Saturday, February 20, 2016

Ballpoint Crosshatching Swap - due Feb 29th

Joanne is hosting a postcard swap which will feature art made exclusively with ball point pens.  The usual rules apply:
  • make as many as four cards
  • adhere proper postage to the card
  • include one mailing label per card in your envelope
  • mail your art no later than Feb 29th to: 

Now read on for the wonderfully helpful swap description that Joanne prepared!


A few weeks ago, during my volunteer shift at a local food shelf, I had about an hour to kill. All the required administrative work was done, and the foot traffic was light, so I decided to create some art. Problem was, I hadn’t brought my usual art stuff. However, I could open the drawer at my desk and use whatever was there. And that’s what I did. The result was “Mona Office Supplies,” which was what got me thinking about this swap.

Ballpoints are everywhere, and they are probably the only art supply in which expensive is not necessarily better than cheap. Some of my friendliest art ballpoints came from the dollar store, or were promotional ones that businesses gave out free. However, it’s nice to overlay different colors on top of each other (blue over red, for example, to appear purple), so unusual colors can expand your effects, also.

To your pens!


“One of my artist friends once said, ‘I think drawing may just be an excuse to do cross-hatching.’ He’s right -- there is something oddly soothing and meditative about drawing rows and rows of parallel lines and then layering on perpendicular lines, lines at an angle, and so on. It seems to use only a small part of your brain, less than Sudoku or across puzzle, more than thumb twiddling, so it’s a perfect doodly pastime while talking to friends, watching TV, or sitting on a commuter train.” 
  -- Danny Gregory, from his book Art Before Breakfast.

Crosshatching lines can be drawn close together, or far apart. They can be made slowly, with deliberate pressure, creating dark, thoughtful lines. Or feathery fast --  with a light, dusty hand, barely touching the pen tip to the paper. You can use a single layer for emphasis, or overlay multiple layers (one on top of another, on top of another, on top of another . . . ad infinitum) to build up rich layers of tone. In addition, you can use paper masks (such as sticky notes) to create straight lines, or specific shapes as you draw.

Here are some patches of hatches:


Get your ballpoints ready! (NO gel. NO felt or brush tip. Boring, ordinary ballpoints)
Do some practice crosshatches on a piece of scrap to determine which pens work best, from your collection of widths and colors. (Set aside those that skip or blop, unless you deliberately want an unpredictable effect.)
Select your substrate. Any color paper will work, although smooth-surfaced, medium-weight is best (smooth Bristol board, mixed media paper, illustration board, cardstock, etc. Anything made for pen and ink. Some papers such as watercolor and some index cards are too soft to withstand the rigors of crosshatching.)
Create your artwork, whether realistic, impressionist or abstract. Feel free to apply whatever mixed media techniques or minor embellishments that the piece absolutely can’t live without (here’s where you can add your gel pens), but keep the focus on the ballpoint work.


Here’s one possibility, but it’s not the only one. I started this modernistic “Pica-Matisse” mug (Picasso + Matisse) by making different toned blocks of hatching on a piece of cardstock. I added some double-sided adhesive film to the back of each piece, and then cut out (freehand) and affixed each mug shape, one at a time. It was a bit nerve-wracking, knowing that there would be some wonkiness in the final product, but it was freeing as well.


A. Why no gel or fiber tip pens? Ballpoints act much like a pencil, in that they can give a varying line, from very whisper light to dark, heavy, and indented. Gels and fiber tips, due to their ink flow, give one line, regardless: HEAVY. While they can work for art, of course, the focus here is on pens that can produce both light and dark shapes. That means your boring, ordinary ballpoints. You probably have dozens at home already. Go, get them out.

B. A ruler is optional to make your lines super straight, but don’t overlook the character inherent in freehand “straight” lines, too.

C. When hatching, you may want to use a tissue periodically to wipe off the end of your pen, especially if it “blops.”

D. Some ballpoint inks can bleed if water or other sealants are applied on top. Know how your ink behaves before applying.

Also, ballpoint inks may not be archival, and thus may separate, bleed or fade over time. It’s best to keep ballpoint cards out of direct sunlight.
For additional information, do an Internet search for “hatching,” “crosshatching” and “ballpoint pen art” (especially the British artist, Andrea Johnson). 

This realistic artwork (on pink cardstock) took about 45 minutes of gentle layer . . . layer . . . layer, with about 10 different color pens (including, at the end, a small amount of white and black gel pens for the highlights/darkest shadows). In this case, I rounded the hatches (instead of making them stick-straight) to more closely follow the marks on the apple.

Mail your cards, no later than February 29th, to:

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