Saturday, February 22, 2014

Painting Detail

A short post today. I've been drawing at the gallery, speaking with visitors and preparing for the opening next Saturday, March 1st. The show isn't up yet but we've given a few back room tours for interested people.
One visitor commented on details and this piece in particular, so I thought I'd put something up as promised in a previous post.
The show is being held at an enormous 8500 square foot gallery space in Hallandale Florida. There's a lot of nice things to write about the director, the space, location etc. We haven't even officially gotten the show up but I can't say enough about how pleased I am. This is supposed to be short, so I'll post more about the Sirona Gallery and the experience another time. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Drawing Process - Part 1

Several weeks ago I finished this commission. Usually, people allow me complete freedom but in this case there was one small request… knee highs. 

I like working through ideas in my sketch pad even for the simplest of drawings. These thumbnails, shown at approximately the right size are a little looser than usual but still gave me what I needed in order to decide on a direction.

I love working spontaneously because it introduces an element of surprise but often I feel my best works are the result of this practice. 

Sometimes, I find even the simplest ideas benefit from a few scribbles before hand. Another plus is that this process often stimulates seeds of growth for new ideas. 

This was definitely one of those times. On a single page, I see ideas for three separate drawings which I finished and will share over the next couple of posts. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

UnderPaintings Blog Post

Last night I found out that Matthew Innis wrote a beautiful post on his Underpaintings Blog after visiting my studio. To say that I was pleased is an understatement. We spent hours together, exchanging ideas and losing track of time so completely that we completely missed dinner. 

In his own way, I thought he caught me very well. It's an intriguing read from my perspective because one always hears the statement regarding how "other people see" you. Well… here it is. 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Archival Ball Point Pen Ink Test

This is a much longer post than usual because I figured that for those interested in the subject, it's probably worth reading. If you just want the results scroll done to the bottom. 

One other note... Like most of you reading this I thought what about Museum Glass? It's supposed to block 99% of the destructive UV light. So... I tested that too. Here's a link to that post:
(spoiler alert... the Museum glass had no effect.)

Ok, on to the post:

From time to time I do light fast tests on my materials because for obvious reasons, I'm curious about what I'm using. On the one hand, there are the claims of manufactures which lean toward exaggeration and the other there is real world experience, which puts things in perspective. This post is about the real world experience with ball point pens. Bic vs MontBlanc, Parker or any other pen claiming the archival DIN ISO 12757-2  standard. 

Many of my artist friends and I enjoy drawing with a ball point pen. I've drawn with it for years and basically carry one with me every where I go.  Every sketch pad I own has at least one sketch in ball point pen. 

I've known for a long time that they're fugitive (meaning that the ink will fade/disappear) but it's just such a good drawing utensil that it would be silly not to carry one. Honestly, in my sketch pads the ink has held up just fine. So it was hard for me to believe that if they really did fade, it would be a problem.

Years ago I did a bunch of preparatory drawings and hung them on my studio wall because I needed to reference them while taking the idea further. Actually, it was a series of ideas and I had the drawings up for several months while I worked on various other projects at the same time. 

I had a north light studio and figured that since no direct sun light was hitting the drawings they would probably be ok. 

One day, I looked at the drawings and was surprised to see them noticeably fading. 

I was reading a great book then about inks written by Jos. A Smith that described a light fast test. I followed the instructions and ran a light fast test on the Bic (my favorite, then and now) and every other pen I could find. 

The test called for half of the sample to be exposed to direct sunlight for 3 months, with the other half hidden from the light. 
In short, every pen I tested faded  almost completely within a month - Damn it! I Love drawing with them. 

Recently, a friend of mine made a beautiful drawing using a Bic and we got into conversation about it. Other artist friends claimed to use the expensive Mont Blanc pen with the all important ISO which apparently doesn't  fade. I tested those pens previously but thought I'd test again. Any one who has looked this up online has come across across Jerry's  posts listing every pen he could find with the DIN ISO 12757-2 rating. 

The test results are underneath. I also tested a UV spray recommended to me at the art store.  The scanner picked up more that is apparent in real life but anyone can see that the basic results. On the left is the protected strip, in the middle the exposed strip and on the far right the exposed with 5 coats of UV spray. 

My conclusions: The UV spray is useless and actually discolored the paper. The DIN ISO 12757-2  standard is complete hype. It fades so badly that it's barely different than a regular Bic.     The Bic which is really the most comfortable to draw with, has the most control and has the least amount of ink blots when drawing, is a complete loss. 

In the end, if you love drawing with a ball point ( I do) just keep it covered. Skip the UV spray. 
Another note of interest is the paper used for this test. It was "acid free" which basically means it was treated to be a neutral PH. Using quality paper is another important consideration for obvious reasons. The scanner equalized things somewhat but you can still see what's happened. Holding the sample in reality, it's easy to see that the exposed paper is substantially more yellow and brittle. 

I'm running a test now with the famed expensive UV Museum glass that is available in most frame shops. So far I'm sad to report that it's basically the same. Meaning that the glass offers little to no protection. I will update this post when I have the results.  

I posted this on the recommendation of a friend who thought it would be of interest to many people. I've searched for years for an archival ball point pen and have never found anything better than the above. If you know of anything archival, please post a comment here or send me an email at  It would be great to have a quality instrument that doesn't fade. 

UPDATE - Feb 13, 2014
I wrote to Bic to explain the limitations of the ink in their ball point pens. Their response (sadly predictable) is underneath, as is my corresponding reply (which I don't expect to go any where).

Dear Mr. Vallejo:

We have received your e-mail.

Over the years, hundreds of ideas have been developed by BIC’s engineers, designers, business and marketing experts, as well as by outside consultants.  Some of these ideas have been used in the past or are currently in use, others are retained for possible future use and yet others are still under development.

Our engineers continuously study the market for ways to improve our products including size, shape and color.  Our product line is updated to meet the ever changing needs of our consumers.  When they find the demand for a change great enough to warrant mass production, you can be sure to find it on the market with the BIC Trademark.

Currently there are no plans to manufacture an archival ballpoint pen.  BIC writing instruments are designed for general purpose usage in the office, home and school.

Thank you for your interest in our products.

BIC Corporation, One BIC Way, Suite 1, Shelton, CT 06484-6299 USA 
My response: 

Thank you for your response. I understand your position but would like to point out if you take into consideration the amount of artists using Bic ballpoint pens for artwork that is often sold and you consider the requirements of of artistic materials to insure their permanence, I believe the undeniable conclusion is that there IS a demand in the market place for an archival ballpoint pen.