From where you’re sitting right now, you can probably see a humble ballpoint pen. They’re ubiquitous and most of us have plenty of them laying around. But to one man, the ballpoint pen represents much more than an instrument to use to jot down a grocery list. Since 2014, a Nigerian artist named Oscar Ukonu has had one enduring passion. A self-taught artist, Oscar creates hyper-realistic artwork with ballpoint pens. Most of his work is in the theme of Afro-realism, an art that he describes as a diverse way of looking at the African experience and identity, specifically in regards to topics like religion, gender, and politics.
Every piece Oscar creates can take up to six weeks to draw and he creates his pieces by using three basic techniques: crosshatching, hatching, and scribbling. This just proves that in the right hands, any medium can be used to create art. When it comes to ballpoint pen artists, Oscar is considered to be one of the greats. His portraits are extraordinarily detailed, so much so that they look like photos that have been passed through blue filters instead of simple ink drawings. But these aren’t just drawings. Oscar uses his work as powerful pieces for social critique. He especially enjoys portraying people of influence from Africa and icons from Africa’s pop culture.
Over the years, Oscar has earned a lot of fans. On Instagram, he has nearly 80K followers, and he also has a Twitter following of more than 5,000. He also has 75,000 fans on his Facebook page. But Oscar isn’t just a social media artist, and there are some great Instagram artists out there in the world. He also exhibits in galleries, and you can buy prints on his website.
When he creates his portraits, he goes through a lot of ink. It’s not because they run out of ink, but the nibs of the pens start bleeding from the constant friction involved in the way he works. Every portrait needs about 10 pens. Watch the video below to check out his technique in action.