Someday, someone else will list the accomplishments of The Ballpointer annually, but, seeing as all involved had doubts as to whether the site would even make it through a year, much less become the crown jewel of our fledgling empire, please bear with us as we bask in our own glory. OK, year-end timeline lists of accomplishments are usually lame. As publishers, we promise to never do this again. That said, allow us to remind you why we're here, lest you forget. A True Story…
October, 2012: An alcohol fueled discussion during an after-party following the opening reception of an exhibition featuring ballpoint pen artwork turns to questions of why, especially by 2012, mass media continue to report about ballpoint pen art as if it was a brand new concept. Part of that discussion went something like this…
Drinker No.1: ''Any source referring to ballpoint pen art as something new only shows how ignorant they are and how little they researched their subject.''
Drinker No. 2: ''Did you notice there's a wikipedia page for ballpoint pen art?''
Drinker No. 1: ''Oh, you mean where that one idiot proclaims himself God's gift to ballpoint by virtue of the millions of drawings he uploaded on the in'ernet?''
Drinker No. 3: ''I saw that. The nut reckons he's making history and leading some kind of movement .''
Drinker No. 1: ''Yeah, made history for all the bad drawings he uploaded!'' (Laughter all around )
Drinker No. 3: ''Right? Leader of a bowel movement, maybe!'' (More laughter )
Drinker No. 2: ''No, no, I mean, yeah, that's the one, but someone at wikipedia gave the page a reboot. Not bad.''
Drinker No. 3 ''All of history is now being Wiki-fied, and plenty getting lost in the shuffle. 'Cause, y'know, history hadn't happened until the internet came along.''
Drinker No.1 ''Why don't one of you writerboys publish something definitive about ballpoint pen art? Set the record straight!''
One common denominator of early ballpointers has never been discussed. Artists employing the pens, pre-internet, challenged themselves with mastery of the medium as if they were truly the lone explorer blazing new trails. Unbeknownst to each other — in the same way isolated civilizations flourished independently, languages evolved and traditions established — all the while as like-minded individuals did the same in their own distant corners of the world, using what was readily available, mostly out of convenience. Each became the talk of their respective towns; the pride of their families, praised for their art innovation. Then came the internet to show them they were not alone. Soon enough, ballpointers were coming out of the woodwork. It was entertaining to watch as claims were staked, each one jostling to position themselves as The First, The Best or The One And Only. ''I did it in 2010.'' Y'don't say. ''I was doing it in 2005.'' I see. ''I started in 1997.'' If you say so. (Ballpoint pens have been around since the 1930s.) Web-surfers, couch potatoes and the Art-Uneducated of the world ate up the viral over-emphasis and hyped-up self-promotion of bandwagon ballpointers, which blurred the bigger picture and dulled the impact of art until ballpoint replications of snapshots downloaded from the internet were declared masterpieces and the office clerk who drew them dubbed a genius. News is prone to bouts of entertainment and even the internet doesn't always get it right, but the facts usually catch up with the fiction.
December, 2013: Newly formed Mahozawari Unlimited jumps into the overcrowded online publishing pool and celebrates with a launch party for its first site. Random congratulatory toasts shouted back and forth across the room that evening were interspersed with suggestions for new websites. ''How 'bout one for the ballpointers of the world?!'' shouted one partygoer, drink held high. Little did partygoer know the subject was already under consideration.
Now it had a name. The Ballpointers.
October, 2014: As other early Mahozawari sites languished in internet limbo — some failing, others soldiering on — theballpointer.com debuts as a one page ''teaser '' edition. Among the introductory content is a ballpoint art overview meant to commence a monthly editorial, but even by the first official edition (Nov 2014) it was decided that every page of every subsequent edition will essentially act as an editorial entry. Missing the Ball Point continues to run indefinitely on the PICKS page as crib notes for newcomers. The teaser edition also introduced readers to ballpoint art by László Bíró, whose innovations perfected ballpoint technology, and to whom every aspiring ballpointer and dorm room doodler owes a debt of gratitude. At least a tip of the Bic. Founding Father? and Bíró's drawing also continue to run in every edition, on the BULLPEN page alongside our list of active, notable ballpoint artists worldwide... Continued below
Since 2014・Volume 5
FEBRUARY 2015 Shirish Deshpande Belgaum, India
First Ferry 2014, ballpoint pen on handmade paper, 10 x 14'' (shown cropped). Artwork © Shirish Deshpande
PENNAMES by R. Bell, O. Lebron & B. Neufeld originally posted November 2, 2015
A Year in The Pen・The Ballpointer Nov 2014 ~ Nov 2015
DECEMBER 2014 Shane McAdams Brooklyn, New York
Cloudslinger 2014, ballpoint pen, oil & resin on panel, 48 x 48'' (shown cropped). Artwork © Shane McAdams
OCTOBER 2015 Satrio Arimbat Ardho Java, Indonesia
Aug 22-25, 2015 (work-in-progress facebook post), ballpoint pen on paper, shown cropped. Artwork © Satrio Arimbat Ardho
JUNE 2015 Andrey Poletaev Lugansk, Ukraine
Kiev January 2015, ballpoint pen on paper, 36 x 42cm (14 x 17''), shown cropped. Artwork © Andrey Poletaev
APRIL 2015 James Mylne London, England
Natalia 2014, Torn series, ballpoint pen, spray paint, marker, ripped Giclee prints and Krink on paper, 75 x 93cm (29 x 36''), shown cropped. Artwork © James Mylne
NOVEMBER 2014 Serhiy Kolyada Kiev, Ukraine
The Theory for Origins 2012, ballpoint pen on panel, 56 x 41 cm (shown cropped). © Serhiy Kolyada
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.
