haven't seen one of those in a very long time. They were expensive.
posted by bz at 2:25 PM on July 2, 2009

All I can say is that thanks to my parents' careers, I saw newspaper layout rooms and drafting and design companies before computer-aided layour and design, and after. And these tools are definitely forgotten as far as those places are concerned.

I miss that vinegar smell...
posted by Miko at 2:28 PM on July 2, 2009

This makes me sad.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:29 PM on July 2, 2009

The best part about working in a print shop was the looks I'd get when I told people I was a stripper.

Me too - and I'd always make a point to tell them I did it on a lighted table. So many of my pre-press skills are utterly useless now....and it wasn't really that long ago. sniff.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:31 PM on July 2, 2009

The smell of spay fix and rubber cement said "graphic design studio nearby" like nothing else. There was a time when you'd walk into an art school, any art school, and you'd be overwhelmed by the smell of turpentine and linseed oil. Now, just to get a bit modern, remember the smell of those early Magic Markers -- the ones with the wick poking out of a barrel-shaped bottle? And the way the Markers bled into the paper...?
posted by Faze at 2:33 PM on July 2, 2009

I was a structural steel draftsman in a previous life. We used real pencils and erasers and all that stuff. I remember when we "graduated" to the plastic pencils and mylar film; what was that modern stuff?

To this day I "shock" people by asking if they want to see my tattoo. I have a dot permanently embedded in my left index finger from cleaning one of those rapidograph pens. The pen was frozen solid and I was tasked with cleaning it. When I pulled the wire and weight out it went into my finger and left a perfect dot of india ink.
posted by Drasher at 3:01 PM on July 2, 2009

Just like half of the comments here within; I have most of those supplies currently. Therefore the post made no sense to me. Or I am getting older and just have a bunch of junk in my desk at home that I still use. Seriously who doesn't know what a french curve? Meh.
posted by Gravitus at 3:04 PM on July 2, 2009

I have used and know how to use all of those tools.

Linotype machine? Check. Graphic arts camera, contact frame and dark room? Sure. Rubylith? Yep, except for the first few years I kept calling it Ruby Lift because of all the "lifting" you had to do to peel away the cutouts - but, hey, I was like 12 and I had a speech impediment. Rapidograph india ink technical pens? Yep, but I don't really miss trying to clean 00 or 000 sized nibs out. Ultrasonic cleaners didn't even work on those tiny bastards. I also don't miss the indented rapidograph callous I used to have, but now I have a mouse callous on the inside of my wrist.

PMS swatchbooks? Yep. French curves? Adjustable or fixed? T-square and triangles? Sure thing - I still remember how to combine the two triangles to get your 15 degree cardinal directions. Enlargement/reduction calculator wheel? Yup. Letraset rubdown burnishers and squeegees? Yep. X-actos? Yep. #11 or #14 blades only - what do I look like, a wood carver? Straight blades only, please. Offset preferred.

I also don't miss the huge library of gigantic photostat/film transparencies we had at my dad's screen printing shop. We did a lot of really big prints, which meant a lot of really big film with as many as 20+ film sheets per design. Each bagged design could weigh several pounds. We had thousands of designs we kept in stock. We're talking about a whole truckload of film stock. A ton? Several? We never could afford proper flat files, so it was all stored flat on shelves in huge, slippery piles that were a pain in the ass to rifle through to find the right design. Today if we digitized the whole pile to black and white high resolution raster it probably would have fit on a couple of CDs, and if had the whole library in raw vector files it would probably fit on a single CD or thumb drive today.

I kind of miss the camera we had, but only because it was a monster and operating it was like piloting a space ship. Most photostat cameras have a vertical axis, IE, the lens looks "down" at the copyboard, the film plate is horizontal to the ground and copyboard, etc. Ours was horizontal, and approximately 20 feet long. It had a vacuum film holder that could accept a piece of photostat film about 50x40" or so, and the copy-board was a glass-fronted vacuum frame itself to flatten very large original images for best quality. The bellows, insanely bright quartz lights and copyboard rolled on bearings on machined rails set on a frame of steel beams about 4 inches thick, a foot and a half wide and 20-odd feet long. The primary lens was a hunk of Nikkor glass about as big around as a grapefruit. The whole thing probably weighed over a ton.

I've also used most of the traditional drafting tools. Mechanical pencils and pencil-pointers, electric erasers, eraser shields, real blueprint machines, but only in a classroom or DIY sense, not in a professional capacity.
posted by loquacious at 3:18 PM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wow. A Leroy letterer.

