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The Siren’s Call of Ballpoint

Amy Ballpoint | Creative Journey | Featured | ICAD , , ,
Ballpoint, 2019
Ballpoint exploration, May 2019

In truth, you don’t need a plan for ICAD. But I tend to have a plan when I do a challenge — Inktober, ICAD, #the100DayProject… I tend to get the most out of these challenges (and have the best chance for sticking with them) if I have some kind of construct or general idea of what I intend to focus on (and maybe even why).

I talked in the last post about a ton of ideas for threads you could follow and weave and embroider with, metaphorically, to give yourself the comfort and benefit of working in a series.

And I talked about the potential difficulty of trying to repeat a favorite series.

I kept thinking about working in Copic marker again (which I did during the summer of 2018), and with that in mind, over the last few days, I put Copic to use in my #the100DayProject series. Just little bits of color here and there. Stripes. Background panel fills. I love the flow of color you get with Copic. I love the way it glides across a page. I don’t even mind the smell. These few random integrations with the contour series were almost compelling enough. But I don’t love the lack of control. (I find that problems I am having with my eyes makes the lack of control even more pronounced, problematic, and frustrating.)

But if not Copic, then what? That’s been the refrain in my head over the last week. Copic seemed like the obvious way to go. It is bright. It is colorful. It is fun. People respond to color, and like all artists, I appreciate the support people offer when they leave likes and comments on work.

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

ICAD 2018

I printed postcards earlier this month from the 2018 Sunglasses series. I made a last-hour decision to print this series, and I selected an assortment of favorites from ICAD 2018. In that mix of cards, however, I printed one pen and ink card, a woman with rainbow hair. (See it there in the back left corner?) That card has the color I enjoy along with plenty of black ink and hatching. That one speaks to me.

And I am listening.

Deja Vu in Reverse

Drawings 2018 Drawings 2018
Drawings 2018 Drawings 2018

Above: A few random drawings 2018.

In 2018, in the months before ICAD and Copic, I worked daily on portraits, and I found myself enjoying portraits that combined my love of black with color (in the form of ballpoint or colored fountain pen ink). Those were some of my favorite portraits, and when it came time to settle on a plan for ICAD, even after experimenting with Copic for a few days (and savoring those Benday dots), I was still looking over my shoulder sort of longingly at the refined feeling of ballpoint and fountain pen.

With one of the very first ICAD cards for 2018, I did both. I thought that maybe I had been wrong and should go forward with ballpoint (and specifically with colored ballpoint). I took all the colors of ballpoint with me, and I did an index card portrait while sitting in my car and waiting for something to end at school. I clearly remember taking photos of that moment, the pens spread across my dashboard, the late afternoon sun streaming in.

But the card was a struggle. The surface of the cards was too slick for the ballpoint to work the way I use it, and it was a less than stellar experience. Plus, ballpoint takes a long time and there is that problem with repeating a favorite series. Doing ballpoint again wasn’t a good idea for a 61-day commitment I told myself. And so I moved on with Copic. I moved on. I dove in. I didn’t look back.

Thinking About ICAD 2019

This year, I’ve been telling myself that I will do Copic again. I even ordered my staple index card dividers (although the fact that they are manilla isn’t thrilling me this time around). But a few days ago, I looked at the girl with the rainbow hair, and I had a flash of insight.

Drawing her was amazing. She didn’t get all that much support or attention. (That’s often the case… the pieces we love most don’t get noticed.) But I even adopted her as my profile picture. At the time, I thought I might just draw people with rainbow hair for a while. I thought that might be a series of its own.

Looking at that card the other day and feeling the flicker of response within, I realized that forcing myself down the Copic path again doesn’t necessarily make sense. Maybe ballpoint…. and ballpoint with color, specifically, is where I need to be again.

But, a voice inside me says, the summer of ballpoint meant hours every day working on layering. You can’t do it. You don’t have the energy this time around. It’s too slow. Plus, you’re out of your league.

Ahhh…. that voice is correct on some counts. And it is honest and vulnerable on others.

Ballpoint is slow. It’s true. But in the two years in between ICAD 2017 and now, I’ve drawn hundreds of portraits. I’ve learned a lot about portraits, and I’m also more comfortable with my own approach to hatching — regardless of whether or not my work in black ink or in ballpoint looks like anyone else’s.

I didn’t really stop and think all of this through. Instead. With just the flicker of “aha” lingering in my head, and concern over the manilla cards, I took a small piece of drawing paper, opened up Sktchy, picked an inspiration photo, and drew a portrait. In ballpoint. In color.

I didn’t overthink it. I didn’t overdo it. I didn’t even go back in with black, which I really wanted to do. But I did use ballpoint, and I tried to envision if I want to do this again for 61 days. If I want to commit.

This is my way of quickly testing the water. Did I enjoy it? How did it turn out? Was it too slow? Will it keep me moving forward? Will I be able and willing to stick with it or some version of it for 2 months?

Would this approach be closer to the true me, the me of right now than using marker this year? I think so. Would it help me continue to evolve my skill with portraits? Yes. Is there a downside? Not really. Is there a “but”? Yes… the surface. I need to solve the surface. I definitely can’t use the dividers, and I wish now that I hadn’t gone ahead and ordered them, but they’ve been my “go-to” for several years.

If I can solve the surface, is this where I want to focus this summer? Over the next few days, I will continue to experiment…. and make sure this flicker doesn’t sputter and die away. I need to decide, too, if I want to also use black ink. In general, the combination is where I think my voice emerges.

So I have a bit of acid testing to do. I don’t want to commit to something and then decide one week in that I hate it. I could change plans, of course. But I’d like to give myself a shot at a consecutive run.

Do you think I overthink? Maybe you think so. But not really. I almost just roll into whatever happens. And I may just roll into what will be a portrait series (regardless of what pen I use). But I’m a bit excited, really, about the idea of ballpoint again. It won’t be a repeat attempt either. I am at such a different place that I know it will unfold differently.

And that’s exciting.



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