Since 2014・Volume 7
My Ballpointer bosses made the mistake of giving me a key to the mailbox; access to all incoming correspondence. At least once a month The Ballpointer gets a message accusing the site (or me) of unfairly installing itself (or me) as some kind of quote-unquote ''ballpoint police''. ''Ballpoint Big Brother'' is another accusatory term that's been used. For youngsters and the out of touch, that's in reference to the forward-looking 1949 George Orwell book Nineteen Eighty-Four, which depicts a then-distant future 1984 (there's an era-appropriate 1984 film adaptation, too) and forwarded the concept that your government (''Big Brother'') is watching you. Yeah, The Ballpointer is watching. Me, too, but I don't use my Big Brother-ly social tech to see who you're friends with, where you've been or what you ate; only to see what you're doing with your ballpoint pens. The government is busy using their social tech to track terrorists and find missing children and have no reason to track ballpointers unless they're genuinely interested in the medium (or unless one of you really step out of line), so someone's got to sort through the glut of DIY ballpointer self-promotion, make sense of it and offer some perspective on the subject. Minus any actual discourse, dissemination, neutral judgement or critique, all the quick-fix push-button Likes and ego-stroking ''Awesomes! '' are ultimately limiting, and certainly don't equal ''movement '', a word bandied about so freely nowadays. So, yeah, we're watching. But, if we are to be labelled Ballpoint Big Brother, at least we are big brothers who've got our siblings' best interests at heart. Meanwhile, back in the Mail Room…
Top FAQ from readers: ''Why haven't you featured so-and-so.'' Unfortunate truth: not everyone is anxious to talk with The Ballpointer. I've been given permission to name names as long as I show some restraint with my own assumptions or opinions. ''Let readers know which artists we've approached without stepping on any toes and scaring those artists away,'' were my instructions. Familiar names to ballpointers: Casas, Yanovskaya, Shohei, Lee, among others. All have been solicited for interviews. No success. I can't speak for the WHY s and why-NOT s but unresponsiveness leaves room for conjecture, the realm of this column. What kind of artist turns down an opportunity to talk about their art? Niche artists not cooperating with niche media? Those who haven't been featured can't blame the site for ignoring them. The Ballpointer encourages artists' cooperation to insure quality and coverage of the artwork as it should be. Some contributing editors may choose to simply bypass unwilling artists and move onto others. This column sweeps up behind them. Freedom of the press. With or without a subject's blessing, there's always something to report.
As a fly on the wall overhearing years of art talk (and having keys to The Ballpointer mailbox) I'd witnessed my share of art dynamics; read the duly noted, quietly compiled files of Ballpoint Big Brother ; seen the games people play, how they're played, and able to recognize instances of notoriety seeming more computer-generated than genuine media attention; social tech makes it easier than listening for alarms. Being an artist is a look-at-me activity; necessary for a career. Mass media enables the egoists by tossing fifteen minutes to whomever is offering themselves up for mass-consumption. Thinking of oneself as one-of-a-kind is another necessary evil; no one wants to inadvertantly misdirect attention by admitting to the media that there's a whole world of ballpointers who may steal their thunder. Media manipulation therefore also comes into play with all the dynamics of modern artistry. Heavy-rotation artists must become well-rehearsed in their self-construction.
Since his mid-'00s viral splash, Juan Francisco Casas had been essentially drawing the same drawing without anyone seeming to have noticed except me. When he did recently start adding colored inks to his ballpoint palette, suddenly he's channeling Olivia De Berardinis, another point no one has mentioned. It's a step in the right direction and he's lucky enough time has passed since Olivia's generation, but at least he could claim his ''selfies'' as more or less his own idea. Casas has yet to live up to the attention afforded him. Minus the Wow Factor coverage by then as-yet-uneducated mass media and the countless others now known to have been creating comparable-or-better ballpoint artwork as long or longer, exclusivity is disproven and out goes the attraction.
In the formative days of The Ballpointer, readers were already asking about Samuel Silva. The Ballpointer had, in fact, begun talks with Silva, but the subject we were most interested to learn about and report was the one subject Silva seemed more intent to avoid: his 'drawing lawyer ' backstory. Silva kept referring us to his wikipedia page, which, we were happily not the only to notice, is a carbon copy of every blurb blogged during his viral fifteen minutes, none of which says very much; the exact reason we wished to dig deeper. Even as we arrived at questions about tools and techniques, Silva didn't even seem genuinely interested to talk art, and off he went. Probably for the best; seemed like he was just eager for more bragging rights without offering anything in return. Inquiries about Silva and his drawings have since subsided, but I may find more to say on the subject.
