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Art Unboxed – The Ballpoint

The first in our Art Unboxed series

One of the interesting and wonderful opportunities on the internet today, is to learn new tools and techniques. I enjoy, and regularly watch the art unboxing videos where artists receive their subscription box supplies. I love the concept, but as the parent of a toddler I don’t have time in my life right now for it, so this started me to think.

What we love as artists about these videos I believe, is not only the unboxing of something new, but it’s possibilities. This is true of both the product, and the techniques used, it’s not only learning the new product, but how to use it. Often the technique shown on the video is more valuable than the product, because you can apply it to other media.

For those of you who like me aren’t ready to subscribe yet, I’d like to share this series of Art Unboxed posts. This will involve items you most likely already have in some form in your tool chest now. For today’s article, I’d like to feature an old fashioned object, the ballpoint pen.

The first, and probably simplest thing I’d like to say about the ballpoint pen is to approach it with fresh eyes. Too often we limit what some tool can do because of the way we’ve always used it. I have seen amazing artwork with this tool. By approaching with fresh eyes, I mean more than just the mindset you have going in.

In addition to that, there are things that you can do with a ballpoint pen that you may not be aware of. For example, if in the past you’ve been unhappy with jagged lines on the ballpoint pen, I would suggest you use this to your advantage. Broken lines are one of those things that shows artists have skill.

Much like a painting alternates between soft and hard edges, the benchmark for skilled painting, you can do so with the ballpoint pen. This technique can give your art an entirely new perspective, with an old tool. The random lines can enhance your style.

As a child, I did not want to fill in a lot of territory with a ballpoint pen, so shading was a chore. What I know now, that I didn’t then, there are more than one way to shade, or darken an item. The famous Jack Kirby used dots, some use slanted lines in various different forms. The different shading methods you can use with the ballpoint can also add character to your art.

Finally, don’t connect the tool with the same surface, meaning you can use a different paper than the legal pad or ruled paper with your ballpoint pen. The image I drew in the above graphic was done on thicker sketchbook paper. When drawing, the instrument is only part of the story.

The surface you use can make such a difference to the final piece as well. I would encourage you to experiment with some different options for your ballpoint pen. You may find that unboxing the toolkit you already have, yields just as much as something new.

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