Ballpoint Pen Artistry
Creating with inspiration fueled by music and the nostalgic memories of my turbulent teenage years, I’ve tried to utilize my self-taught techniques, cultivated from urban doctrines, in an effort to create art that evokes an honest & hopefully profound emotional experience.
Growing up as a bi-racial child in Salt Lake City, Utah, in a predominantly white, suburban environment, I
fabricated a self-perception of pariahdom. Tormented with that angst and confusion at such a young age, I was fortunate to discover that the arts were a perfect way to express the frustrations of my cultural identity. Through my artistic explorations I realized my auto-didactic ability, which evolved into experimentation with nearly every type of art-form, including graffiti and tattoo work, but no medium has captured and retained my affections as strongly as drawing with a ballpoint pen, so that has been my central focus for most of my artistic career.
My recent artworks are surreal creations of ballpoint pen drawings on Mylar film, with additional accents of color created from pencils, pastels, charcoals and a drizzle of watercolors.
While my art is seemingly filled with symbolic imagery, bearing social or political commentary, I never consciously approach a drawing with the intent of forcing my beliefs or opinions on viewers. My creative process spawns from an organic and authentic subconscious journey and my creations manifest more by virtue of my own self-evaluation and less of propagating my ideology.
My persistent drive to provide thought-provoking content has helped to develop a dedicated following of over 300,000 members on Facebook and Instagram and played a critical role in my international success, helping to sell thousands of my original artworks worldwide. For over 8 years I have been touring the U.S. with my wife and two children, demonstrating the versatility of ballpoint pen through the trafficking of my artwork at galleries, museums and art fairs all across the nation. In addition to splitting my creation time between my studio in Salt Lake City, UT and my new studio in Hannibal, MO, I am also in the process of building an art gallery in the latter, with a tentative opening date in the summer of 2018
Q: Where do you get your inspiration?
A: My inspiration derives from music and the nostalgic memories of my turbulent teenage years. I’ve experimented with all kinds of art-forms including painting, tattoo, graffiti, music and film, but none of them have captured and retained my affections as strongly as the standard ballpoint pen has for over 30 years. Really, my style was cultivated from a mix of urban doctrines and an appetite for authenticity and abnormality.
Q: Who are your influences?
A: Influence of my actual work ethic came from my father, but artistically Salvador Dali always inspired me. His work was my earliest influence. Even as a young kid I remember being stoked to see an artist consistently creating “outside of the box” art. As I got older my inspiration came more from people and their qualities as a person rather than their abilities as an artist. I’ve always appreciated people who are willing to explore, regardless of the outcome.
Q: What music do you listen to for inspiration?
A: When I'm drawing, I prefer listening to instrumental-based bands, preferably something that has a cello. I've really been listening to a lot of Southern Gothic while I'm working, but I always have Silver Mt. Zion, Godpeed! You Black Emperor, Jack White, Hail Mary Mallon, and Bon Iver in my 'Drawing' playlist.
Q: Will you design my album cover?
A: I enjoy creating album covers on occasion. I don't have a set price, but I'm fair. I usually charge a price for the design, and then a separate price for exclusive rights to the design. Most bands opt for just the design and that is usually sufficient. On a couple of occasions, after the band gained traction and became more popular and were making more money, they came back and bought the exclusive rights, which I'm okay with doing as well. If you're definitely interested in an album cover design, forward me some music and your album title. Most importantly, I've got to be inspired by the music in some way....after hearing the music, we can go from there.
Q: Will you do a custom drawing for me or design my tattoo?
A: I am honored that you consider me for your design, but I gracefully decline every time. Mostly because it doesn't service my style well. My drawing is very organic and self-evaluative. My work gets it's value from my pace & my experiences. Drawing an idea for someone, looses all of that, and unfortunately creating for someone else is not a skill I possess. I really am honored that you'd tattoo yourself with my work and you're more than welcome to get any of my other pieces tattooed. You're also free to forward me your ideas and if I subconsciously start drawing from the ideas at some point, you can use that. Sorry to disappoint.
