The Secret Life of the Pencil: Great Creatives and Their Pencils started out as a photographic project by Alex Hammond and Mike Tinney. The concept is a simple one: the duo asked renowned creatives – artists, designers, architects, etc. – to send in their pencils, and then these tools were photographed in extreme close-up. The result is a book full of wonderfully detailed, bright, and captivating photographs that will easily draw you in.
That’s not all, though. There is also a short introduction by writer William Boyd and a series of interviews at the end of the book conducted with twenty-one of the aforementioned pencil owners. If I have one complaint it’s that I wish the interviews were integrated with the photography (rather than being stacked in the back), and I also wish there were more of them.
Many of the interviewees also contributed drawings done with their pencils. My favorite happens to be be the concept designs for Lego characters by Matthew James Ashton, but I also liked seeing the courtroom art of Julia Quenzler and designs of makeup artists Michèle Burke.
It’s easy for me to recommend The Secret Life of the Pencil. It’s a short and inexpensive book, easily found for under $15, and it would be great for the coffee-table or as a small gift for any creative person. And if you really like the photographs, the book a heck of a lot cheaper than ordering the prints.