Since 2014・Volume 5
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.
Above : Slideshow sampling of recent ballpoint drawings by workshop hosts Nicolas V. Sanchez (USA), África Fernández de Castro Hoyos (Spain), Allan Barbeau (France) & Ler Huang (Taiwan). All artwork ballpoint pen on paper, 2017 (slightly cropped) © Respective artists.
Far left : Spanish cover of Matt Rota's 2015 book The Art of Ballpoint, cover art byChamo San. © Matt Rota, Chamo San, respectively.
Below : Illustrations & cover of Allan Barbeau's 2016 book The Art of Drawing with a Ballpoint Pen, including one example of 'lightfast' ink tests the artist conducted himself (bottom) © Allan Barbeau
clear of ink blobs, the bane of all ballpointers. Both obstacles are of greater concern to ballpoint purists following the path of ballpointers such as Nicolas V. Sanchez, Lennie Mace and others who go ballpoint-only from start to finish. ''Like walking a tightrope without a net,'' is how Mace often describes it. Mace, it should be noted, has also 'tutored ' students, at times, but privately and having more to do with creative thinking, a topic he has also lectured about at art universities in Tokyo. Barbeau has also started teaching actual classes, but, for now, not in ballpoint. As newly-appointed president of a local charitable organization, he is starting where most important things start: with the kids, to whom he is teaching ''the basics of drawing : proportions of the face, the body, the hands, composed on the page to create a character and scenery in the background.'' He hopes to further this course into adult workshops and the use of ballpoint pens.
Barbeau is high on the list of ballpoint photorealists, and his full-color use of the pens places him in the so-called
'hyperrealist ' category. As with Sanchez and de Castro Hoyos, ballpoint portraiture currently makes up a lion's share of Barbeau's output. He balances that with illustration work which has recently included logo and label designs for a brewery, and designs for a set of tarot cards. Barbeau refers to his portraits as ''illustrated '' portraits; ''I build a story around the face of the subject.'' A recent example shows a young boy as a pirate. ''That's what this boy would like to be.'' Meanwhile Barbeau, who had been based in Ireland for some time but is now back in France, is also currently working on a piece which may set a new bar for ballpointers to come: ''I'm creating big ballpoint 'pentings' of the nature around where I live, but the way I see them ; full of big and little magic creatures.''
Yes, back in the day, mastering ballpoint pen drawing meant killing ones' time in class creatively over the course of a school semester or two; a learn-as-you-go matter of trial and error, progressing as time, imagination or personal ability permitted. That makes it seem a little odd for artistic ballpoint usage to become a 'taught ' medium, but we're not talking about learning how to doodle, after all—anyone can get that far without any instruction or special skills.
Meanwhile, the lure of the ballpoint continues literally drawing attention in mysterious ways・
PENNAMES by O. Lebron posted November 14, 2017
Teacher's Pen ・Learn from a Pro・City, Country
French artist Allan Barbeau had already put it all in writing with The Art of Drawing with a Ballpoint Pen, a veritable bible of ballpoint drawing 'exercises' (the textbook to turn to, at least). Self-published in his native French in 2011, its English edition unfortunately didn't become available until November, 2016. In it, Barbeau skipped histories of the pen and its art practitioners and cut to the chase: teaching from experience about drawing in ballpoint pen. ''I was determined to show that this tool could be used for art. At that time (circa 2006, when he dove into ballpoint usage), no book showed the process. So I started to write about the way I draw in a way that was very easy to understand, and illustrate it. It took me a couple of years in the thinking, and a full year in the making.'' As with Rota's book, some of Barbeau's exercises cover ground general to drawing, overall. Truth be told, ballpoint pen drawing does follow those same basic principles—to a point, so to speak. There are, however, characteristics unique to the usage of ballpoint pens as an art medium for which some prior instruction from someone in-the-know is helpful. Barbeau covers that ground, illustrations included.
Barbeau does a fine job of explaining, in layman's terms, topics such as how to achieve fine shading using ''veiled '' gradients of crosshatching. He also offers solutions for dealing with ballpoints' intimidating, unforgiving inability to be erased (an aspect which makes ballpoints an advanced medium, of sorts) and how to steer
Continuing from HEADLINES 1 page ...Sanchez, who alternates between painting and 'pointing, is a quintessential sketch artist and usually has a 4-color BIC within reach. Art 'selfies' he takes of his sketches are a mainstay of his social media accounts and have been showcased in several art publications over the past year, including as a slideshow in The Ballpointer. An inherent understanding of color evident in Sanchez' paintings is also clear in his expert layering of limited ballpoint colors into 'full ' color. Color limitations are the prime challenge for ballpoint photorealists. To achieve as full-color results as possible using available ballpoint colors* one must have that understanding—how the eye perceives it and how the hand may achieve it. (*oil-based inks, by the way; not the rainbow palettes of color available in watery gel inks, which cannot achieve the same subtle gradations as viscous oil-based inks.)
Mr. Sanchez is among the artists who were featured in the book The Art of Ballpoint, by Matt Rota. Originally published in English in 2015, it has since been translated into French, Italian, German, Chinese and Spanish. Its Spanish edition is among the books available at Youth Library CUBIT, where it became recommended reading in the wake of Ms. de Castro Hoyos' workshop. Ballpoint artwork by Spanish illustrator Chamo San is featured on the cover of the Spanish edition. Rota, a professional illustrator, also teaches drawing at School of Visual Arts in New York, and drawing 'exercises ' make up chapters of his book. Art professors once frowned upon the use of lowly ballpoint pens in their drawing classes, but, it would seem, that may no longer be the case, at least with instructors like Rota.