RB: I'm not trying to come off as the public defender of Photorealism. I'm with you. Realist art is at its best
when it shows some artistic personality, and artists working conceptually bring different talents to the table.
Il Lee is a thousand percent Art-&-Artist with capital A's. His artwork is expansive, it's musical. Some of
them are even closer to landscapes than abstracts...
BN: My favorite expensive wallpaper; like my kids had their way with the living room wall...
OL: But artists creating art for art's sake are an endangered species. The majority are working class Arties
who could care less about (wavy finger quotes) 'contemplating... the metaphorical interpretations... which
signify... the ambiguity and multiplicity of mankind '... that preoccupy players of that game. Picasso may still be known worldwide even among people who know nothing about art, but that doesn't mean they're impressed by his finger paintings, or respect his (finger quotes) 'artistic vision '.
RB: 'Hyper-Cubism' anyone? (All laugh.) Beautiful, realistically rendered still lifes, landscapes, wildlife; that's still what most of the people of the
world would prefer to hang in their homes, not paintings of people with their eyes stacked vertically, Flintstone fingers and Clouseau noses.
BN: I'm not sure the average person is even interested to go see Flintstone fingers and Clouseau noses in museums anymore either, not
even for free. And I'm not slamming Photorealism, either. There's no denying the comfort that a familiar, even simple image instills in even the most discerning of viewers... Even me. Plenty of it is absolutely great; worthy of praise...
RB: When it's done great, it's something to see.
BN: …But still worthy of criticism, too! Most times it's just a matter of pulling out the projector or the light box and going into tracing mode. Knowing
that — and having seen that — it's the least impressive way of making art. Look at Dali; there was a sharp change in his work when you just knew he'd started projecting and tracing. I'd say his best work came before he brought in the projector and the assistants!
RB: You joked about that before; 'what if Warhol had passed out ballpoint pens to his Factory workers'...
BN: Case in point; in ball-point: Scott Mackie would've made a great ballpoint Factory worker!
RB: Now, now. I'm always gunning for him, hoping his next piece will show some progression but... in the time I've been watching he's only gone
from birds on random antique prints to rock stars on random antique postcards. Nice drawings, anyway. There's a career to be had.
BN: You could probably pick one up for a song. I always get the feeling he's just projecting or flat-out tracing, just by the way his drawings are positioned on the pages. That, alone, blows it for me.
RB: I think a lot of people still use grids.
BN: Yeah, in the Philippines where they also use i-phones to snap their source photos, then reproduce the image in ballpoint
in all its poorly-lit glory.
OL: Then they photograph the finished art with the same i-phone!
BN: And post it as-is on social media all in a day's work! No, Mackie's work is too small for grids, and he's drawing on antique paper.
Drawing a grid would damage his drawing surface.
RB: Light box?
BN: No matter. God bless him if he's simply enjoying what he's doing but... he needs a history buffer; it's been done before, and
done in more interesting ways — in ballpoint and not — and it's basically all he's been doing for some time now, as you say.
OL: Keith Haring! (Drawings on advertisements.)
RB: In ballpoint, Mace's Media Graffiti (drawings on advertisements) was already a known entity in the 1990s, wasn't it?
BN: The Dadaists have them all beat, if only as a mustached Mona Lisa. Even Picasso drew on newspapers. Mackie has got
competition locally, too. Aren't there a couple of other guys doing the same thing in that corner of the world?
RB: You must be thinking about Mark Powell. Ballpoint on sheet music?
thINK by B. Neufeld, R. Bell & O. Lebron originally posted August 1, 2016
REALLY ?・Hype & 'Hyper '・Act lV
Continuing from Act lll above ...
BN: You must be talking about Shirish Deshpande, you know I like that stuff. He's calling it 'Impressionism' now?
RB: No, I'm calling it 'Impressionism' now; Ballpoint Impressionism, isn't it? Some basis in photorealism, but artistically; Atmospherically.
BN: Just don't call it 'Hyper-Impressionism'! (All Laugh.) If you're leaning toward realistic imagery, that's a creative approach. But isn't he the only one? I know what you're getting at; there's a picture to be seen, even if it's not hyper-realistically reproduced. Artistry! No doubt. If there's a ballpoint equivalent to Impressionism, that'd have to be Shirish. That chiseled hatching you wrote about; shows mastery of his medium without going for parlor tricks. He's not trying to baffle with bullshit, and ballpoints have nothing to do with what makes his drawings shine. Artistry.
RB: At least his own brand of parlor trickery. Speaking of India, I'm just remembering M.I. Shaikh's photorealism!
BN: Yeah I'm sure there will be ten or twenty artists you'll piss off by not mentioning.
OL: And some who'll be pissed because you did mention.