TB kept up providing feature exposure, in some cases the first formal coverage of formative careers, to a string of deserving artists who'd already been exceeding their local audiences via social media networking. Allan Barbeau's usage of full ballpoint color to create photorealist portraiture is among the finest of its kind, and Barbeau is literally writing the book on it. Barbeau published a how-to in his native French language and is still working on an English version for the rest of the world. We hear he's in need of translators who can spare some time; entrer en contact ! An album cover art commission was among the highlights of Barbeau's year. Otherwise, when he's not too busy raising a family, he's got a waiting list for portrait work, although just as often in colored pencil these days ...
Another talented ballpointer emerged in 2015 from amidst the rubble and trouble of Eastern Ukraine, though Andrey Poletaev doesn't allow either to appear in his artwork. Poletaev's cityscape series, featured in TB 's June edition, instead shows unfamiliar views of familiar cities while showing off the artist's handling of architecture and infrastructure in ballpoint pen. Poletaev remains in his homeland facing ongoing hardship, but his artwork has recently been saved from potential danger. Friends in the USA have helped bring his artwork to safety, and are now shopping it around to generate support from interested galleries and collectors.
In July The Ballpointer also returned to India, presenting M.I. Shaikh from Mumbai. Shaikh works mostly in black ballpoint, and other ink mediums, to create expressive figurative artwork with a flair for tones and textures. Shaikh has fallen out of contact since his July feature, but TB looks forward to presenting exclusive coverage of his next exhibition in December 2016, as the artist promised. If Shaikh sticks to his plan, expect to see portrayals of Mumbai City in ballpoint pen from photos taken by Shaikh himself.
The Ballpointer found the medium flourishing under many guises all over Southeast Asia, in well-known art centers and unlikely locales. In Hong Kong, Peter Ross' background in architecture and a lifetime of inspiration from both traditional Chinese iconography and Western art merge on paper through the artist's unique blend of black ballpoint and painted washes for color. Ross remains architecturally active as a freelancer but now spends more of his time producing artwork for exhibition and commerce. Decorative elements he was commissioned to create for Hong Kong's 2015 Classic Car Show are a fine example of all-the-above.
Meanwhile in Central Java, Indonesia, social media exposure carries Satrio Arimbat Ardho from his isolated environs to a worldwide audience. Ardho's facebook entries form a silent how-to for anyone paying close enough attention. Our art department brought innovation to theballpointer.com by initiating a slideshow layout which compliments Ardho's work-in-progress social media posts.
November, 2015: The Ballpointer celebrates one year of reporting what we know to be the finest examples of ballpoint pen artwork, created by true artists employing the pens as their chosen, or at least preferred, art medium. TB gained the respect of ballpoint aficionados by sharing information which the artists themselves were kind enough to share with us; their backgrounds, both artistic and personal, what drives them, and the qualities which make their output worthy of coverage. Having formed friendships with most of the medium's acclaimed practitioners and maintaining correspondence with them, The Ballpointer, by all accounts, is going strong. By mid-year theballpointer.com was averaging 2500+ visitors per month, all without having formally announced our existence to art world media at large and having yet to reach optimum operating performance. Our to-do list is too-long and disappointments compete with achievements, but , If we never make it to year two, we will still have accomplished more than enough.
And if you have made it through this recap, The Ballpointer thanks you; you're our kind of reader, and this site is for you. Supportive readers have called theballpointer.com the ''number one'' website covering ballpoint pen art but, in all fairness, it's the only one. Overzealous viral reporting of ballpoint art and talks of a 'movement ' attracted our interest just as it had attracted the interest of art lovers worldwide, but we arrived with real world experience and level-headed knowledge to correct discrepancies in the heretofore sensationalist coverage, and placed ourselves in direct contrast to the ''Cool, dude,'' social media mentality and short attention spans so prevalent these days.