Q: What role does the artist have in society?
A: Without art, we'd be a society of primates throwing feces at one another.
Q: What art do you most identify with?
A: Authentic, passion driven art. Work that makes you feel. I see a lot of that kind of work come from self-taught artists, i.e. street artists.
Q: What kind of artwork do you most enjoy doing?
A: Working with a ballpoint pen is my absolute favorite. I'm really able to dive all the way in mentally, and I really like being able to do that.
Q: Who's your favorite artist?
A: Probably the most inspirational artist for me was Salvador Dali, but I'm currently really enjoying the artwork of Herakut.
Q: Why art?
A: It's the only thing that I do that makes me feel real, rooted & in perfect balance.
Q: Is the artistic life lonely? If so, what do you do to counteract it?
A: I don't subscribe to that cliche. When I'm creating I prefer to be alone, but I don't ever feel lonely.
Q: What do you dislike about the art world?
A: I don't care much for the elitists or the pompous attitudes many artists have. Other than that, I'm cool with whatever.
Q: What is your dream project?
A: Some kind of major museum installation that would contain all of my original pen drawings on giant white walls...I've also wrote a film about my Samoan heritage a few years back, & would love to one day have the time & finances to produce & direct that.
Q: What artists do you like to be compared to?
A: I always appreciate when people immediately recognize my Dali influence and I don't mind when they make a Ralph Steadman comparison, but other than that, I prefer to stand alone. That being said, I can tell you who I don't like being compared to...Alex Pardee. No offense to him or his work, but for some reason I'm annoyed when people compare my work to his.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
A: If you're gonna do something, do it right. Advice from my dad. I think I'm better at giving advice than receiving it....a product of my rebellious nature, I guess.
Q: Professionally, what’s your goal?
A: I just want to be able to keep creating. Fortunately I'm able to do that now & live pretty comfortably. If I can keep that up, that's alright by me.
Q: Any tips or advice for anyone looking to pursue a career in the art world?
A: Work hard, passionately & maintain honesty with yourself and the people who collect your work. Authenticity is everything in my book.
Q: How do you price your work?
A: Confidence in yourself and in your work helps a lot when it comes to pricing, but keep it simple. Though you are selling a piece of yourself, you're not literally selling a limb. If you find yourself strapped for ideas then maybe your prices need to be extremely high....I'm overflowing with ideas and work, so it's not so hard for me to sell my work at an affordable price. I wake up every morning and remind myself, creating makes me happy, keeps me sane, so the fact that anyone is willing to pay me anything for it, is just icing on top. If you're confident in yourself and your work, it doesn't matter how much you charge for it, someone will pay. My prices started very low and I generated a strong base of collectors over a 5-6 year period of time...those collectors, who were often first-time art buyers, or right out of high-school, are now entrepreneurs and return to buy my higher priced pieces. Gradually your prices can rise, especially if people are collecting your work and there is a demand for your work, then nobody questions your prices. I never want my work to be judged on the price of it....So my advice is to be considerate of the people who are buying your work, because without them to appreciate your work, then what's the point. "if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a sound". "if an artist creates work for no one to see is he or she really an artist?"
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish or learn with your art?
A: The creation process for me serves as a form of therapy…discovering myself and how I relate to the world around me. I never consciously try to relay a specific message with my art, but am always satisfied when a message is perceived when viewing my work. I don’t set out to learn anything in particular when creating, but if I do gather some kind of knowledge then it’s a bonus for me.
Q: How can I create like you?
A: Practice and time will improve your technique. As far as coming up with your own material or generating ideas, try turning on music and just start drawing without thinking. People have a tendency to think too much and that gets in the way. Think of it like when you're on the telephone and just randomly doodling, you usually end up with something interesting...take the same kind of approach when you're drawing. Good luck.