Since 2014・Volume 4
thINK by B. Neufeld & R. Bell ・ edited by O. Lebron posted August 1, 2016
REALLY ?・Hype & 'Hyper '・Act l
With the heightened interest surrounding ballpoint pen as an art medium, the remaining blanks in ballpoint pen art history are slowly but surely being filled in. To those who have followed the medium with more than just a passing curiosity, Matt Rota's recently published book The Art of Ballpoint also helps fill in some of those blanks. To those newly introduced to the medium, the book may even be revelatory. I looked forward to reading this book and had high hopes for it, being the first of its kind. I am also all-in to support anyone writing at length about ballpoint pen art, and Rota seems to know a thing or two about it — or at least did his homework on the subject — but does he know enough about ballpoints to be the writer of the-book-that-needs-to-be-written? With his freshman foray into the world of publishing, Rota ambitiously crams three books into one; a ballpoint pen history book, a ballpoint pen art history book and a how-to book. Therein lay The Art of Ballpoint's biggest shortcoming. In being all of the above, all of the above suffer...
Diversity of photorealism appearing in ballpoint pen art・Act l
From above-left ... James Mylne (Samurai Jidai, 2008). Juan Francisco Casas (2016, detail ). Nathan Lorenzana (Re Virgin, 2016). Andrey Poletaev (Snowy New York, 2016, cropped detail ). All artwork © respective artists.
RB: You alienate more and more readers with comments like that.
BN: We're just talking here; so-very-sorry. It's the Smoke On The Water dynamic; being able to play (that song) on guitar doesn't automatically make you a rock god, and drawing your favorite celebrity in ballpoint pen doesn't make you da Vinci.
OL: Well, there are teenagers honing their skills. Some might just be happy for the attention...
BN: Yeah, fishing for popularity. No more (drinks) for you. Two voices of reason tag-teaming me here... Doing it in ballpoint pen doesn't make it any more impressive. Unless you're, like, ten (years old). You always get me repeating myself; (In his best spokesperson voice) 'Impress family, friends and coworkers'! Art preschool; even Aunt Bea can grasp it without popping a spring, if she's not humoring you from the get-go while praying you go to law school. Art at its lowest common denominator. Portraiture — Photorealism — a matter of practice, but ideally you hone the skill and move onto bigger and better things, unless you've really got the goods and your photorealism gets bigger and better.
RB: So who's impressing you lately?
BN: They all do! I can't even connect the dots with a ballpoint pen! Don't get me wrong, I'm all about diversity and the ballpointers have plenty. But keeping things in perspective is important. Mace does it all, but it's too bad he's holed-up in Japan and not as eager for attention as he once was...
RB: That's where we come in, and he's been more than generous with us.
BN: Rebecca Yanovskaya! Unsung name of the genre...
Continuing from Act l above ...
BN: But of those three only Lozano and Lorenzana warrant 'hyper-' in describing their 'realism', and Lozano is getting
more and more imaginative with his usage of Photorealism. Mylne, too; been upping his game for the last couple years,
mixing mediums and bearing a bit of his soul in the process.
RB: 'Not even Mylne's doing Mylne any more'. Where'd I read that?
BN: 'And Casas added color but now he's just channeling Olivia' (De Berardinis); Olivia in ballpoint pen.
OL: I read that somewhere.
BN: Lennie Mace said it best in coining 'PENtings' to define it; ballpoint pen drawings displaying 'painterly' qualities.
Soft, brush-like application; skilled overlapping and mixing of color; an overall absence of visible line-work in the finished product. Such a fine 'weaving' of lines that the crosshatching disappears. And speaking about painting... If you really
want to talk 'hyper-realism', along comes Nicolas Sanchez and ups the ante, color-wise.
RB: Extremely talented colorist; natural sense, putting those 4-in-1 Bic colors to great use. Some Renaissance DNA in
that guy. Interestingly, the colors and textures of his ballpoint sketches match those of his paintings; same handling.
BN: The thing with Sanchez is, it's always the sketchbook. You just wish he'd spring for a big piece of paper and spend a
little more time with his ballpoints.