JULY 2015 M.I. Shaikh Mumbai, India
Untitled 14 November 2013, ballpoint pen on paper, 31 x 46cm (12 x 18''), shown cropped. Artwork © M.I. Shaikh
SEPTEMBER 2015 Lennie Mace PICKS SPECIAL New York City via Tokyo, Japan
CosPlayStation:2011 2006-2011, ballpoint pen & cut vinyl decals on paper, 146 x 103cm (57.5 x 40.5''), shown cropped. Artwork © Lennie Mace/THE LAB
AUGUST 2015 Peter Ross Hong Kong
Mongkok 2014, ballpoint pen, gouache & pencil on watercolor paper, 30 x 30cm (12 x 12''), shown cropped. Artwork © Peter Ross
MAY 2015 Allan Barbeau Dublin, Ireland
Bouche Bisous 2011, ballpoint pen on paper, 23 x 21cm (10 x 8''), shown cropped. Artwork © Allan Barbeau
MARCH 2015 Lennie Mace Tokyo, Japan
Goat Gal (Goat 1 of 4) 2014, ballpoint pen & ''dry'' ballpoint pen on paper, shown cropped. Artwork © Lennie Mace/THE LAB
PENNAME Feature Article ARCHIVES 2015
Continued from above... At the insistence of our young, hipster art director, The Ballpointer facebook page is also operating by the end of October (2014) but only as a platform to announce new content on the website and other timely news between monthly editions, not to lasso likes.
In November, The Ballpointer expanded to three pages as Vol.1 No.1 featuring the ballpoint artwork of Serhiy Kolyada; a crash course on the artist, his early involvement in the Ukrainian Revolution and how his artwork fits into it. Kolyada's artwork has since been included in a Swiss exhibition of Ukrainian artists benefitting people affected by ongoing conflict in that region, and allotted a full chapter in a book documenting the revolution. STAR POINTS, an immediate reader favorite which debuted in October's teaser, returned as a full column on the BACKPAGE, where Kaji Rie continues to document ballpoint ''cameos '' in Hollywood productions.
By January, 2015, page count grew to include CULTURED (Nov 2014), the BULLPEN artist roster (Dec), and the FORUM page with its now-infamous THINK column by Bruce Neufeld. Divisive views from the man with ''no filter '' continue to attract a love-hate following among readers (and subjects ?). The PICKS page, originally intended to be a facebook-only segment showcasing artwork uploaded there (Dec 2014) also became a page of its own in January, presenting individual works of ballpoint art by artists at various stages of their careers and letting the artists speak for themselves.
Pen Blows, Sharpie Landscapes and other ink manifestations of Shane McAdams kicked off 2015's PENNAME features. McAdams' originals went on to reach many audiences throughout the year, featured in multiple group and solo exhibitions across midwest USA, including museum appearances. McAdams now splits his time between Brooklyn and Wisconsin, where he took a position teaching a university-level art course.
The Ballpointer took readers to rural India in February, presenting Shirish Deshpande and his ballpoint portrayals of the region. Deshpande reports a lull in recent ballpoint productivity, but a series of cityscapes is said to be in the works.
March, 2015: The LAB page debuts, studying and reporting the affects of interior and exterior light on ballpoint pen ink. The most informative finding from SWATCHWATCH ink testing confirms what should be obvious: the difference proximity to sunlight makes in determining longevity of ink color, which can be a simple matter of angle or mere inches. Detailed findings from that first round of testing (Feb 28—Jun 30, 2015) will be presented in February, 2016, along with the start of a second round. Our list of considerations for proper display of ballpoint artwork, a matter of importance to artists and art collectors alike, is quite possibly the first of its kind and perhaps TB 's greatest contribution to the community. Meanwhile the bounce around the globe continued...
Tokyo correspondent E. Lee brought The Ballpointer its first timely review of ballpoint art on display by visiting Lennie Mace's Invisible Ink exhibition (Feb 2015). It recorded a first for Mace, too, who dedicated the exhibition to a technique he'd been quietly employing for years, using empty ballpoints to literally draw nothing and inky fingerprints exposing key elements of his blank indentations. Mace's Japanglish 101 single-panel funnies began appearing online in 2015 and now also appear in select Japanese publications.
The Ballpointer featured Mace's artwork again more recently, this time from the USA (Sept ), where a selection of artwork Mace created in Japan over previous few years went on display for the first time in New York City. The PICKS SPECIAL was the first of a new feature spotlighting specific works of art, in this case Mace's CosPlayStation:2011, a large-scale ballpoint masterpiece exemplifying the best of the medium. But the project gaining most publicity for the ballpoint elder late-2015 has nothing to do with ballpoints. Mace is transforming an old Japanese factory into a hand-crafted art ''castle '' of some kind, and TB will scoop the story in an upcoming edition. Extra, extra, read all about it !
The Ballpointer next spoke at length with James Mylne (April ) and presented an in-depth look at how the UK artist's ballpoint usage had evolved over the previous year. Mylne's early photorealist work influenced his generation of ballpointers, but he upped the ante beginning in 2014 with a series of ballpoint and mixed media works baring more pointed views, a progression which continues. Mylne's new Samsara & The City, a large-scale incarnation of his ballpoint and mixed-media, will be the subject of TB 's second PICKSSPECIAL in the December edition.