I saw one of his robotic bastard step children not too long ago. It was a programmable mini-plotter with a mount for a rotring or rapidograph pen or maybe some kind of proprietary screw-in plotter pen. The plotting arm that held the pen just sort of stuck out of the side of a case with a keyboard on it and a one line LCD display, and it had a font ROM cartridge stuck in the side. It even had a drafting arm slide mount on the bottom for placing/aligning the lettering on your drawing. I can only assume it could be used to letter everything on a design including the info block. I think it even had a function to draw blocks, too.

It took me a little while to figure out what in the hell it was because it had been found in the leftover junk of a flea market, but I recognized the threads on the penholder arm as being what they were, and I recognized the drafting-arm slide mount on the bottom, and I could see the labeled ROM cart and keyboard functions, so... "Oh hey, cool. Robot lettering machine. This thing must have cost as much as a small car when it was new."

After I taped a sharpie into it the pen holder it still worked. If I could have figured out a battery pack system for it it would have made a hell of a tool for random bathroom graffiti.

If you've ever wondered how people got their hand lettering so absolutely perfect on some old technical drawings and blueprints - now you know. Not all of it was truly "hand" lettered. Signmakers and printers also would use mechanical lettering aids and pantographs for lettering.
posted by loquacious at 4:21 PM on July 2, 2009

I remember when I signed up for a "graphics" class at the local state U in the late 90s, and the instructor was insistent that we needed to learn to use rubylith and that we cough up for rapidograph pens; I sat through one class, said, "the hell with this" and went and signed up for a Photoshop class at the local community college. I had worked enough jobs by then to know that things were already way past that point, no matter what he said about the benefits of learning to use those tools. And while we still used spraymount and X-acto knives at my later jobs, none of those essential archaic skills he was charging us to learn was ever necessary.

Sad really. I wonder if he's still teaching.
posted by emjaybee at 4:27 PM on July 2, 2009

Yep, I should probably get rid of a lot of this stuff because I don't really use it any more. Problem is, so much of it is so nicely designed and carefully made. It just feels wrong to throw it away.
posted by Killick at 4:55 PM on July 2, 2009

During the eighties I received a solicitation for a price to fabricate parts for a large valve. Nothing out of the ordinary, but when I unrolled the drawing it took my breath away as if it contained the image of a naked woman. Drawn by some unknown draftsman in the forties, it was perfection itself. The positioning of the parts on the drawing was composed in a manner to eliminate any ambivalence as to what went where. The line weights were just right. No calligraphy was finer than the columns of hand lettering. There were no telltale signs of any erasures. It floored me to consider the effort someone had put into this drawing to make it a work of art knowing it would never be regarded as such. The economy of CAD drawings make them infinitely superior, but they will never have the character of something rendered by a human hand.
posted by digsrus at 5:10 PM on July 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

Do art students not still learn how to draw? What, exactly, replaces a rapidograph, or for that matter an old fashioned steel nib pen and india ink if you're learning pen and ink? (yes, when I was in art school back in the late 1600s I think it was, we ground and mixed our own india ink) What do you use to replace the kneaded eraser when you're drawing with charcoal? I'm a bit puzzled. I don't see how modren technology "replaces" the miraculous ability, need or desire, of an artist to draw from life, or what computer skill can possibly replace what that artist learns from doing it.

Some of these things have been replaced with better technology, i.e. those related to the graphic arts. But drawing materials? wtf.
posted by nax at 5:58 PM on July 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used one of those metal eraser shields in drafting class and that was only like 15 years ago.
posted by DU at 7:01 PM on July 2, 2009

Gravitus: I have used a french curve, but was surprised to see one shaped like the decal on the back of a semi truck, and not the abstract shape that I find familiar. I will have you note that not a single image on the first three pages of gis search that I linked to showed me the outline of a reclining nude.
posted by idiopath at 7:34 PM on July 2, 2009

nax wrote: Do art students not still learn how to draw? ... Some of these things have been replaced with better technology, i.e. those related to the graphic arts. But drawing materials? wtf.

I'm starting to feel that a lot of the really good digital art combines analog and digital in various ways. There's still room for traditional media - look at art stores, they aren't all boxes of software yet, are they? Same goes for audio and motion video, for music and photography. Analog synthesis for music is still going on, etc. And I say that as someone who loves working in pure Bezier-curve space for graphics, or all software for DJing, or all digital for photography and software for processing.

I don't think we'll ever completely lose ink and paper, pen and nib, brush and canvas. It's too easy to make a brush out of your own hair if you must, or pens from feathers and paper from rags and flowers.