Even before The Ballpointer was online, editors had been tracking Jack Dillhunt in anticipation of his self-touted ''Experimental Novel Featuring Multimedia Footnotes And Soundtrack Album''. More than a year later he's still plugging his yet-to-be extravaganza, announcing ''final finishes on a complex piece ''. I came across his 2014 correspondence with boss Ballpointer Ron Bell, who conducted communications cheerfully and nonchalantly. Dillhunt acknowledged the site and complimented it as ''seriously good '' even at that early stage, but apparently ol' Jack takes his work, or himself, very seriously and misunderstood Bell's lighthearted attempts at encouragement. Bell scrapped his article but I was allowed to offer my take on the proceedings, which I did, as the inaugural installment of this thINK column.
Self-promotion by Shohei Otomo attracted more suspicion than support from The Ballpointer in 2015. Exhibitions at galleries with boondock addresses in towns not known as art centers, with websites of questionable origin or purpose, listing not much else than Shohei. No contact information and, often, no website at all. Some sites continue to list outdated exhibition information. One such gallery claiming to be his rep replied to our inquiries, stating condescendingly that Shohei was ''busy'' as if The Ballpointer was not. A ''cutting edge magazine'' to which Shohei claims being a major contributor also hadn't revised their website in over a year, and no one we've asked had ever actually seen or heard of it. Shohei is apparently busier than everyone and/but too cutting edge to even be found. With Papa Otomo being such a bold-name figure in Japanese manga (Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo), one might expect Shohei's presumed career to be easier to track, but little is reported and littler of it is confirmable. Shohei can be forgiven for avoiding Dad's glow (and nepotistic 'Shohei, Son Of Akira ' references) but some accessibility would be nice. Until then, accountability.
Rebecca Yanosvskaya has been racking up accomplishments all year, all reported here as Ballpointer BRIEFS. We've been requesting an interview all year, too, but Yanovskaya has yet to accept. We have nothing but good things to say about her artwork, which demonstrates true vision trumping ballpoint skills, but it seems TB may be left continuing to feature her art without her input.
That's how we were left to deal with IL Lee. A feature article has already been written about the ballpoint elder's artwork and currently in the pipeline for publication without his input. It would've already been published were it not for lingering hopes of gaining access to the artist. So close yet so far. Inability to get past the protective parentage of gallery reps to talk to Lee himself causes unfortunate delays for art worthy of more than a few words. Excuse us for wanting to get it right. Lee's reps appear to be graduates of the School of Stuffed-Shirt Arts & Sciences. Were The Ballpointer a TIME-LIFE production, press kits and private audience would no doubt be forthcoming, yesterday.
And talk of a ballpoint art movement ? Artists have been toying with ballpoints since their invention. That'd make it either A: a very lengthy movement, B: a very late one, or C: over already. But if one is D: perhaps happening right now, let it be someone further down the line looking back and describing it as such, not the hopefuls themselves declaring ''this is a movement '' today. As things stand, most people using ballpoint pens artistically are doing so as amateurs, gainfully employed by day while producing and posting ballpoint drawings on social media by night. Most are simply content to be drawing, with not a care in the world about so-called 'movements '. Less require ''ballpoint pen'' as a prefix to their ''artist '' title. (A few are named above.) Even the ballpoint Wow Factor is itself a laymans' term placing emphasis on the awe of untrained eyes, but true value and relevance in art is weighed without even having to say ''…and it's drawn in ballpoint pen! '' like an implanted exclamation point. In the end, Art is Art, and what makes art ''great '' will always be a matter of preference, whether scratched out in ballpoint or eyeliner. ''Art is subjective'' is the excuse most often cited; it doesn't even have to be pretty. ''Ballpoint pen art has experienced a surge in popularity.'' That's the fairest description of what's been happening in our midst, meaning, E: Any so-called 'movement ' is just wishful thinking.
Happy birthday to us ・
thINK by B. Neufeld originally posted November 8, 2015
2015: A Year in The Pen Exclamation Points・WHYs & Why NOTs
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 appropriately-named contributor "Penwatchdog", 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
When he's not script-doctoring for TV, Bruce Neufeld is the opinionated uncle of The Ballpointer contributors. More often than not, he's just that annoying guy who drops by the office, backseat browses and hopes to be thrown a bone. The Ballpointer doesn't always agree with his "Ain't No Conversation If There Ain't No Argument" style of reportage, nor do we condone his insensitive codgery, but, the views he offers are just as valid as the next, and, The Ballpointer is an equal opportunity outlet. No points of view are suppressed here. Feedback is welcome.
The Why NOT s Above : Ferrous 2 by Rebecca Yanovskaya, 2015. Below : Juan Francisco Casas ''does Olivia'', 2015. Shohei Otomo's pop-culture hybrid, version 2015. Artwork © Respective artists.