NEW Exhibit B: Ballpoint pens share quality screen time with DiCaprio in Sam Mendes' 2009 film Revolutionary Road. Near the end of the film, explaining to his wife (Titanic costar Kate Winslet) about a newfangled computer his company is producing, DiCaprio sketches its basic design onto a napkin in ballpoint to show her. (DiCaprio or stunt hands?) And...
Art Projects International (API) in March announced via social media that the ballpoint drawing BL-092 by Mr. Lee, whom they rep, had been published as the cover of Dalla Misura Delle Stelle (pictured), a posthumous collection of poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). To Mr. Lee we offer our congratulations. The Ballpointer remains an ardent supporter of his work. His ballpoint 'mark-making' is genuinely worthy of respect. API, however, is a separate case …
In response to our inquiry for a few simple facts about the art and its use as a book cover came a lame 'too busy', having not even heard any of the questions. Considering the questions submitted in a follow-up 'just in case you can spare a minute' email, questions answerable without even bothering the artist (the size of the original artwork, how did it end up as the cover of this book, et al), API staff must be too busy to even breath. Our sympathy goes out to them. Surely an intern could've been assigned 15 minutes to deal with us in the same way I was left to deal with it here. Speaking of '15 minutes', I recall overhearing Andy Warhol paraphrase himself that 'even 15 minutes of fame is worth a minute of pandering'. And promotional consideration for Rilke and his book? API secured payment for the book cover art, job well done. Sales support must not have been part of the deal.
To API's credit, replying to us at all is at least a step up from ignoring inquiries altogether, which has thus far been the case—one-way communication—but everyone knows 'too busy' is the intelligence-insulting equivalent to a grade schooler's my dog ate the homework. In business, it's having your secretary call you away during a meeting. No one is ever that busy, they just don't want to deal with you. Polite rudeness.
Ballpointer editors have experience with ignored inquiries and reps who could be described as so stiff you can snap a ballpoint pen in half by the clench of their buttocks, so we'll get over it. In fairness, the API rep in question did comment that our 'project' (The Ballpointer) 'sounds quite interesting'. But wait; 'project'? Silly us, five years thinking we were providing an actual service disseminating news about ballpoint art to thousands of readers worldwide・
Exhibit E: DeNiro, meanwhile, was again in close proximity to ballpoints in 2013: in Luc Besson's The Family, parodying his famous mobster portrayals in films by... Scorcese ! As reported here, the son of DeNiro's character is shown using a 4-color Bic at school, as are all other students in his class. The film, by the way, was executive-produced by none other than... say it with me: Scorrrceeeseee ! To be continued...?・
OFF TOPIC Points of interest in the arts, from elsewhere on the internet
The Report: Aging elbow-rubber and chronicler of the 1970s, 80s and 90s celeb social circuit Haden-Guest was fishing for a timely topic to chime in on and he found one in Outsider Art. Although he touches on some valid points, the article is provided no space for him to actually go anywhere with it. Just lots of name dropping — Henry Darger, Adolf Wolfi, Joe Coleman — enough to prove he may still know what he's talking about.
The Point: Usage of ballpoint pens to create art has its own outsider element of which Haden-Guest is either unaware or wasn't provided enough space to touch upon. But his closing statement about the "surge of faux, unfelt Outsiderism into the marketplace" hits a nail on the head. Whatever will cover the high cost of an art-star lifestyle and expensive gallery space; a Jeff Koons exhibition of ballpoint PEN tings would fit that description. B. Neufeld
Associated Press・Detroit police issue warrant for street artist Fairey artwork・June 25, 2015
The Report: Shepard Fairey, ''who created the Hope poster that came to symbolize President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign'' vandalized buildings across Detroit, and ''would be arrested if he returns to Detroit and doesn't turn himself in ''. Fame ''does not take away the fact that he is also a vandal '', a police sergeant is quoted as saying.
The Point: Indeed, this is still what it takes to be considered 'cool' in the 21st century. Personally, I 'Hope ' he's made an example of. R. Bell
Newsweek・Fox Channel Blurs Out Breasts on Picasso Painting・Lucy Westcott・May 15, 2015
The Report: Pablo Picasso's The Women of Algiers (1955) broke the record for most expensive work of art to sell at auction, but apparently had its bare nipples blurred during a news report of the sale.
The Point: Considering Picasso's cubist painting style, the only way an impressionable mind would even recognize 'nipples' is if someone told them they were nipples, and the only way they would consider nipples bad would be if someone taught them they were bad. Apparently someone at Fox must've been cut off from mother's milk too soon and still holds a grudge. B. Neufeld
BBC NEWS (UK)・Painting sale sets $300m record・Feb 7, 2015
The Report: Paul Gaugain's Nafea fas ipoipo? (1892) was privately sold for $300 million to an unidentified buyer in Qatar.
