Vinyl record and sleeve accompaniments became a standard element of assemblages which teeter between fan-boy obsessiveness — akin to grade school doodling of band logos onto looseleaf binders — and Pop Art intellectualism, but the use of material with direct ties to the subjects works in harmony with the nostalgic memories they elicit: postcards sent during family vacations; shelves lined with vinyl records, the music contained therein and the soundtracks they provided to our lives. And where is all this rock'n roll ephemera coming from? Some of the record sleeves are from Mackie's own collection. Others were hunted down via the internet or vintage record stores, sometimes becoming pricey additions to the artwork. ''The Lou Reed piece is pretty special to me mainly for the single as it had taken me six months to find and there are only a handful of copies in the world of it with its Andy Warhol-designed cover'' (pictured, HEADLINES 1 slideshow). Mackie informs us, by the way, that all vinyl records, sleeves and, in Gilmour's case, dollar bills are part of the piece and included in the sale of the artwork.
First came the birds (think feathers, not the 1960s folk bandor the Hitchcock film, though Mackie did reference that film in a piece unrelated to this series) and his use of antique documents which complimented the ornithological subject matter. For The Hunter's Map (2014), which was published as the introductory edition of The Ballpointer PICKS page, Mackie referenced a Canadian Giant Grey Owl from his own book archive and drew it onto an 1850 map of lower Canada. ''I love the connection between the old and new, and I like to think it breathes a second life into an old dusty document,'' Mackie wrote at the time about his artistic intentions, which he withheld from the antiques dealer who sold him the map. Mackie also expressed a certain anxiety about drawing on something so fragile, and expensive: ''As we all know, the ballpoint pen artist's greatest fear is making a mistake.''
Mackie's A-lister artwork kept live and online audiences entertained into 2019 and continue to do so. He's been filling orders for commissions, too — Paul Wellar, Jeff Buckley, Joe Strummer, and one of his Mick Jaggers (pictured,HEADLINES 1 slideshow) are among some of those — but the artist has also been spending time with paint brushes. ''I’ve dabbled with acrylics in the past, but my goal is to try oil painting as I’ve not yet attempted them.'' Mackie states that he still has a selection of vinyl records and sleeves awaiting their artwork, so apparently these rock stars aren't his swan song to ballpoints. Good thing; It's only rock'n roll but I like it・
Since 2014・Volume 6
Mackie's portrait of Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour (pictured at left) may be his most eclectic juxtaposition of materials. Central to the arrangement — aside from the spot-on likeness of an Umma Gumma-era Gilmour, of course — is an actual 45rpm vinyl record and sleeve for Pink Floyd's hit song Money. A 1977Pink Floyd concert ticket is also positioned prominently among the selection of postcards onto which Gilmour is drawn, and onto the one blank of those four postcards Mackie cleverly jotted the clichéd postcard sentiment 'wish you were here', which fans and music buffs will recognize as the title of another Pink Floyd hit. The composition is framed by actual dollar bills — $17US by my count — complementing the Pink Floyd single and adding at least that much more to the price of the artwork.
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In the case of John Lydon — whose wall-eyed stare and menacing sneer are also perfectly captured by Mackie — postage stamps original to the vintage postcards become additional fashion accessories alongside authentic punk rock-era buttons the artist affixed to the singer's shirt, one of which shows a little girl asking 'Mummy, what's a sex pistol?' A record sleeve for the punk anthem God Save The Queen positioned below Lydon in the composition almost transforms his shirt into a Sex Pistols concert jersey — almost; had Mackie drawn the shirt in purple to match the record sleeve, the volume of this piece could've been cranked up to '11' (it's already at '10').
Vintage magazine covers also became a go-to background for his birds, joined thereafter by the rock stars on vintage postcards. Mackie identifies his John Lennon ‘Imagine’ portrait as the very first of this series. Drawn along with several others, Jim Morrison among them, as 'filler' for his first solo exhibition, the filler struck a cord and became not only the most popular of the show but the first pieces to sell. Morrison was drawn onto the blank verso of random postcards, but postcards chosen for Lennon bear the handwritten sentiments of the original senders, addressed, stamped and apparently mailed. Too bad he couldn't find any addressed to Abbey Road or Penny Lane. Handwriting crisscrosses Lennon's and most of Mackie's famous faces, and reading the texts can become a kind of interactive sideshow, or sociological study — most are clearly legible and often just as heavily inked as his own additions.
PENNAME by R. Bell posted October 3, 2019
Sex, Drugs & Ballpoint Pens・Ctry
Scott Mackie・Aberdeen, Scotland
Postcards and musicians are matched when possible. ''For the Rat Pack I did try and just use vintage New York cards. I came across some old New York postcards and my instinct was I must do a Sinatra piece I’d been really wanting to try for a while,'' Mackie explains. ''Mostly the postcards have to work well together according to size, colors and age.'' While simple but effective use of ballpoint color was a part of what made his birds so attractive, most color in these works are provided by Mackie's choice of printed materials. The picture-sides of some postcards were utilized for the Rat Pack compositions, vintage colorized photo illustrations of recognizable New York sites such as Rockefeller Center. Prince and one of several Bowies are exceptions; purple ballpoint was appropriately utilized for the Purple Rain auteur, and several ballpoint colors were used for a Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie (both pictured, above).
Nailing the likenesses of such recognizable faces is, of course, the main attraction and the real challenge for successful portraiture. ''For animals I mainly draw freehand with pencil first, then ballpoint. There's a certain amount of artistic license you can get away with. But a portrait has to be spot on, so I use the grid method.'' Even the grid doesn't guarantee results against ballpoint pens' rep as an unforgiving medium, as Mackie attests: ''A couple of times I’ve been halfway through when I’d realize it looks nothing like the person so I need to start again. It took three attempts to get Sinatra’s likeness. I think I’ve more failed attempts hiding in my studio than actual finished pieces.''
Artwork, above: Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life (Prince) June 2016 ; Oh you pretty things, February 2016, and Rebel Rebel, February 2017 (both David Bowie), all ballpoint pen on vintage postcards, 20 x 30cm. Left : Don't give me that do goody good bullshit (David Gilmour) July 2017, 30 x 60cm, ballpoint pen on vintage postcards & mixed media, framed with vinyl record/ sleeve 30 x 60cm. All artwork © Scott Mackie.