Revealing Close-Up Photos of Creatives’ Pencils


Most people reach for their laptops or iPads when giving shape to their ideas. But for all our conveniences, there are some things that a computer just can’t do like the humble pencil. In a new photo series by Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney, first spotted on Photojojo, the duo captures close-up images of the pencils used by artists, designers, writers, and tastemakers. Most of the subjects are British, and we would love to see more women involved with the project, but you needn’t be familiar with those featured to appreciate how unique their tools are and the way tiny details reveal personality traits. Browse the series in our gallery, and get to know the secret life of the pencil.

Photo credit: Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney

Stephen Fry

“Still recognised around the world as the butler Jeeves in Jeeves and Wooster, Fry’s screen roles also include the lead in the film Wilde, Melchett in the Blackadder series, the lead in the Kingdom series, Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta and Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. He has also written and presented several documentary series, including the award-winning Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive, and is the long-time host of the BBC quiz show QI.”

Photo credit: Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney

Tom Dixon

“He designed the iconic ‘S’ chair for Italian furniture maker Cappellini, but ‘Jack,’ the polypropylene ‘sitting, stacking, lighting thing’ that made him a household name, was designed for his own company, Eurolounge.”

Photo credit: Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney

William Boyd

“On mining Fleming’s Bond books in preparation for his own, Boyd says: ‘It was always the tiny details, rather than the broad brushstrokes, that drew my attention. . . . So, in Solo, Bond makes his own vinaigrette, and I supply the recipe . . . No one can accuse me of breaking ranks – but I have to admit that the vinaigrette recipe is my own.'”

Photo credit: Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney

Posy Simmonds

“She is best known for the weekly comic strips and serialised graphic novels that have appeared in the Guardian since 1977, and the books that derive from them: Mrs. Weber’s Diary (1979), True Love (1981), Pick of Posy (1982), Very Posy (1985), Pure Posy (1987); Literary Life (2003); Gemma Bovery (1999); and Tamara Drewe (2005-6).”

Photo credit: Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney

Julia Quenzier

“As an Artist, Julia Quenzier is best known in the U.K. for her court drawings which have appeared on BBC News and in the National Press for many years. These sketches, produced using pastel pencils, are drawn from memory because it is a contempt of the court to actually sketch in the courtroom — a law imposed by an act of Parliament in 1925.”

Photo credit: Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney

Alexander McCall Smith

“A former professor of medical law and specialist in bio-ethics, he turned to writing full-time in 1998 when the first in his now immensely successful Botswana series, The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, became a bestseller.”

Photo credit: Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney

Christopher Reid

“Written as a tribute to his late wife, his A Scattering was named Costa Book of the Year 2009, and in 2010 his narrative poem The Song of Lunch became a BBC2 film, starring Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson as former lovers meeting again after fifteen years.”

Photo credit: Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney

Sir Paul Smith

“Famous for its clothing and accessories collections, Paul Smith specialises in an inventive use of traditional craftsmanship and cutting edge design to create beautifully made, desirable, modern pieces.”

Photo credit: Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney

James Dyson

“Sir James Dyson is a British inventor and industrial designer. He ran through 5,127 prototypes before perfecting his groundbreaking G-Force upright vacuum cleaner – and, finding that existing vacuum cleaner manufacturers would not take on his groundbreaking new model, set up his own company, Dyson, in 1993.”