The Point: That same amount of money could... A: Buy 300 works of art for a million dollars each. B: Buy a million artworks for 300 dollars each. C: Feed the unfed of the world. D: Wipe my ass 300 million times at a buck a wipe. E: All of the above. B. Neufeld
Elizabeth Renzetti・Oct 17, 2014
The Report: The 'godfather of punk' says he'd have to ''tend bars between sets'' if he had to live off of royalties from his music alone, because 'everyone wants to listen' but 'no one wants to pay'.
The Point: The important matter of artistic value in the easy-access digital age. Visual artists face the same challenge. O. Lebron
The Report : Originating from the UK and operated by Epilepsy Action, National Doodle Day is a fundraising event to benefit ''600,000 people in the UK living with epilepsy''.
The Point : Epilepsy! Donate a doodle, buy a doodle or learn how you can get involved in other ways. O. Lebron
Daily Mail Online (UK)・As prices for Damien Hirst's works plummet, pity the credulous saps who spent fortunes on his tosh・November, 2012
The Report : Auction prices for Damien Hirst artworks are falling and some are being withdrawn unsold, circumstances cheered by the proudly biased (''Finally...!'') writer of the article (Ruth Dudley Edwards?).
The Point : At the time of Hirst's rise as darling of the art world (mid/late-1990s), suckers still speculated on art-as-trophy-investment. What's happened since then is a fine example of what happens when the now-proverbial 'wow factor ' is all you have. After the thrill is gone, someone is bound to notice: ''Uhm, it's a shark. In a tank... Isn't that what Museums of Natural History or aquariums are for ?''. It's just as much the fault of the media for reporting about such bull-shit-artists in the first place. B. Neufeld
Exhibit A: In Steven Spielberg's 2002 film Catch Me If You Can, DiCaprio plays a career con man. As reported here, ballpoint pens were among the tools of his trade, used to alter the fine printing on bank checks. The Leo/ballpoint link was an isolated incident at that time, so no suspicions arose. But...
BALLPOINTBRIEF by B. Neufeld posted May 2, 2019
'Busy ' Signal・X・
This was passed down to me from my Ballpointer higher-ups, what would've been a book review of sorts; a book judged by its cover. That would've been a good thing in this case, a love letter in the offing—the book cover in question, after all, bore art by none other than ballpoint elder Il Lee—but due to a lack of cooperation, you get me instead, left to judge that book not by its cover but by its cover artist's representatives. Followers of The Ballpointer who actually pay attention may already know that when something is handed down to me, well ...
For more art & info about Mace's New Year Cards, visit www.lenniemace.com or contact the artist directly : firstname.lastname@example.org.
The arrival of December brings to The Ballpointer staff the now-annual anticipation of seeing the next installment of Lennie Mace’s New Year Card series, which the artist has been allowing us to help promote by sharing with readers for the past several years. Mace was late with this year’s card creation and therefore late getting it to us, but we are proud to finally present this better-late-than-never peek at it along with some insight from the esteemed ballpointer himself. ‘’I wasn’t sure whether I’d even create a card this year, but there are a lot of people who’ve come to look forward to it, and I do actually consider the cards part of my ‘job’,’’ Mace explained by email. ‘’But the decision to go ahead with it came late so, for me, it became kind of a rush-job.’’
Mace’s New Year Card designs have run the gamut from simple, caricaturish depictions (Year of the Boar is a good example of that, among others) to complex, artfully presented compositions (Year of the Snake and Year of the Rooster, among others, are good examples). This year, even as a self-described ‘rush job’, Mace went over the top, in the process adding a few ‘firsts’ to his lineage of card designs. Year of the Ox marks the first time he has included a human counterpart with the animals, which he’d traditionally depicted alone. ‘’I was back-&-forth about whether to include the rider or not. She was part of my initial concept sketch but at one point I decided I wouldn’t include her. I bounced back from that decision, obviously, which also meant more drawing time in the end.’’
BALLPOINTBRIEF by E. Lee posted January 9, 2021
TEXT begin 12pt ...
All but the keenest viewers may have missed the many ballpoint pen cameos on screens big and small over the years. Ballpoints are regulars in Hollywood productions, and not just as set dressing...
Six Degrees of Ballpoint Pen
What's with Leonardo DiCaprio and ballpoint pens? Links between the two have accumulated over the years. Let's review some compelling connections, old and new...
Masked Ox, 2020 (Nov-Dec) Year of the Ox 2021, 5.25 x 7.5'' (13 x 19cm)
ballpoint pen on paper. © Lennie Mace.