RB: Those little sketchbook scratchings stand up against any of Casas' ballpoints!
BN: fuggedaboudit ! (All laugh.)
thINK ARCHIVE by B. Neufeld originally posted May 9, 2016
book review: The Art of Ballpoint
Written by Matt Rota・Published by Rockport Press
thINK by B. Neufeld & R. Bell edited by O. Lebron posted August 1, 2016
REALLY ?・Hype & 'Hyper '・Act ll
BN: And the problem with Photorealism and its hyper ADHD art offspring is the same one that's dogged the genre from the start: if you can just take a picture, why bother? Especially in this hi-def generation. And if the artist is just copying directly from a photo, where's the artistry? Or is that why they invented photoshop?
RB: That's why galleries still disregard straightforward representational art overall, and dismiss Photorealism in particular. Your 'exclusionary art world tactics '?
BN: They'll write you out of the story; ignore you. They'd happily sweep Photorealism under the rug in place of whatever they can better cross-pollinate with the fashionable. Commerce. Passing off charisma as artistic genius; everything is 'Art ', and it's got to be 'biggest', 'best', 'first' or 'only'. Photorealism and the talent and technical skills required is dangerous for business. Too much talent; they wouldn't be able to sell their overpriced wallpaper. Art schools have classrooms to fill; the aspiring have to validate four years of student loans; yada-yada... you know how that works. The less-talented of the bunch fall prey to the whims of the trustees of good taste, but those with the skills to pull off an image that can be mistaken for a photograph also ought to feel secure enough to ignore the passing fads pushed by the intelligentsia.
RB: I seem to recall seeing some 'overpriced wallpaper ' at your place.
BN: It wasn't overpriced when I bought it! And I bought it because I liked it and because I could. Listen, you know, technical precision and photo-reproductive skills... might've been enough five hundred years ago when there were only like a dozen artists on the planet; da Vinci and the gang...
OL: And no cameras!
BN: And no art universities! But with art schools now churning out wannabes by the thousands every year, carbon-copying a photo doesn't account for much any more, and the finished artwork has all the personality of a mall-bought family portrait.
OL: That might've been James Mylne or his reps who pushed 'Hyper-realism ' to promote his artwork. Or not; even I lose track.
BN: OK, but for Mylne it's appropriate, if still a little over the top. Whatever. In black ink, Photorealist ballpoint drawing at least has ties to black and white photography.
RB: The primary source for a whole string of ballpointers after Mylne. Celebrity portraits...
BN: Fan art, not to sugarcoat it. Don't get me started! How many times did we have to see drawings of Audrey Hepburn in ballpoint?! I hope Mylne was getting a percentage of sales! Not to mention that the copycats' iconic subject matter only dulled the impact of the technical merits, to me, especially now ten years after. For too many artists it became medium-over-content — 'Ooooh, aaaah, ballpoint pen; here's Morgan Freeman; here's Angelina Jolie; here's Batman!'...
RB: Just goes to show Mylne's internet reach. But, unlike Casas, his skills with a pen are such that the ballpoint lines are often indiscernible.
BN: Exactly! Hyper-realism if anything could ever be labelled 'Hyper-realism '. He has my permission to keep using it. (All laugh.) Andrey Poletaev fits that description, too, with his architecture. And with that same level of photo-visual precision, even Pepe Lozano and Nathan Lorenzana's blue-inked females fit the bill.
RB: Along with Casas, that covers the triumvirate of Spaniards using blue ink for Photorealist nudes. Ballpointing's Blue Period ...
Continues BELOW THE JUMP as Act ll...
Diversity of photorealism appearing in ballpoint pen art・Act ll
From above... Hyper-pretty in pink ballpoint, by Lennie Mace (portrait, 2009). Painterly qualities of Nicolas Sanchez' ballpoints, the embodiment of ballpoint PEN ting (left, 2016). The wings beneath her pens; artwork by Rebecca Yanovskaya (Wisdom, 2015). All artwork © respective artists.
Ronald Bell: So it's just this new, fashionable 21st century rebranding as 'Hyper-realism' that irks you?
