This work is carried out in the most abstract style to which I can arrive at this time. The idea behind it is to capture a moment when one arrives to a state “absent” of the body, where there are only a few vague contours left that describe the mass of the figure. This fading of the shape is a way to represent the way in which we become purified internally to such an extent that it is as if our personal identity is lost, and instead replaced only with a white space. It’s an arrival to a serenity so full that it penetrates everything within and without. Here, during the time of a bath, the model is so immersed and released, that all forms seem to fade away and only the essence remains.
Medium: Ballpoint pen on illustration board
Size: 50 x 70 cm
This first piece sets the stage to where this journey begins. A spacious moment, where what is experienced is clear, and what is not the center of attention fades into blankness. It’s restful, but firm. It represents a washing away of memories, where the present is being held as a place where identity and peace is found, if only for a brief moment of quiet and clarity.
Medium: Ballpoint pen on illustration board
Size: 30 x 40 cm
The latest series, “Arctica: the White Room of the Mind”, comes from an intense period of experiencing a distrust of memory and self made identity. Who are we without our memories? Who are we if what we remember a certain way was never like that? How did those memories shape who we think we are, and the world is?
There is a blurred line between what we perceive and what we remember. And if all keeps changing, and things eventually disappear, what are we left with really? I seem to want to grasp at least to one thing I remember perfectly, something that will define me, if I am meant to keep my own sanity and identity in the face of an ever changing transitory form of the world and mind.
This vanishing is what I am attempting to capture in intimate states where a very true nature arises. Intimacy goes hand in hand with emptiness, with blankness, where we can find ourselves or lose ourselves. Yet, there is a “holding on” to what is essential, or that which can remain in the end.
White space and simplicity dominate this series, keeping only the essential that truly defines an experience and moment. Stay tuned as new pieces are published here in this site.
Many times I’ve been told by family, friends and people that enjoy my ballpoint pen art: “Why don’t you try painting with oils?” I found that question upsetting at first, but then I felt amused with it as time went by. I felt that they were implying that I should get “serious” about creating art, and that I should buy more formal materials, to be taken “seriously” as a “serious professional artist”.
After some time I realized that what I thought they were implying was exactly what they meant, because painting with oils is more traditionally accepted as the official and formal art medium.
Plus, we have grown accustomed from having it in our art history books when referring to the works of the Great Old Masters.
During my teens I tried oils, and I learned a lot from that experience. I loved it and still do; even though I haven’t touched oils in a while, I know there might be a time when I play with them again. I painted with oils when I went to an art academy called Galería Ríos (Ríos Gallery). There I had the room to be messy, where the smell of oils and thinners was part of the ambiance.
But back in my parents’ house there was no room for such mess, so I didn’t paint with oils again after that period during my mid teens. But that was OK, because I always found new media to experiment with, especially during my time at the University while majoring in Graphic Design.
After graduating with a Cum Laude licentiate degree in Graphic Design, I left drawing almost altogether and tried other things: Music, set design, web design, video editing, 3D modeling, digital painting, and many other disciplines. I felt like I wanted to try it all, and in a way I did.
I also tried other things, like getting into a turbulent relationship that lasted several years, traveled with her, married that person, divorced her, went and lived in a spiritual community in Utah, came back to my country and then went back again to Utah. And then came back again to Guatemala, my home country.
All in all, I noticed there was just too much going on in my life, and due to my curiosity to experiment and try so many different things at once, I lost complete focus of what I was supposed to do with my life.
Towards the end of all those years I was filled with inspiration, though I regretted the many years I spent experimenting, trying to make my life exciting and new at every second. The experience inside a spiritual community helped me so much to reconnect with my truer essence of what matters in life, and what inspires me.
I discovered it was profundity in simplicity, and that the path had to be art.
So I decided to retake drawing and painting, and started to work with what I had at hand, which was my laptop with a digital tablet, and my pencils. Digital is always so awesome because it keeps it simple: my laptop and my digital tablet, period. My pencils were nice too because I could focus more on the shapes and details of people and their textures, while not becoming distracted with too many colors. It was more about the essence that can be captured just with black and white.
It felt really good and appropriate to come back to pencils, which I loved so much for much of my artistic life. Then I noticed my ballpoint pens I used when I started working again as a university professor, which I used to correct the art students’ work. A student’s work is traditionally protected (at this particular university I worked in) with a translucent piece of paper on top of the drawing to serve as protection, and as a surface upon which the professor can draw corrections and write annotations and feedback for the student. I always enjoyed sketching corrections and annotations with a ballpoint pen. The flow and the color of the ink looked always really cool and vibrant in those sketches.
So naturally I asked myself “What if… I try drawing with ballpoint pens?”
But at the same time I felt it would too big of a challenge, mostly because ballpoint pens are not made to draw with them. And my preferred style of drawing and painting my whole life has been realism. So I did what any other unsure artist would do before attempting something: I Googled ballpoint pen artists. And there they were!! Ballpoint pen drawings! And not just doodles, but fully shaded and realistically textured artworks of the human figure. The two most impactful artists I found were the daring and bold Spanish artist Juan Francisco Casas. He has a way of capturing a raw unplanned moment with such detail and realism with a blue ballpoint pen. The second one was Samuel Silva, with his highly detailed and color filled renderings of people and animals. So I asked myself once again, feeling very excited and inspired “Am I up to that level of proficiency in drawing to dare to try ballpoint pens?” And I answered back “I’m not sure, but why not play with it and give it a go?”