Mace’s Year of the Ox (or Cow) card for 2021 marks the eleventh in what he has started referring to as his ‘first round’ of the cards constituting the twelve animals of the Chinese calendar. 2020 was the Year of the Rat (or Mouse) and 2022 will bring the Year of the Tiger and the final of the first round of twelve. After the Tiger comes the Rabbit, which is where Mace started around 12 years ago. (The official ‘cycle’ of animals actually begins with the mouse but Mace’s decision to start creating the card series did not coincide with that.) The artist is unsure about whether he’ll begin a second series of twelve cards thereafter, but told me that if he did decide to continue he might settle on a recurring motif or style throughout the series, unlike the current series which follows no pattern, just Mace’s whim at the time of the card art's creation.
Customer demand shouldn’t be a problem. Even with this year’s delay in production and promotion, he tells me, ‘’Sales went well, with positive reactions from customers and recipients !’’ Mace was even surprised to receive one of his own cards himself, from a special patron, and referred to it as ‘’another first for my New Year cards!’’ Mace had been selling the cards via his own mailing list compiled from exhibition guest books, but for the past several years the cards have also been sold in select shops around Japan (with some help from PR in The Ballpointer), but the delay in production came too late for distribution to stores. Knowing that, Mace didn’t have as many cards printed as usual but, even so, neared ‘sellout ’ status. He points out last year’s Minnie Mace (Year of the Mouse) card as fastest to sell out (even though he also had reservations about that design), beating the sellout record set by his Year of the Dragon card in 2012 ・
Related news... The Ballpointer had been publishing 'feature' articles only with the direct participation of the artists, but in 2019 we will initiate an editorial shift and publish with or without featured artists' participation or blessing. As an online journal reporting about the usage of ballpoint pens to create fine art, we are quite simply within our rights to publish as we see fit about the activities of artists doing so. It was only as a courtesy that we solicited artist involvement in the first place, expecting that artists would, if not initially, at some point be happy to speak to media with very specific knowledge of their chosen medium. Over time it became suspicious that an artist using ballpoints (i.e. Il Lee, or his 'reps') wouldn't talk with us, effectively making The Ballpointer seem ignorant—or worse, exclusionary—by not writing about artists whom everyone knows exist but whom have not yet been featured ・
NEW Exhibit D: In Scorcese's 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, DiCaprio uses ballpoint pens to gauge sales skills in two scenes which bookend his character's nefarious story arc. Early in the film, he hands a ballpoint to an old pal: ''Sell me this pen.'' The friend grabs the pen: ''Do me a favor, write your name down on that napkin,'' he snaps back. ''I don't have a pen," replies DiCaprio. ''I rest my case,'' the friend cockily retorts. Hosting a sales seminar in the film's closing scene, DiCaprio asks several front row attendees the same: ''Sell me this pen.'' None fare as well as the old pal.
Exhibit C: Ballpoints made a dramatic cameo in Martin Scorcese's 1995 film Casino. As reported here, a gangster played by Joe Pesce repeatedly jabs one into the neck of a bar patron who insulted Robert DeNiro's character, who quietly watches. As you may know, DiCaprio in recent years has replaced DeNiro as Scorcese's go-to leading man, filling roles which would've once gone to the veteran. For example...
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It’s also the first time Mace has hinted at any real-world conditions in any of his New Year designs — in this case the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, directly referenced by the inclusion of surgical masks and an acrylic partition between rider and ox. Mace admitted to some apprehension as to how this year’s card art would go over with its intended audience, worried that everyone might be experiencing the same kind of Covid overkill as he's been feeling. ‘’Still also not sure how I feel about the combination of overall artiness with the addition of that humorous shit-eating grin on the ox’s mask,’’ said the always colorfully quotable artist.
‘’The rider, by the way, is not quite finished,’’ Mace was quick to point out, as if to deflect (unnecessarily) any potential questions of quality. ‘’And viewers might not recognize it unless they were told but, neither is the whole piece, overall, not by my own standards of perfection or satisfaction.’’ (For the record, I had to be told.) ‘’I just had to call it ‘finished-enough’ at one point and get the art to the printer ! I’d like to go deeper with inking the ox’s torso, play a little more with the patterned gradations from black-purples to purple-reds. What’ll happen is I’ll continue working on it afterward, which is what usually happens anyway as long as any of my work remains in my hands and unframed.’’ Unwarranted uneasiness is uncharacteristic of Mace, but it’s always nice to be reminded that master ballpointers are also mere mortals ; - )
‘’There are also legs to the bottom of the ox, or a chess piece-like base, which I hadn’t completed but were always planned to be cropped from the card print anyway,’’ Mace continued about what might be in store for his Masked Ox. ‘’And there’s a lot of blank space leftover on the page outside of what you see in the card.
I have various ideas for those spaces.’’ Artwork initially drawn with the background left white often get later attention from the artist. In this case I believe Mace is talking about filling remaining space with actual
drawing, but in recent years he has begun going back to those blank spaces with his ink-less pen to fill in those white backgrounds as with his Invisible Ink series; drawing and writing only visible on the page when lit from extreme angles.
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