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Stretching My Creative Muscles

I have been in awe of artists who use a ballpoint pen to create some incredible portraits that look like a photograph. It always pulled me in to zoom the image and wonder "how did they do that". This style of art has to be made with magic because you cannot get a pen to make something so detailed. When I say it was made with magic I mean it must be super talented people who could do something like that. I never thought I would attempt to even try it, until last week. It dawned on me that I have believed that the magical people are talented people and what I have learned over the last year and a half is that talent is practice. It finally struck me that I could also have that talent all I need to do is practice it. That is when I made the decision to start. As you guys know about me I enjoy challenging myself to try new things just to see what happens. Here I go with a new challenge to draw a portrait in ball point pen.



Ok so the decision wasn't exactly that easy. Here are the scary things about ball point pen drawing. It's ink. Yeah you cannot erase ink. If I make a bad mark on the paper it is ruined. It was overwhelming at first just to even think about it because every single mark has to be perfect. This is when I grew greater respect for the artists who have mastered this type of art. It was easy for me to run away from this challenge, but I remembered something my mother told me years ago about people who achieve amazing things are the brave people who chose to start. Her words rang in my head "You will achieve what you choose to do - If you choose to do nothing that is exactly what you will achieve. Be brave baby girl and choose to be everything you want. " Of course the further I tried walking away from this challenge the louder my mother's words rang in my head. I pulled up my big girl panties and chose to start.


Starting meant I had to rethink my whole process of drawing because every mark has to be perfect - or do they? Typically I sketch with a coverage pencil because it has an eraser and I like working out the proportions with guide lines and erasing them. I certainly cannot do that with a ballpoint pen. So I stressed myself out worrying about how I would make that happen. I got some great advice from a ballpoint artist who said "who says you have to use a pen for that?" I know it is silly to say this - but yeah that was a ahah moment for me. I can still sketch out my plan with pencil for the guides of where to make my marks but then I can pick up a pen to crosshatch the values. This is the problem with looking at other artists work you only see the end result you don't know what process they go through to get to the final stage you see. Once I realized that I could make my pen art the way I wanted to make it - the fear flew out the window.


Once I sketched out my plan I picked up my ballpoint pen and decided to get to work. I will be honest here, I did hesitate before I got started putting the pen on paper because the thought of making a bad mark scared me. I knew this was not going to come out perfect or even good. I decided to be good with it turning out ugly because you have to start somewhere. I don't know what I need to work on if I never start - so I made my first mark.


I learned a few things along the way here. First thing is that drawing with a pen is very similar to drawing with a pencil. It is all about the pressure to get the pigment on the paper. What I had to take a quick break to practice my strokes on a scratch paper. I like the look of crosshatching, but I like it to be subtle lines which means very light pressure of the pen. I had to get used to what pressure level worked to get smooth strokes. There is many ways to crosshatch that are all beautiful but I just fell in love with this subtle stroke so I want to get better at it.


I also learned that it was easier for me to turn the paper to have my strokes cross my previous lines. Keeping the pen stroke same in my hand made it much easier to control the pressure. Moving the pen in the same direction pulling it close to my body is the most comfortable to me. I decided to keep moving the paper with my other hand after laying down a few soft strokes in an area then turn the paper again lay down a few more strokes. It really was a very relaxing process that was very interesting to work through by adding more value in areas like in the hair that required more curved strokes but darker and lighter values.


End result I was surprised it turned out better than I originally thought it would. Of course I know in a year from now I will laugh at this portrait because I see so many flaws with proportions and values. This will go down in the history books as my first pen portrait. Overall I am happy, and it is a great starting point for me to analyze and determine what techniques I need to practice before my next pen portrait. Bottom line here I have been stretched past my comfort zone and now I have more confidence for the next time I pick up a pen to draw

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