So I contacted a wonderful model, Erin Shea, which I drew once with pencils, and asked her to make a photo shoot for me, but with something I had not seen in her usual fantasy and medieval themed stock photography: running water under a shower. I always loved water and the female human figure, which I painted in different occasions before, mostly with pencils.
But now I wanted to try the most difficult and preferred subject I could think of, just to see if what I had in mind was possible with a regular Bic pen.
What I first noticed was the amazing fact that this had to be the single most awesome drawing tool that was ever unintentionally created on planet Earth. It gave me such a complete range of tones, from the light ones to absolute dark and solid tones. Instinctively I knew how to use the pen, because it did feel familiar to the pencils and pigment liners I had used before. It was like the coolest child that came from a kinky night from these two media (yeah, that’s right).
I fell completely in love with the ballpoint pen. It was the perfect tool because it gave me the simplicity and capacity for expressiveness I was looking for.
I didn’t have to worry about tubes with colors, thinners, solvents, half dozen pencils, sharpeners, and so forth. I didn’t need much space to work on a single medium sized piece either. It was just perfect.
And so my first piece was finished after some 50 hours, which was this one:
The funny and unexpected part was that that drawing went viral in a couple of days, something that never happened on that scale to any of my artworks before. It was shared everywhere after I posted it in DeviantArt and my Facebook fan page, which had just a couple hundred followers during that time. I wasn’t really sure it was for real because it was an experiment, and I felt that I still had a long way to go to perfect the technique.
Instantly I recognized that the Universe was letting me know that I finally found my path in art, especially because my ballpoint pen artworks where not only shared everywhere online, but also people were buying them as soon as I finished almost every single one of them.
Often I see people becoming intimidated with the subject of art, especially visual arts like painting and sculpture. And the ones that are not intimidated just don’t care enough to stop and look at paintings, or walk into a gallery. Which is quite weird to me because people more easily can listen to a song, and decide if it speaks to them or not, and don’t have to think about if they like it or not. We just easily like a song or not, we easily like certain styles and singers, and that’s it.
Or movies for instance, people just watch them, go into a theater easily, and they decide if they like it or not quite easily as well. But when it comes to painting, which is my discipline, most people don’t know what to do with art in that sense. And I can see that it mostly has to do with what passes for “art” these days. Everyone has the freedom now to express whatever they feel like if they want to, or represent themselves and their work however they feel like. Mysterious, deep, experimental, shocking, philosophical, etc. I’m not saying that art can’t be that, I’m just pointing out the art I see that wants to pass as that.
The problem is that, honestly, what I see in a lot of art that goes by the label of “Contemporary” doesn’t speak to me, because it’s kind of supposed to be a riddle of sorts, or in need of great education and intellect.
What I see is people deciding to paint something that is not even that interesting by itself, but rather have titles and names that mask certain images as deep and important. And they probably are, but honestly a piece of art has to be able to communicate an idea clearly. That’s what we notice with much of art before the more modern era. They were messages and ideas that were clearly represented in an aesthetic way. In my view, art is supposed to embellish our lives, make them more beautiful, and inspire us to the highest of human ideals.
An artist’s work for me is valuable because of the craft and skill that goes into it, because there is an intention to reach out to people and connect.
But much of today’s art is quite self indulging and many I believe are only concerned with shocking the viewer.
So where am I going with this? you might ask. The issue here is that all of this artsy and fancy talk in an “artist’s statement” for me just looks like a way to see if people really buy into a piece of art and think of it as deep and meaningful. Someone once said “I prefer the art I don’t understand”…. Whaaaat?
Making art so filled with riddles is something that has turned it into something that is becoming inaccessible, simply because it’s made in a way that it wants to be looked at as intellectual and unique. For me, the best kind of art is the one that is universally felt, where the artist thought outside of himself and found a middle point where they can express and communicate what is most important to them in a way that shows care for their audience. Where the point is to connect in such a deep level that we realize we are not alone in our experience.
The work I make is an effort into bringing contemporary art back to thinking of a way to still be innovative, relevant to the times, yet communicate and touch people, and hopefully inspire someone. Where a piece of art can be felt and liked just like you would a song or a movie.
I don’t pretend to model what art should be like, but would like to think of myself as an artist that is tipping the scale towards beauty, clarity and inspiration… a way to make life more enjoyable, because we already hear enough in the news and people about how “awful” the world is. But that is not the wholeness of our reality. There is so much beauty in everyday life and inside ourselves that almost obligates me to paint over and over again, insisting in looking beyond our pain and into the serenity and peace with ourselves.
My deepest wish is that every piece I make can serve as a reminder of that reality that can overcome anything, and bring us back in touch with our true selves.
Thanks for reading, hope to meet some other time. Nathan
I haven’t updated that much on this site, and for that I apologize. There has been major shifts in my personal life lately. But that has included my thoughts on you to bring you art that is accessible and great.
So today I share with you this new offer I made for all of you, which will last til the end of August: an original ballpoint pen portrait, with a free frame included, at just $67!!
If interested send me a message through the “Contact” page, or an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Orders fill up fast, so get in line before everyone else does 🙂
I have been very busy lately with commissioned work, which were very large pieces, but have happily concluded them all. Just now I am available once again for commissioned work. The semester at one of the universities I teach in is about to be over, so I have more available time right now.
Get in touch with me at email@example.com for a custom ballpoint pen piece, which can become part of your own personal collection, or as a gift for someone else. I can work a piece completely custom made with the current theme I work with, the bathers series, or something more personal to the likes of a portrait.
I am also working on new pieces made with color ballpoint pens, and very soon I’ll be uploading the studies I’ve begun to make with them.