I've written something like this before but I feel really lucky that I was able to learn a lot of traditional design stuff as well as grow up on computers. About 83-84 I had a "drawing tablet" called a Koala Pad when I was a kid on an Apple 2 computer, I did early bitmap/pixel editing with ANSI graphics, GIF editors, BASIC or logo like a lot of people.

But I love that love that I also learned layout and typesetting work as a kid with my Dad's then small screen print shop and in school. Even fairly early on we were daring to do four color process printing on t shirts on a manual screen printing machine via digital photo separations from an output service. I remember marveling over the layered match prints and the color detail, having to use very fine mesh screens to hold the dot size.

Later we finally started getting 386 and 486 computers fast enough to do our industrial-grade low cost design work, as well as cheaper high res laser printers. Waiting to choose cheaper x86 PC hardware was a common choice for a lot of places, and even then our first "real" design computer cost something like $3-4k in 1990 dollars. The 16 megs of ram alone cost $400. The accelerated 2D VESA video card was somewhere around the same price. The old HP scanner and laser printer were about $1k each back then. Even though by then we had household names as production clients and gross income in 6 and sometimes 7 digits we still had to finance that computer.

Before Photoshop there was Aldus Photostyler. Some of Photostyler's DNA and workflow lives on in Photoshop to this day. Corel was also a common choice for PC users who did screen printing, signmaking, laser or vinyl cutting, plotting and more. Phone book publishers, too, as well as textbook publishers. We would take carefully printed laser prints on good paper and blow them up on the big camera described in my last comment. Sometimes for keylines, sometimes for separations. We'd even do 4C process or crashes, fills and bleeds with custom floods, pushing the half-tone capabilities of our pedestrian tools and software.

emjaybee wrote: Sad really. I wonder if he's still teaching.

I nearly included similar comments last post but was trying not to be bitter. My drafting teacher banned ink pens for noobs, threatened to take my set of Rapidographs away one day until I screamed bloody murder and required somthing like a year of pencil work on real paper before you could touch Autocad or Autodesk on the half-dozen-odd 286s, 386s and 486s walled off behind dividers - which I never saw be used except for his cadre of like 2-3 anointed students. I think he was kind of bitter about computers, and this was in 90, 91.

In retrospect that class was nearly an exercise in bespoke uselessness. The class existed for the nerds who didn't want to take shop, basically. Any confused high school kid who liked drawing would sign up for it, but it wouldn't prepare you for a career. I sure learned how to sharpen a pencil.

My print/commercial art/commercial design teacher was skilled, amiable but weird and a bit lost and clueless and also threatened by the storm of computers outside the walls, but I didn't really care because I was just in it for the access to all the stuff and even the still camera pool and fully equipped dark room. This class existed for all of the more creative nerds that wanted to make punk rock t shirts and have a reason to have a hall pass roaming the campus shooting pictures of their friends. It was fun.

Art teachers are invariably weird and messed up though.
posted by loquacious at 10:36 PM on July 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

What a fun post, thanks Miko! Truly a trip down Memory Lane...I worked in advertising in the mid-1970s and early 1980s and I remember the excitement of getting an IBM Selectric Composer - so very state of the art, no more going cross-eyed from using Letraset to create paragraphs of text in 6 pt type! I also recall some of the unexpected benefits of having all those high-tech (!) art supplies and a laminating machine at my disposal; for example, a couple of times I made a backstage pass that was realistic enough to get me into a concert for free as well as the after-show party.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:42 PM on July 2, 2009

What a great post. I still use more than half of these things. I remember not too long ago I busted out a proportion wheel and all the ipoded and iphoned teens in the vicinity were the very images of fascination.
posted by Hickeystudio at 3:15 AM on July 3, 2009

The 16 megs of ram alone cost $400

In 1990? I would have though it would have cost closer to $1600.
posted by bz at 12:49 PM on July 3, 2009

I am really enjoying looking through all these - no one else kinda creeped out by lobster cutout man? Yeek.
posted by batgrlHG at 6:19 PM on July 3, 2009

Site critique: The info-hovers on the thumbnail view would be more useful with the name of the item instead of the name of the submitter.

I agree w/sageleaf.

This site sadly makes me recall the old, busted photo enlarger and darkroom supplies that still sit in my parents' attic. My stepdad bought them for me on my 15th birthday, and I set up an improv darkroom in the tiny front bathroom to produce dramatic b&w expressions of my teen angst. Sigh.

I did just recently have a bout of art nostalgia, so I went out and bought some paints, brushes and linseed oil. The olfactory experience alone transported me back in time.
posted by safran at 6:57 PM on July 23, 2009

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