Dieter Brehm

Analog Studies

Sony Pro Walkman rendered in ink and watercolor

Throughout quarantine, I've been captivated by portable cassette tape players, particularly Sony Walkmans, and I've been sketching them in ink and watercolor.

Born precariously in the divide between different music media, I experienced my family go through cassette tapes, CD's, iPods, and now smartphones. I've woven a sense of nostalgia for analog mechanisms into these small illustrations, perhaps with a layer of rose tinted glasses. We need not think about the many ruined cassettes with tape strewn about hopelessly. Instead, vibrant pigments and crisp lines serve here as a tribute to these marvels.

Process sketch in ink and red pencil of Sony sport walkman model

I start the whole process off with a special erasable red pencil. Drafters and animators use these so that the pencil marks are easy to edit out in a photocopy or scan. In my case, I enjoy using red lead because it is a helpful guide that's never overbearing.

Ink rendering of a deluxe transparent Sony Walkman

From there, I use a fountain pen to lay down lines of consistent width. It was important to vary the level of abstraction in these pieces in order to balance the composition of the tiny mechanisms. Too much detail, and its overwhelming and there is nowhere for the watercolor to flow into. Too little, and the eye doesn't build connections to reality.

Process painting of a dual cassette Sony Walkman

Delicate Holbein and Winsor Newton paint brings a pop of color to the line art. Until the piece is finished, watercolour often feels very incomplete. It takes practice to have the resilience to wait until the work is done to be able to appreciate it.

Scanned version of dual cassette walkman

Finally, the scanned image! I love these because I was able to capture the feeling of using a tiny machine with countless screws, springs, and levers. See below for the other pieces in this set of seven cassette players.

A sport model waterproof Sony Walkman render in yellow and blue paint

A red Walkman model

A slim Sony Walkman in murky green watercolor

Watercolored version of deluxe Walkman sketch in ink

Watercolor rendering of a portable analog television, with yellow paint

©2021 Dieter Brehm. All rights reserved.