Most of my art starts with a sketch in my sketchbook (if you look at the Buccateer, you can see the pen drawing), and almost all of them are done with ballpoint pens. You can see other pen drawings over in my old mini portfolio thisaway, and interspersed here and there on the blog.
I find that drawing with pens makes me simultaneously more careful and more fluid, as well as faster and more accurate. When I’m drawing with pens, I have to either get it right the first time or learn to incorporate my mistakes. Once I made the switch from pencils (sadly, once I hit college… I wish I’d switched in high school or earlier), my line quality went up, my control over pressure was greatly improved, my ability to draw smooth curves and straight lines increased, and I learned to see what I was trying to draw better (especially figure drawings), as I needed to get it right, not relying on “fixing it in post“, as it were.
I do sometimes sketch things out and then scan them into the computer, there to be cleaned up a little and/or painted under, making things like this… which was originally two sketches (the book was separate and I spliced it in) and a bit of Photoshop paint underneath. I describe the process over thisaway, on the Puzzle Pirate forums (I really need to make one of those posts here, too, just to keep it in house).
To be sure, working with conte or charcoal helped as well, as those mediums are conducive to quick, loose drawings with a minimum of corrections. I’ve done figure drawings with conte, charcoal, pencil and paint, and my best work wound up being with the nearly uncorrected conte. (Yes, it’s nothing great as far as figure drawings go, but it’s my most presentable one.)
I think something similar would happen if I finally picked up oil painting. I’ve done my fair share of watercolor painting, and I’ve learned to make them work fairly well for a variety of effects, but I hated them in junior high. I pushed through it and tried a variety of techniques, and eventually wound up at least vaguely competent with them, but I’ve never done much with oils. I’m a little intimidated by them and their appearance of being unforgiving. (OK, their high cost doesn’t help.) I know that I could learn control and develop skill with them, even though they can be tricky… I just haven’t put in the time yet.
Anyway, snippets of art wisdom aside, I’m mentioning all this mostly to point out this fascinating and very well-wrought series of pieces done entirely in ballpoint pen from a Mr. Samuel Silva. His work puts my piddling little sketches to shame.
And the best part? He’s a lawyer by day. I really have to wonder, what would his art look like if he made a career out of it. A big part of me thinks that it might suffer, actually, in accordance to what I noted earlier about work vs. hobbies, and doing what you do for love or for money. Mr. Silva doesn’t do these pieces to make ends meet. He does them because he can and because he wants to. It seems to me that it worked out really well.
Sometimes the best art is art you do simply because you need to do it. (Though sometimes, it’s perhaps best to… forbear some artistry.)