PICK PIECES The Ballpointer staff choose the artwork and let the artist explain it in their own words ・ Vol 7 No 3 posted April 28, 2020
Nils Van der Linden・Antwerp, Belgium
Ghent ・ 2019—2020 ・ ballpoint pen on paper ・ 140 x 170 cm (55 x 67'')
For more art, info & contact, search for Nils Van der Linden on social media ・ Artwork & photos © Nils Van der Linden ・
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
''Described here is one of my most recent drawings, a view of the Belgium city Ghent, completed in the beginning of 2020. It took at least half a year to complete, requiring at least 20 ballpoint pens. I've made large-format drawings, in general, but this could be the largest. It shows the historical city center in all its glory and details. It’s a bird eyes view, in a way like flying over the city. Without horizon. When it comes to drawing the complexity of a city or urbanized landscape I use photos to base on, but apart from that I actually work very intuitively. I deliberately choose contemporary images of cities, for the eclecticism of architectural styles that you can find which have arisen over the centuries. It is a reflection of the history in our society and for me it symbolizes the evolution of our knowledge ...'' text continues in slideshow and below
''I've sometimes experimented with ballpoint pen (in the past), but rather sketchy, as a study, and never really advanced or elaborated. Six years ago I specifically chose blue ballpoint as a material for all my drawings and started to make large-format drawings of Belgian cities. Wide-angle skylines. I chose ballpoint pens for various reasons. Foremost is the quality of possibilities. By working either very hard or softly you can create a broad range of gradations and contrasts. Especially its soft qualities. Working with many layers you can achieve a lot, with much patience, a gradient from very light blue to dark Pruissian blue. In some ways working with ballpoint is similar to etching because of its fine properties''・