Ballpoint pen drawings based on photographs ten feet high by three feet wide ? Spanish artist Juan Francisco Cassas has been getting alot of virtual ink for his artwork which are blue ballpoint pen reproductions of photographs he has taken. The draughtsmanship is exemplary but the question of artistic merit has been put into question by some, despite this artwork possessing a degree of expressiveness due to the light touch and sensitivity required by Cassas which differ from his paintings. Cassas’s work could be classified as meticulous copying and therefore hobby pastime or decorative art with pop art overtones.
Ballpoint pen art has become a small subculture in the art world that has its antecedents from several branches of pre-existing techniques, though Cassas’s portraiture appears to be unique in using photos as a point of departure.
Such as the pen and ink drawings of Claudia Nice and Mary Owens. Nice and Owens use Rapidograph technical pens filled with ink, usually india black or an antelope brown. Owens will also use oil paints of differing hues and is associated with a technique called rouging and Owens often uses watercolor with the ink but neither use ballpoint pens. Their work is ”decorative” and oriented towards craft education.
In the pre-ballpoint pen era (1938) great artists would use ink in a what was referred to as a meticulous drawing technique using a metal point writing instruments, specifically silverpoint. Silverpoint gives a subtlety of tone towards the lighter end of the tonal scale which amplifies the artistic expression from the contrast of light and shade.
Rembrandt and other old masters personified ink as an artistic medium and their work remains the ”gold standard” on which to base some comparisons on. Andrew Robinson on Rembrandt: ‘‘Its an instantaneous, delightful shift from the descriptive stroke that renders form to the abstract stroke that freely expresses its creators aesthetic sensibility”. Furthermore, ( Daniel Mendelowitz): ” Perhaps no-one has combined to as great degree as Rembrandt a discipliexposition of what his eye saw and a love of line as a beautiful thing in itself.”
Great ink drawings using silverpoint single hatch technique seems to be uniformly categorized by an extremely uniform sensuous surface, finesse in line and a visual rhythm. The technique is very demanding and a typical 8×10 work can take 100-200 hours to complete. ‘‘Rembrandt’s flashy whiplash lines constantly reach out beyond the objects they describe to connect them with the larger, living chain of being,’ the continous stream of creation’ ”.