BN: Shaikh's brand of ballpoint photorealism is pretty 'hyper '. Relative newcomer to the fray, but new faces are popping up all the time. Lots of one-hit wonders, too... (he rings the stewardess call-button)
It's funny how people still equate drawing skills with being a quote-unquote 'artiste ', especially among those with no formal art training. These days, not only is the number of people who can beautifully reproduce a photo so astronomical as to negate drawing skills as an attraction, but the number of people who can do it in ballpoint pen is right up there. Said it before, say it again: Anyone who can draw photo-realistically in pencil or any other medium can more than likely do the same in ballpoint.
RB: De javu all over again !
BN: Yeah, well, hel-loooo?! If I'm repeating myself it's because the art is repeating itself. If I have to be the only guy saying something about it, I'm happy to be that guy.
Stewardess arrives: Another round, gentlemen ?
OL: No more for them ! (All laugh)・
thINK by B. Neufeld & R. Bell edited by O. Lebron originally posted August 1, 2016
REALLY ? ・Hype & 'Hyper '・Act lll
Diversity of photorealism appearing in ballpoint pen art・Act lV
Slideshow at right : Untitled tusks & textures by M.I. Shaikh shows truly 'hyper' ballpoint pen skills (2015). Finely ' feathered' ballpoint pen-work by Scott Mackie on a 1953 Vogue magazine cover (2016). Super-modeling in ballpoint by fashion illustrator Ler Huang (2016).
All artwork © respective artists.
BN: Right, and envelopes?
RN: Someone else, maybe.
BN: See what I mean?! All doing
the same thing. It's unfortunate,
because the skills are there; just no
artistic advancement. I'm left feeling the
skills could be pushed so much farther.
How many times before someone's thinking
'Oh, another rock star drawn on another
antique magazine?' even if they wouldn't
say so to the artist.
RB: Of course not; nothing but thumbs-ups
and gushing, the byproduct of social media self promotion.
BN: The ill-effects of pop culture overload. It says a lot about the state of the creative mind, to me; proof confirming people watch too damn much TV…
OL: Or place far too much importance on pop culture.
BN: I'm always off topic after a few (drinks)! Too many topics! When the biggest attraction to an artwork is the fact that it's drawn in ballpoint pen, it doesn't say much about the artist. There's a topic!. Nice Photorealism? Nice tracing skills!
(Moment of silence while everyone takes another drink.)
BN: Ler Huang falls into the same category; he's tracing or projecting — or gridding, thank you — but at least he's doing interesting things with color and composition... And not on magazine pages.
RB: And he has recently started showing some creative edge. What about the Impressionists?... Continues BELOW THE JUMP as Act lV ...
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.)
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.
thINK by B. Neufeld & R. Bell edited by O. Lebron originally posted August 1, 2016
REALLY ?・Hype & 'Hyper '・Act ll
Diversity of photorealism appearing in ballpoint pen art・Act lll
From above... Realism within Shane McAdams' ballpoint ink
& resin Synthetic Landscapes (2010, slightly cropped).
Vanishing Hong Kong architecture lives on in
ballpoint within Peter Ross's gouache washes which
form images of their own (2015). Ballpoint impression
of India, by Shirish Deshpande (Badami, 2016).
All artwork © respective artists.
Since 2014・Volume 7
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...
All artwork in this article © respective artists. The Ballpointerextends gratitude & support to artists who cooperated.
Due to the nature of the discussion, most artists named within this article are familiar to ballpoint pen art followers. There are plenty more ballpoint photorealists around the world who may have been overlooked or whose artwork has simply not yet come to our attention.
To be continued...
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.
RB: Ballpointing's Guilded Empress ! She gets attention from those whom she's courting. From The Ballpointer, too, even though it would seem we are not on her itinerary. She's got 'the goods '...
BN: Artistry ! And as an 'illustrator' whose work transcends that designation...
RB: Is illustration still frowned upon as 'art '?
BN: Who-knows who-cares. There's lots more than illustration going on there. It's theatrical; the feathers, the drama. Give her an award or something. Send her some scripts...
OL: No 'Olivia '-in-ballpoint there!
RB: Photorealism plays into those works, too. Or should we call that un-realism?
BN: There are lots of ballpointers who don't particularly fall under the 'Photorealist ' banner, much less 'Hyper-realist ', but employing plenty of it in their work; Rebecca included. A kind of 'realism ' all their own. Long list. Mace doesn't even try to fool you by aiming for photorealist color, not even in his portrait work, but there's lots of realism or surrealism in his work and he's using available color in what I'd consider to be full color in his own unique way...
RB: Mace has a kind of Heironymous Bosch-meets-Salvador Dali brand of realism that always manages to seem contemporary, or at least original. Even Shane McAdams employs realist imagery within some of his Pen Blow abstractions; in one of his series or another.
OL: Excuse me, that's 'Hyper-Abstraction ' if you please. (All laugh.)
BN: Right? Love that stuff. All artistry; hold the pickle hold the lettuce. I don't even need the realist depictions but it works, and he handles the mix like a pro. Pete Ross, too, with his mix of architectural elements and pure artistry. Artwork like Ross's and Poletaev's also has that added factor of documenting the architecture...