"A lot of the buildings
you see in my work
are general buildings
you walk by on the street. They are
pretty old. The jumble of air-con units, washing lines,
random window frames and filled-in balconies (pictured),
I think they best represent peoples' impact on buildings
and the relationship between us and the city. They create a
visual pattern-work that evolved over time. It wasn't master-planned.
I find the state and quality of development recently, especially in Asia, quite
upsetting. It seems to be tipping more towards economics more than anything else. Design often takes a back seat."
Ross was born in Hong Kong in 1985 to British parents, making him a card-carrying permanent resident; what was once
known as belonger status. He only occasionally returns to the UK for visits. "It's a slightly odd situation where now,
according to the local Chinese, I am not 'local' but at the same time not an expat. It's this very feeling of identity and
belonging that I want to try and explore through my work and I think, hopefully, resonates with quite a few people."
Speech therapy for a childhood stutter indirectly prevented him from learning the language (Cantonese), except for
some basics. "It was thought it might hinder my english," explains Ross, but this also indirectly seems to have had
positive effects. "I think having speech difficulties also drew me more towards arts and visual representation. Visual
communication. 'A picture's worth a thousand words'. Apparently my ability to process information is a bit cross-wired and
my learning is extremely visual."
Art and Peter Ross have, therefore, been lifelong friends; art classes throughout his upbringing, even an art scholarship
to high school. "When I was very small my mum used to take me around art museums and galleries, which probably had
an impact on me. I think Chinese ink landscape paintings have been quite a big influence on me as well. I was a bit of an
art history geek at school. I made my way through most styles, artistically. Surrealism, age 12; Pop art, age 14; Futurism, age 15. Spray paint, mud, ash, charcoal; I even experimented painting with smoke at one point. So I like to think I've had a pretty generous artistic upbringing." He recalls an incident at university, "At one point I was told I couldn't draw and should stick to computer graphics instead… pretty funny to look back on now."
Ross readily admits that not speaking Chinese sometimes presents difficulties, but adds, "The great thing about Hong Kong is that there are so many nationalities and cultures co-existing here." With such a wealth of influences at his disposal, Ross's artwork is refreshingly clear of the kind of cliche'd Asian imagery so fashionable these days. No Kung Fu fighters or the video game graphics they inspire. Instead, lots of classic artistry. Junk boats and rickshaw, but not as you've seen before. Maturity as opposed to
pop culture fluff. "I try to bring all these ideas forward by playing with different layers and contrasting abstract shapes with
detail in an attempt to suggest there is more behind the façade. I’m striving to deliver something that can be visually
appealing, but also, on a subconscious level, provoking."
Ross was a grade school doodler but claims his first real ballpoint drawings began at the age of 18 when he started
traveling, the pens' portability making them easy to tote. As Ross now sees it, using such a "universal tool " as an art
medium also makes his artwork more accessible to general audiences; no art background necessary to connect with it.
"My work explores the connection between people and place, so it's important to me for the work to have a similar
connection with people." As for Ross's drawing practices, "I try to always shade in the natural direction of what I'm shading,
following the lines of the object. By playing with these lines you can even make the subject more expressive. I try to avoid cross hatching but tend to use that technique sometimes when drawing skin or cloth to give a slightly different effect. I use newer pens
for lighter shading, the reason being I find once a pen has been used quite a bit the delivery system can become damaged,
causing it to be more prone to blotting or seizing up. Apart from that I simply draw it as I see it. I also sometimes use an eraser,
as although obviously ballpoint can't be rubbed out I've found it can be lightened. Sometimes, although very rarely, I use
a scalpel blade if I get an ink spot."
But first come the spoons, and strategically applied acrylic washes. "Ballpoint drawing for me represents a very controlled,
almost regimented practice and is a craft in itself. I like the idea of challenging it with something more organic and unpredictable.
I wanted to combine ballpoint drawing with a different style to play on a contrast between old and new, detail and abstract.
The spoon is a way of controlling the wash but there is always an element of unpredictability. I generally tip the wash by
propping a broom under a wooden board so it drips, with the intention of creating an illusion of fog. I've used spray paint
in the past, as well, but not very successfully. The wash comes first, then I compose the buildings within the 'cloud';
quite a lengthy process, as I get quite fussy about what works and what doesn't. An average piece takes roughly
one to two weeks, depending on size and quality, including paint and compositional planning, etc." Ross also hints
at use of screen printing in the future, something he'd done in school. "I'm interested in it as a way to
portray repetitive images; the idea of copy-paste buildings and clone cities. Just something I thought
might be fun to play around with."
If you're ever walking the streets of HongKong and notice a fair-skinned fellow with fiery red hair appreciating the aging architecture more than the average passerby, you've probably found PeterRoss. You wouldn't know it but Ross is in fact a born-and-bred Hong Konger himself, and he knows that aging architecture well. A member of both the Architect's Registration Board and Royal Institute of British Architects, Ross has put in time working on large-scale projects as an architect for reputable firms. He still takes on architectural work as a freelancer working from home but now splits his time between that and his black biros, juggling private and commercial commissions. Now he can draw throughout the day as opposed to losing sleep by drawing after-hours. Says Ross, "I'm actually working more as an artist with a bit of architecture on the side. I am very fortunate to have a local gallery that keeps me involved in group shows and art fairs, which is great." Architecture naturally features within Ross's ballpoint artwork. Buildings appearing through, and framed by, cloud-like compositional arrangements (pictured ) are genuinely Hong Kong and genuinely Peter Ross.
