Lou Brooks' Loving, Curmudgeonly Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies

From SCUM-X Cleaning Powder to the Polaroid SLR 680, a graphic design veteran's digital display of obsolete tools of the trade.

Self-dubbed “the world’s oldest kid,” illustrator, designer, and author LouBrooks is one of those people whose work has helped shape the pop culture landscape of the last 40 years. A self-taught artist whose style is a mashup of 1940s and 1950s comics, pulp fiction book covers, the golden age of advertising and Mad magazine, Brooks' illustrations have been featured in just about every major publication including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Time and Newsweek. He has won numerous awards including the Illustrator of the Year award from Adweek magazine. He even redesigned the Monopoly man. His latest project, The Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies, a hat tip to days gone by, is a cheerful exhibition of aged tools of the trade.

GOOD: What led you to create the Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies?

LOU BROOKS: When you think about it, most things that have happened have happened in the past. But bolts of inspiration actually do happen. Georges Simenon used to leave his friends standing on the sidewalk in mid-conversation, yelling, "I'm about to have a book!" In 2006, I was invited to join, an invitation-only sort of "elitist" blog for illustrators, and while setting up housekeeping there, I noticed you could also set up a little "show" about anything you wanted. I thought about how it's all changed so completely, and I thought of the museum. It was nothing more than an inside joke. I began to upload "artifact" images, and was sure that any comments would come solely from other Drawger members, which was true at first. But somehow, it just got very viral very quickly. People from outside the site were sending in images from all over the place, and a little community grew around the Museum.

GOOD: Where have these forgotten art supplies gone? Are they all casualties of the digital revolution?

BROOKS: You would think so. But plenty of them are still being used. I get emails and comments saying: “I still use that thing every day, you bum! How dare you call it forgotten!” Those who take the Museum literally at its word regarding what is “forgotten” are missing some of the fun of it all.

GOOD: Are these forgotten supplies still tools of the trade for you or do you work digitally now?

BROOKS: In the beginning, I inked everything with technical pens and templates. It was all derivative of my production art background. Every black line was shaved to perfection with a #16 blade and on and on long into the night. When I was finally able to reach the same perfection by pushing vector buttons on my first Mac Centris, I thought, “This has all been invented because of me.” I was walking on water, and cured many sick people before donating most all my art supplies to Parsons, and moved out to Northern California. Now, a dozen years later, I’ve kind of made a circle, and am back to inking on paper, then taking it into the Mac and putting it through some closely guarded family techniques. So, it’s a nice balance, and satisfies my tactile cravings for the flex of the pen nib on gritty paper.

GOOD: Of the supplies showcased, do you have any favorites? Is there anything that you’d like to have in the museum that you don’t?

BROOKS: Well, same as most everybody else, a lot of my favorites are the ones that I actually used. They can take you right back to that moment. It can be a lot like hearing that song that was playing when you were slow dancing with Darla Jean Potts. You can smell the Spray Net in her hair. My first job was on the night shift in the art department at a large Philadelphia newspaper. The paper doesn’t even exist anymore. The first thing they taught me how to use was their stat camera, which was so big, it required its own room. You’d set a can of peaches in front of the lens, then touch up the print with pen and ink for a supermarket ad. Coming from parking trucks in a steel mill, I thought I was Vincent van Gogh. They also taught me the PhotoTypositor, which I fell in love with. It was about the size of an antique airplane console, but with cranks and pulleys. You exposed type on a little paper strip, one letter at a time. You could do a whole headline in about 30 minutes, if the machine was well maintained. I’ve carried the PhotoTypositor and stat camera around in my heart ever since.

GOOD: The museum is open to public submission and at this point hosts images of over 400 artifacts. You’ve also incorporated features where artists recount stories from their own careers. Tell us about the community that has sprung up around the museum.

BROOKS: When I finally got the Museum rolling, I admit I was mistakenly expecting a bit of an elephant graveyard where all graphic arts geezers go to die. I was thinking about going there someday to collect the ivory. But I’m happy to say that there’s a solid permeation of young artists besides. After growing up with iMacs and Game Boys, they seem hypnotized at times by any tactile way of doing art.

