There is a skill and technical level in using any tool for illustration and a lot of that is mastered in applying yourself to create with those tools. I often use a biro as a means to sketch out what I intend to paint onto a canvas but beyond that I’ve never considered using them to create a finished illustration. There are many illustrators who do however and one of them who quickly caught my eye is Jim Ink. I’ve followed Jim’s Instagram account for a while and have marvelled at his biro illustrations so I was very pleased that he agreed to do a guest post and chat to us about his process.
Over 10 years ago, I reached an impasse after studying painting for about 6 years and pretty much stopped doing that. I was starting to do almost all aspects of my professional work digitally, and picking up the ballpoint pen was an attempt to stay in touch with art on a hands on basis. I gravitated to the initial impulses and tools from when I was a kid. I had become quite adept at drawing things in the margins of my notebooks all through school. So I bought a classic composition notebook which I kept for about 10 years. Much of the work I did in keeping it is up on my Instagram page.
They’ve actually come a long way with the range of ballpoint pen colors, and I started to work with all the colors that were available. It turns out, the ball point is a versatile tool, capable of subtle graduations like a pencil, or bold lines like a dip pen. I prefer the bolder line, and create color blending by hatching one color over another. Optical blending occurs when you do this, as with the dots in pointillist painting.
There are downsides to the ballpoint as a tool: they are not archival sound, and will fade if subjected to continuous light. They spit, especially in the warm weather. You end up scraping out little blobs of ink with a razor blade. You have to continuously wipe the tip, but there’s always one or two that happen anyway! The big plus is they are perfect for sketching on the go, and 2 multi pens (Bic being the most easily available with regard to those) can have you walking around with a range of 8 available colors!