Since 2014・Volume 5

News, Reviews & Coverage of the Artists using Ballpoint Pens, the Artwork They Create, the Tools They Employ & Other Equally Newsworthy but Overlooked Art & Cultural Topics, Worldwide.


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Original content © The Ballpointer / Mahozawari Unlimited.

For those in the area who missed out on de Castro Hoyos' workshop, there may still be time to reserve a seat at another ballpoint workshop in Spain, albeit a bit farther south. New York ballpointer Nicolas V. Sanchez will spend three days teaching ''drawing in ballpoint pen, the use of color, mark making, and artist intention'' at La Galería Roja in Seville. Sanchez, who has no ties to the area (''Just a great opportunity,'' he says. ''Never been to Spain.''), will be teaching a select group of students over those three days, totaling approximately 20 hours. Reservations are necessary and there is  a fee for this workshop, which is not tied to an exhibition. The artist stresses that he will be ''teaching people to  not  draw a preliminary drawing with pencil under a ballpoint pen drawingthat's not a ballpoint pen drawing.''
     La Galería Roja, which bills itself as 'a contemporary art exhibition space and artistic studies center,' approached Sanchez about the workshop and are fully accommodating him during his stay. ''I am an art lover and I knew Nicolas' work because I am fascinated by this type of work,'' explained David Rodriguez, a co-director at the gallery. Sanchez tells us this is his second such workshop; he had also conducted one in the Dominican Republic. When asked about future workshops, Sanchez tells us that he has already received offers but La Galeria Roja is the only to have offered to cover all expenses to host one. Sanchez has no intention of broadcasting nor recording his workshops.   
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The first such workshop to come to the attention of The Ballpointer was that of Taiwanese artist Ler Huang, whose stylishly colored photorealist fashion illustrations had already been published on the website. Huang had conducted an informal workshop in 2015, which paved the way for a specialty course held weekly over two months in early 2016 at Fooyin University in Kaosiung City. As covered in a Ballpoint Brief  in Feb, 2016, approximately 20 students enrolled for Huang's  Ballpen Fashion Illustration. Taiwan's O Kin Kon pen company provided pens. Huang taught ballpoint color blending, creative thinking and basic principles in composition. One attendee of Huang's workshop began submitting her ballpoint drawings to The Ballpointer  and has become a site favorite: Ms. Chen Zhen's work appears on the PICKS  page this month for the second time.

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It used to be that the creative use of ballpoint pens was merely a by-product of classroom boredom. Most of that by-product was usually as disposable as the pens themselves, ending up as gifts to the apple of ones' eye and/or push-pinned to a wall until fading away under direct sunlight. Classroom boredom surely still exists, but I can't vouch for what youngsters of today do with it; probably spend it sneaking in social media updates. Ask anyone over the age of thirty, however—ballpointer or not—and you'll hear plenty about such humble origins begetting ballpoint genius; mini-masterpieces scratched into spiral notebooks as teacher droned on about civics or algebra (unless those subjects kept you captivated enough to  not  doodle).

    PENNAMES  by O. Lebron  posted November 14, 2017

Teacher's Pen   ArtistCountry 


Promotional art & images for the ballpoint pen drawing workshops of : Ler Huang, Taiwan2015  (top);  África Fernández de Castro Hoyos, Spain, 2017  (center); Nicolas V. SanchezSpain, 2017  (bottom). Artwork/images  ©  Respective artists

In these Autumn months of 2017, Spain is the unexpected hotspot for

aspiring ballpointers looking for guidance, with two workshops occurring within a month of each other teaching the creative application of ballpoint pens. Actually, it's not much of a surprise, given the popularity of ballpoint photorealism coming out of the region by artists such as Pepe Lozano and Juan Francisco Casas, among others. Full-color ballpoint photorealism, in fact, is a common denominator among artists conducting workshops, constituting plenty of ballpoint 'wow ' factor.

​Artist África Fernández de Castro Hoyos held a one-day ballpoint pen drawing workshop on October 19th during her ''Miradas'' ("Glances") exhibition in Zaragoza, a small but culturally rich city located halfway between Madrid and Barcelona. The exhibition ran from October 5th to November 3rd, and served as backdrop for the 2 hour workshop. The Paris-born artist displayed a selection of personal work along with commissioned portraits, all photo-realistically rendered in full ballpoint color. The venue was the Youth Library CUBIT, which makes its exhibition space available to local talent. ''It is not a public library and specializes in young people, although accessible to the general public,'' explained María Cruz Acín, director of the space. ''There is never a fee to participate,'' she added. For de Castro Hoyos' workshop, 25 people between the ages of 14 and 62 participated. ''There would have been more people,'' the director added, ''but space was limited.'' The exhibition and workshop were considered a success, and Cruz Acín hinted at the possibility of hosting more ballpoint workshops for people who were unable to enter due to limited space. BIC Iberia provided all the 4-color ballpoints attendees would need, thanks to contact by CUBIT administrators leading up to the event. A local stationary store also provided pens and other supplies.
     In promoting the workshop, CUBIT hit the ballpoint 'wow factor' nail on the head in describing the pens as ''a medium everyone has used, but known more for writing or rewinding cassette tapes than making art''. With the attraction being the creative use of an implement not thought to have any, they posed the question ''What happens when the ballpoint pen becomes a brush?'' Covering the basics of ballpointing, with a particular emphasis on mixing colors, de Castro Hoyos and her artwork provided answers. Her technique mostly consists of a kind of pointillism known as 'regatino', whereby existing colors are applied in short, sharp strokes to form even more colors. A yellow base color gives many of de Castro Hoyos' drawings their golden glow. It is also ballpoint, but, the artist explains, the color has become harder to find. She often asks friends to bring them back from travels, or has them sent from places where the color is still available.

Two decades into this overtly technological 21st century, newcomers to this comparatively primitive medium not only have heroes to aspire to, but they now also have the option of turning to a pro for pointers in fine ballpointing. With their popularity as an art medium it was inevitable that instruction of the artistic uses of ballpoint pens would arise. The Ballpointer  publishing partner Ronald Bell had even speculated the existence of such courses in an editorial published in the introductory edition of the website in 2014, postulating that ''ballpoint art classes may already be part of a curriculum somewhere''. That prophetic editorial continues to run on the PICKS  page as a kind of manifesto of ballpoint art as The Ballpointer  sees it. Lessons in advanced doodling now occur somewhat regularly; workshops where doodling is not only encouraged but the teacher has hands-on experience and is on hand to help guide yours. No need to quickly hide your doodles from these teachers.

Click on an image above to read the fully archived article.