illustration by Susan May for The Ballpointer
Missing the Ball Point
Dimes-to-donuts there's a ballpoint pen within reach of you right now. Reliable friends, always there when you need them; on standby to scratch a Hitler mustache onto The President or blacken the teeth of the covergirl dujour. Your grade-school composition books were probably filled with more stream-of-conscious creative filler than actual studies. But this proletarian tool is no longer just for signing checks, writing postcards or doodling sweet nothings.
The origins of ballpoint artwork echo the humble origins of art itself. Caveman roots; the universal, instinctive urge to create. For some, an irresistible force; to express oneself, to leave one's mark, to teach, using whatever tools are available. All that's necessary is the will to do so, pressed by a bit of creative curiosity, aided by ingenuity. ''Let's see what happens when I do this.'' Galleries, museums and art critics enter the equation much later.
There you sit, a dozen-thousand years later, surfing through the daily barrage of viral news. A headline grabs you: Starving Artist Illustrates The Bible on his Bedroom Wall Using Ballpoint Pens. Well, ''starving artist '' doesn't mean much anymore; with the amount of aspiring artists art schools churn out every year its a miracle anyone goes onto a career. ''Illustrating the Bible ''? Hasn't that already been accomplished in any number of formats any number of times in any number of languages ? ''On his bedroom wall ''? Children cover walls with masterpieces daily, to their parent's dismay, worldwide. And ''using ballpoint pen''? Now there's a story, right ? Well…
News outlets worldwide still report about artwork created using ballpoint pens as if, in the half-century since its invention, the pens have never been given any artistic consideration. Prior to the advent of the internet and social media, their ignorance could be forgiven. Nowadays ballpointers are everywhere, in every corner of the world, and the so-called ballpoint Wow Factor in and of itself carries less weight. The internet and social media are these days awash with ballpoint art blogs of every stripe, although with varying content. Ballpoint art classes may already be part of a curriculum somewhere. But the birth of the internet didn't mark the beginnings of ballpoint innovation; if anything, it merely serves as proof of how commonplace it has become, or how it has been all along ・・・
RECAP originally posted in installments throughout 2015
Andy Warhol @ Christie's online auction series, 2015
PICK PIECES The Ballpointer staff choose the artwork and let the artist explain it in their own words ・ posted January 16, 2021
Navy Diver October, 2020 ・
20 x 26’’ (51 x 66 cm) ・
ballpoint pen on matte board
''Over 130 individual images comprise this ballpoint drawing of Jake, a bronze statue guarding the entrance to the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. Jake is dedicated to all graduates of the U.S. Navy Diving Schools who ‘go down in the sea to work’, and celebrates the traditions of military divers who have given their life’s work to underwater ship repair and maintenance, underwater construction, salvage, combat, and clandestine missions.
Like my other military drawings, this one was not 'commissioned' so much as it was requested and supported. Generally, a veteran or representative of a charitable military organization will reach out and ask me to consider a particular subject. If we can agree on an appropriate image to draw, they’ll provide me with background information, reading lists and access to experts in the field who are able to answer my questions and guide me through the process of completing the drawing. In most cases it is very much a cooperative effort.
My intent was to re-construct Jake's US Navy Mark V Diving Suit with a collection of historic imagery, diving gear, tools and terminology of this legendary specialty, a measure of inside humor, and a diverse gathering of denizens of the deep. I spent a month reading and interviewing veteran, active duty and Navy-trained commercial deep-sea divers to develop a list of hardware and terminology specific to the job (see slideshow below). I rendered these items in pencil, then finished with a fine point PaperMate Flex-Grip ballpoint pen in a process that lasted from July to October of 2020.
Navy Diver is number twelve in an ongoing series of military drawings dedicated to wounded warfighters and their families. Half of the proceeds from sales are being donated to the NSOF (Navy Special Operations Foundation). To date, this series of military drawings has raised over $60,000 for wounded military and their families''・
・ for more art, info & contact : dsart.com・
・ Navy Diver © Don Stewart・