Why Colleen Blackard is an Artist to Watch

For several years, New York artist Colleen Blackard has been producing an interesting body of drawings that aren’t quite like anything else. Frequently using ballpoint pen as her medium of choice, Blackard’s drawings depict celestial bodies and starry nighttime skies–ambitious subjects. She draws primarily by making circular marks to create tone, which gives her drawings a unique sense of texture and depth.

We recently asked the artist a few questions about her intriguing work. If you like what you see here, head to colleenblackard.com, and pick up your copy of the Spring 2017 issue of Drawing magazine, to learn more.

Ballpoint pen drawings | Colleen Blackard | Artist's Network

Paths of Memory, by Colleen Blackard, 2012, ballpoint pen on gessoed wood, 33 x 42.

Drawing: When did you first start using ballpoint pen for your art, and what do you like about it?

Colleen Blackard: I started using ballpoint pen at the suggestion of my professors at Hampshire College. I was rendering stormy landscapes in charcoal, and they wanted me to really get into the work, so they challenged me to build up those same charcoal blacks in ballpoint pen.  Once I started drawing with ballpoint, I was mesmerized. The long process became very meditative for me, and it also gave me a greater range of tone.

Ballpoint pen drawings | Colleen Blackard | Artist's Network

Orion’s Belt, by Colleen Blackard, 2009, ballpoint pen, 20 x 28.

DR: How did you learn or develop your technique of using circular marks to build up tone?

CB: When I began drawing stars, I found that encircling them with expansive, circular marks was the most natural way to render their light and depth. I carve out light with dark ballpoint circles. Since I see everything as made of light, I translated this glowing, circular style to every subject I draw.

The rhythmic motion of building up infinite circles with ballpoint pen is very meditative, and the rapid flow of marks is captivating. Rolling the ball-tip of the pen in a circular motion feels like what it was made for; it’s very effortless and fluid.

Ballpoint pen drawings | Colleen Blackard | Artist's Network

Important, by Colleen Blackard, 2015-2016, ink and watercolor, 120 x 96.

DR: What is it about stars and night skies that inspires you to explore those subjects in drawing after drawing?

CB: I’m fascinated by the infinite nature of the universe and our place within it. It’s the ultimate expression of scale and perspective. This is most prevalent in my recent 10’ ink drawing Important [above], which depicts the Milky Way rising high above a tiny abandoned barn. The scale dwarfs the viewer, and one must look up to see the full night sky. I’m also inspired by the sentiment that we are all made of stardust, as I symbolize by building my drawn universe out of the glowing, starry points of light in the space between my circular marks.

Ballpoint pen drawings | Colleen Blackard | Artist's Network

Wake, by Colleen Blackard, 2010, ballpoint pen, 20 x 16.

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