When you think of ballpoint pens, your mind probably goes to office supplies, not great works of art. But even the lowliest and most ubiquitous of writing utensils can make breathtaking masterpieces when placed in the hands of the right artist.
One of the latest ballpoint artists to hit the art scene is Instagram’s Paulus Architect. With nothing but a standard Bic, he’s been etching out ultra-lifelike drawings, using images of celebrities and work from famous photographers as his inspiration.
Singer Billie Eilish is the subject of at least two of the Paulus Architect’s monochromatic sketches, with one labeled as having taken five hours to complete. The artist begins his pieces with a light sketch of his subject on paper, after which he painstakingly fills in the outline with a buildup of the characteristic violet-blue hue. Next come the subtle elements, like wisps of hair and gentle blending for skin texture.
The photorealistic detailing would be exquisite even if the medium were not something as unforgiving as a ballpoint pen. In one drawing that captures just half of a woman’s face, the closeup reveals single dots of ink, intersecting in various values of indigo to create a flawless rendition of pores on her cheeks and fine lines on her lips and eyelids.
Another portrait features a woman behind a camera with the most brilliant and true-to-life eye staring back at the viewer. Her bangs are expertly highlighted with the delicate strands of hair looking like they could float off the page.
The eyes are a particular specialty of Paulus Architect, glinting and shining in faultless realism even if other elements in the portraits are not quite as photographically perfect.
One picture shows a woman clenching a cigarette in her teeth, with a beanie pulled down to cover her eyes and nose. The shading on the knit hat and the luminescence of her smile give it an incredibly precise lifelike quality.
In another piece, Paulus has covered a scene of two young lovers with a spray of expertly drawn water drops, making it seem like the entire sketch got whisked through a rainstorm. The droplets are unimaginably real-looking with their impeccable contrast of light and shade.
While his work is astounding in its accuracy, Paulus Architect is far from the first artist to experiment with the humble pen. For example, São Paulo street artist Claudio Ethos created an untitled piece in 2008 that inserted a strange mechanical contraption between the head and body of a woman. Its meticulous detail also lends it an air of reality mixed with fantasy.
And artist Rebecca E. Chamberlain has created impressive interior scenes with the drained ink of a ballpoint pen as her painting medium, while Il Lee’s sketch “BL-060” is abstract art formulated from thousands of strategically-placed overlapping blue lines.
Paulus Architect’s work is distinctive for its hyper-realism, though. Watching him work on his Instagram videos, the finesse of his penmanship is mind-boggling. For those interested in seeing more of his work, including colored pencil sketches, he can be followed at @pure.drawing.