Since 2014・Volume 5
Artwork, from top left : Bugatti Type 35 (1920s era)
2014, A3 size 29.7 x 42cm (11.7 x 16.5''), Silva's first car in ballpoint ; Above : The Way I See it... 2012, A2 size ;
Left: Slideshow, four car 'portrait' commissions.
All artwork ballpoint pen on paper © Luis Silva.
Judging by the focus on cars comprising Silva's work, one might imagine the artist himself a 'gear head ', but that's not the case. ''I'm not a collector, nor a mechanic,'' he adds, pointing out that none of the 70-some-odd vehicles he's drawn in the past four years are or were his. ''I love cars, always did. When I was a kid, I was a bit of a maniac about them, but that pulse got milder,'' says Silva, who currently drives a late model Renault Clio. That same love of cars was matched by an unstoppable will to draw, and these days Silva is likely spending as much time behind a ballpoint pen than the steering wheel of a car.
Classroom boredom brought his love of cars and drawing together. ''I was a huge fan of racing cars and spent a lot of time drawing such cars in class, using ballpoint pens.'' Silva states that the pens continued to be ''a drawing companion'' since then, but their usage as a professional tool didn't fully emerge until 2014. Cars remained his favored subject. His first in ballpoint was a 1920s Type 35 Bugatti, drawn in turquoise blue (pictured above). ''I still get a kick from drawing them,'' Silva says of drawing cars. ''Drawing classic cars triggers a wide variety of childhood memories, of family trips to the beach, movies we once saw, etc.'' Such nostalgic feelings come through in a kind of retro style which is sometimes more photo-illustrative than photo-realist—as if they were peeled from the pages of vintage car catalogues. Had Silva been around back in the day, he might've had a hand in designing the ads, if not the cars themselves, and we'd now be driving Silvas instead of Chevys.
The illustrative touch might not be purely coincidental. Silva left his home town in Portugal to study art at the Institut Supérieur des Beaux Arts St. Luc in Belgium, where he majored in illustration, including studies of a European form of graphic novelism known as Bande Dessinée. Upon graduation in 2001—with 'honors', or ''Grande Distinction'', as he tells us—Silva entered the commercial art world. Illustration and caricatures for daily and weekly press constituted much of his career thereafter.
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Advertising, ''scientific illustration'' and work on animated movies were also part of his workload at some point or another, and Silva illustrated several children's books—the first, titled Grandma's Book, he wrote and illustrated—but these were prior to any serious artistic consideration to ballpoint pens.
Silva spent years ''drawing all types of other things and experimenting with many types of mediums,'' and tells us his knowledge of color is ''the result of previous experience mixing color with mediums such as colored pencils, gouache and acrylics.'' He mixes ballpoint color in similar ways, taking advantage of the translucency of ballpoint ink—''The viscosity of the ink allows for a tremendous amount of nuance, depending on pressure applied,'' he says of layering colors in delicately crosshatched pen strokes. Silva enjoys the ''mechanical feel '' of ballpoint pens. He uses Staedtler, Pelican, Paper Mate, even Staples brands of ballpoints, but he considers the Bic Cristal his favorite, stating ''it delivers the paradigm of ballpoint pen drawing pleasure.'' Continues on HEADLINES 2 page ...
In the photorealist work of Portuguese artist Luis Silva, ballpoint pen artwork can be discussed in terms of 'make' and 'model' along with color and composition. Car Talk. Gear heads meet the wine and cheese crowd, and you're just as likely to overhear 'Check out the chrome on that '53 Chevy!' as you would 'Great mix of blues and greens! ' among their chatter. Silva is not only beautifully reproducing his subject matter with photorealist flair, but he is using the relatively limited palette of available ballpoint pen colors to depict them in as full-color as one can get, meaning although the cars are the main attraction, color is still very much part of the conversation.
Photorealism is nothing new to ballpoint pen art; neither is full color, nor the combination of the two—Allan Barbeau literally wrote the book on the subject in 2011, and even Juan Francisco Casas has been setting aside his blue Bics and showing full-color capabilities. But the full color photorealistic combo is ballpointing's new 'wow' factor. The amount of ballpointers using that combination successfully to achieve full color is still just as limited as the colors they're using, but Silva is proving himself a master, upping the ante and setting the bar high for ballpoint photorealists to come.
PENNAME by R. Bell & B. Neufeld posted September 8, 2018
Auto Motives・Luis Silva Villa do Conde, Portugal
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