As far as the community, much of it is rooted in the pre-Mac generation. But don’t forget, not everyone ran out back then and bought an outrageously expensive Quadra and all the peripherals. It was a gradual thing, so the age range of Museum fans is pretty wide. They’re not all geezers whining for the good old days. In fact, some of the geezers say they’re glad those days are gone. Cutting your finger off with an X-acto knife wears on a person after a while.

GOOD: What has the response to the museum been?

BROOKS: I get emails pretty much every day thanking me for the Museum. They can be quite touching at times. They often mention how much they miss the smell of the supplies from back then. It’s funny how smells are so tied in with our pasts. On the other hand, someone wrote me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I could fix her old waxer. She’d be happy to send it along for repair. I’m thinking maybe there’s big money to be made in waxer repair.

Photo by Josh Couch on Unsplash

Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare, and Sir Walter Scott are getting company. Statues of the famous men are scattered across Central Park in New York City, along with 19 others. But they'll finally be joined by a few women.

Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth are the subjects of a new statue that will be on display along The Mall, a walkway that runs through the park from 66th to 72nd street. It will be dedicated in August of next year, which is fittingly the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote.

Currently, just 3% of statues in New York City are dedicated to women. Out of 150 statues of historical figures across the city, only five statues are of historical women, including Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Harriet Tubman.

Keep Reading Show less

It's easy to become calloused to everyday headlines with messages like, "the world is ending" and "everything is going extinct." They're so prevalent, in fact, that the severity of these statements has completely diminished to the point that no one pays them any attention. This environmental negativity (coined "eco-phobia") has led us to believe that all hope is lost for wildlife. But luckily, that isn't the case.

Historically, we have waited until something is near the complete point of collapse, then fought and clawed to bring the species numbers back up. But oftentimes we wait so long that it's too late. Creatures vanish from the Earth altogether. They go extinct. And even though I don't think for a single second that we should downplay the severity of extinction, if we can flip this on its head and show that every once in a while a species we have given up on is actually still out there, hanging on by a thread against all odds, that is a story that deserves to be told. A tragic story of loss becomes one about an animal that deserves a shot at preservation and a message of hope the world deserves to hear.

As a wildlife biologist and tracker who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of animals I believe have been wrongfully deemed extinct, I spend most of my time in super remote corners of the Earth, hoping to find some shred of evidence that these incredible creatures are still out there. And to be frank, I'm pretty damn good at it!

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

For more than 20 years. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) has served the citizens of Maine in the U.S. Senate. For most of that time, she has enjoyed a hard-fought reputation as a moderate Republican who methodically builds bridges and consensus in an era of political polarization. To millions of political observers, she exemplified the best of post-partisan leadership, finding a "third way" through the static of ideological tribalism.

However, all of that has changed since the election of Donald Trump in 2016. Voters in Maine, particularly those who lean left, have run out of patience with Collins and her seeming refusal to stand up to Trump. That frustration peaked with the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Keep Reading Show less
NHM Vienna/Hans Reschreiter

Wealth inequality has been a hot topic of discussion as of late, but it's something that's occurred all throughout history. Class structure is a complicated issue, especially when you consider that haves and have nots have been in existence for over 4,000 years.

A study published in Science took a look at over 100 late Neolithic and early Bronze Age skeletons found in a burial site in southern Germany. The study "shed light on the complexity of social status, inheritance rules, and mobility during the Bronze Age." Partly by looking at their teeth and the artifacts they were buried with, researchers were able to discover that wealth inequality existed almost 4,000 years ago. "Our results reveal that individual households lasting several generations consisted of a high-status core family and unrelated low-status individuals, a social organization accompanied by patrilocality and female exogamy, and the stability of this system over 700 years," the study said.

Keep Reading Show less
via / Flickr and Dimitri Rodriguez / Flickr

Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign looks to be getting a huge big shot in the arm after it's faced some difficulties over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a leading voice in the Democratic parties progressive, Democratic Socialist wing, is expected to endorse Sanders' campaign at the "Bernie's Back" rally in Queens, New York this Saturday.

Fellow member of "the Squad," Ilhan Omar, endorsed him on Wednesday.

Keep Reading Show less