Bruce Neufeld: It's never just one thing with me, you know that. (RB nods in agreement while laughing.) We're talking figurative art and Photorealism , two terms that describe their subjects perfectly.
When I hear 'Hyper-realism' I think realer-than-real.
I think Don Eddy, Richard Estes, Chuck Close; names from art history. Back then (late-1960s
into the 70s) it was enough to simply call it what
it was; Photorealism. Seamless, technicolor
painting that could truly be mistaken for a photograph. It was a full-fledged art movement.
More importantly, a first of its kind. Compared to what those artists were doing, today's so-called 'Hyper-realists' don't even come close!
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.
RB: You walked five miles to school barefooted, didn't you? Maybe they don't teach Photorealism in art school anymore. Or art history ?
BN: This reboot as 'Hyper-realism' is just art-speak hype by Generation X, Y, Z or whatever letter at the end of the alphabet we're on now.
Orlando Lebron: What comes after 'Z '?
RB: Mayan prophecies come true; skies fall.
BN: When I'm looking at a drawing — a drawing where crosshatching is clearly visible, even from ten feet away, and the only color used is blue — sure, it might be a fine photorealistic representation, but what's so 'hyper-realist' about a blue line drawing? Nothing seamless about that.
RB: Are you singling out Juan Francisco Casas?
BN: Not by any means; the drawings are fine for what they are, but no need to go over the top in describing them. And as the artist to whom the term is most associated, I think he's the least deserving of the classification. 'Hyper-' anything implies something over the top. You can file Casas' drawings under photorealism but there are other artists, I'm talking ballpointers, more worthy of the prefix 'hyper-' than Casas.
A lengthy international flight allowed The Ballpointer publisher
Ronald Bell and thINK columnist Bruce Neufeld ample time to
butt heads, as they often do, about all things ballpoint. Alcohol was involved. I put in my two cents occasionally but mostly kept out of
it, content to record the proceedings from relative safety across
the aisle. This segment of their lengthy discussion was spent debating Photorealism in ballpoint pen art. It's amazing
how much two aging intellectuals can ramble on about a
dead end topic. Now they had fourteen hours to kibitz.
Somewhere over Canada…
Broad and thoroughly informative, if somewhat clinical and negligibly incomplete, introduction to and overview of the ballpoint genre. Given the confines of encyclopedic acceptability, the article's lack of personality is forgivable. Just the facts, Ma'am. Its first incarnation, as "Ballpoint pen drawings", appeared in 2011 as one poorly written, unsourced, 2,000-character paragraph. The article went through various self-promotional, free-for-all incarnations until finally given deserved respectability and taken to fruition in 2012 by an ambitious wikipedia contributor who turned the paragraph into the 40,000-character, fully sourced, encyclopedia entry it remains today. R. Bell
ARTNEWS・Making Cutting-Edge Art with Ballpoint Pens・Trent Morse・January 8, 2014
Followers of the genre might feel ARTNEWS simply jumped the bandwagon to prove that they-know-ballpoints. Mr. Morse likely read the wikipedia page and tweaked it to suit ARTNEWS bias in an unsurprising act of exclusionary art politics to comandeer an unexploited and otherwise ignored corner of contemporary art. Academics drawing a line in the sand, so to speak? Maybe its merely another case of ill-informed coverage. Understandably, they've got their own agendas to serve, but: an article chronicling the history of ballpoint art with no mention of Lennie Mace? Morse even bypassed the ballpoint photorealism (and viral overkill) of Juan Francisco Casas in favor of naming the "Portuguese lawyer" who reportedly achieved the same (ballpoint photorealism and viral overkill) "as a hobby". B. Neufeld
The Age (Australia)・Are Melbourne's commercial galleries becoming an endangered species?・Lucinda Schmidt・June 24, 2014
Troubling Truths: this article about the state-of-the Art Scene in Melbourne, Australia touches upon a topic familiar to many world-class "art" cities. "Why buy what I can get for free?" and "Why leave the comforts of home to see art I can see from right here on my sofa?" Buying what you can get for free shows you actually care enough to support it, and leaving the comforts of home is underrated. O. Lebron