Serhiy Kolyada Kiev, Ukraine
Conflict and corruption feed commentary; key ingredients for intriguing art. Awareness may be the ultimate goal, but one must first actually care enough to spread the word. Serhiy Kolyada cares. His key ingredient is ink, and his Lifescapes serve up a spicy blend of commentary and criticism peppered with politicians and prostitutes. Brothels and consumer brands form his artistic broth, but Kolyada's compositional stew is his strength. Art as something to chew on...
The Theory for Origins 2012, ballpoint pen on panel, 56 x 41 cm (shown cropped). © Serhiy Kolyada
Shirish Deshpande Belgaum, India
In a land of over a billion people rich with artisans and craftspeople, it should come as no surprise that ballpoint pen artwork can be found in India, and, in the atmospheric landscapes, decorative still lives and other stylish compositions of Shirish Deshpande, ballpoint art is also well-represented...
First Ferry 2014, ballpoint pen on handmade paper, 10 x 14''
artwork © Shirish Deshpande
Lennie Mace Tokyo, Japan
This must be the wrong exhibition. Lennie Mace is, after all, known for colorfully detailed, elaborately composed ballpoint artwork, but no such artwork is on display here;
only blank sheets of paper,
Goat Gal (Goat 1 of 4) 2014,
ballpoint pen & ''dry'' ballpoint pen
on paper, shown cropped. An example of ''colorfully detailed'' Mace,
showing usage of ''dry pen'' patterns.
artwork © Lennie Mace/THE LAB
James Mylne London, England
Britain's premier ballpointer James Mylne has undergone as conspicuous and ambitious a developmental arc as one artist could experience within such a relatively short span of time. Mylne readily admits the "shift"; conscious steps beyond earlier, straightforward photorealism...
Natalia 2014, Torn series
ballpoint pen, spray paint, marker, ripped Giclee prints and Krink on paper, 75 x 93cm (29 x 36''),
artwork © James Mylne
Allan Barbeau Dublin, Ireland
For every artist out on the front lines gunning for art world credibility, there are another hundred going about their business in quiet satisfaction. Overzealous art school grads and masochistic spotlight junkies willingly place themselves in the line of fire for the kind of rejection which comes with that territory. Those with more modest needs and their own barometer of what constitutes "success" could care less. Among them is Allan Barbeau...
Bouche Bisous 2011, ballpoint pen on paper, 23 x 21cm (10 x 8''), shown cropped. artwork © Allan Barbeau
PENNAME by O. Lebron Originally posted August 1, 2015. Condensed from a two-page Feature
Belonger Peter Ross・Hong Kong
PENNAME Feature Article ARCHIVES
Since 2014・Volume 5
Andrey Poletaev Lugansk, Ukraine
Andrey Poletaev can luckily travel vast distances without ever having to leave his home. Ballpoint pen in hand he can set off in any direction, as he pleases. The ability to use art as an escape to lands known-or-unknown proves how drawing skills and 'vision' are a magic combination. Imagination plays a part for many artists, but Poletaev's travels are decidedly more terrestrial. He could be logging frequent flyer mileage. And if his visual documentations thus far don't merit a diploma, he can simply draw one...
Kiev January 2015, ballpoint pen on paper, 36 x 42cm (14 x 17''), shown cropped. Artwork © Andrey Poletaev
M.I. Shaikh Mumbai, India
Some say art schools ruin the artist. Whether or not that's true is of no concern to Mr. M.I. Shaikh. ''Undoubtedly self-taught. No lessons, no mentor, no special training or formal classes,'' proclaims Shaikh. Such is the measure of talent outside of art school meccas like New York or London. Diplomas don't guarantee a prosperous career, even in New York, but not having one doesn't automatically kill ones' prospects. Not when it comes to art...
Untitled 14 November 2013, ballpoint pen on paper, 31 x 46cm (12 x 18''),
shown cropped. Artwork © M.I. Shaikh
All artwork © Peter Ross, from the top: Nimbus 1 DETAIL.
Nimbus 1 2015 ballpoint pen, acrylic & pencil on watercolor paper, 110 x 30cm (44 x 12'').
Yesterday 2014 ballpoint pen, gouache & pencil on watercolor paper, 20 x 30cm (8 x 12'').
All artwork © Peter Ross
As an active ballpointer Ross already has his region covered, receiving his fair share of local press in Hong Kong, but perhaps his biggest boost will come via cover artwork commissioned recently by Cathay Pacific for their in-flight magazine, introducing his work to a worldly audience. The printed magazine is probably in seat-back pockets this very moment, free with the price of a plane ticket. Meanwhile, Ross's originals can be seen as part of the Signal 8 Salon Summer Show on display at The Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong, between August 3rd and September 12th (2015)・
Shane McAdams Brooklyn, New York
Ballpoint pen art without the ballpoint pen? That and more from Shane McAdams, artist and closet alchemist, who literally removes the ball point from the equation by "blowing", milking or otherwise extracting ink from ballpoints and magic markers toward artistic ends. Material "deconstruction" distinguishes McAdams from most of his ballpoint peers...
Cloudslinger 2014, ballpoint pen,
oil & resin on panel, 48 x 48'' (shown cropped).
artwork © Shane McAdams