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 ・・・
PICK PIECES The Ballpointer staff choose the artwork and let the artist explain it in their own words Vol 6 No 2 posted April 16, 2019
Archie Smith・Paphos, Cyprus
ONE December, 2018~ work in progress ・ 50 x 90cm, current (20 x 36'') ・ ballpoint pen on paper
''This was meant to be a basic doodle on an A4 piece of paper, which I often do just to pass the time, but the next day I added more to it, and then more until it became a full A4 drawing. By the next week I felt the need to add to the picture, so I started another. All the while, I kept telling myself 'gotta finish it quickly' as I don't want to get caught up over-doodling... or so I thought.
A few days on, I started a third doodle, and after spending so much time on it I thought it would be a waste to 'let it lie' so I figured a way to join it to the first two. Then I figured that the picture was disjointed, so it would be nice to add the missing bits
to at least make a uniform A2 size, always telling myself 'gotta get things finished, I don't have time for this!' Whilst I would always have a plan of what to draw, by 3am I would wonder 'how the hell did the drawing turn out like that!'... almost automatically drawn without me being totally conscious, new shapes and shades appearing... continues below
RECAP originally posted in installments throughout 2015
Andy Warhol @ Christie's online auction series, 2015
So what do they all mean? I'm not sure but... I'm consciously trying to portray something organic, something alive. An organism, and many intertwined organisms, moving, spinning, spawning, growing, maturing — order and chaos, serenity and then explosive energy. An Energy we all experience but is beyond our understanding. That very Energy that sparks procreation, birth, growth, Life and all of existence itself.
Each doodle is about continuing curves, circles, spheres. Unlike angled shapes, the circle and the sphere depict to me an endless continuity. No stops; infinity. Each line must flow gradually. The actual process of drawing also follows this philosophy, each new line or shade may flow into another as I go along. There's always a plan but it takes its own course. Often while I'm shading, somehow new spheres appear within the shading and eventually form a new element.
As the drawing grows I begin to see new circles, circles within circles, and more circles within circles. Sometimes curved lines join spheres and circles, many times forming an '8'; infinity. If I look closely I can find these elements in each small A4, yet if I stand back a about 5 metres and look at the combined picture I can no longer see the finer elements. But a new picture emerges, and at 10 metres a new picture, always depicting the underlying theme: Circles, Spheres, flow, infinity.
At an atomic level everything is uniform — a round nucleus, with round electrons orbiting around it in perfect circles — so within the apparent irregular organic world everything is actually perfectly uniform at its atomic core. Whilst everything around us is not uniform, ultimately we are living within a sphere; our planet. From atomic level to universal level, perhaps we are a little electron circling around the sun, much the same way as an atom works. The planets, all are orbs, all different yet all spheres. Galaxies, black holes, stars, etc. The Universe, so vast, yet maybe the universe itself may be a sphere. Maybe there are other universes, spheres within spheres within spheres?
Ultimately everything is really a small part belonging to something bigger than itself, and that in itself belongs to something bigger than itself; ultimately all being part of the greatest part, all are part of the greatest ONE, and thus everything and everyone is a part of the ONE, hence the name of the picture. Often I think I've drawn a 'mistake' but it actually doesn't really matter. I can't rub it out. It simply becomes a new element; just shade some more, add more lines. Once it's drawn, it's drawn! It's created; it exists. It is part of the new whole, simply a continuation of what was 'before' and a bridge to what is 'next'.
For me, dare I say for anyone, this picture would never be possible with another medium. It has to be in ballpoint. All the while I'm still saying 'gosh, this is it, this is the finished product, it's done, I cant spend so much time doodling!'
Watch this space for the A0 size!''・
Archie Smith can be contacted directly for more information : email@example.com All artwork © Archie Smith