On the ball: teacher inspires with art of the pen

June 09, 2024 - 11:14
Lê Vinh, a teacher from Phú Sơn secondary school in Hà Nội’s Ba Vì District, has used ballpoint pens as means to create nearly 300 original pictures.
ETHNIC GROUP: Vinh's artworks mostly depict women and children of ethnic minorities in their traditional costumes.

By Lương Hương

He uses pens to note down lesson plans and mark student works, but now his photo-like drawings made with ballpoint pens have gone viral on social media.

Lê Vinh, a teacher from the Phú Sơn Secondary School in Hà Nội’s outlying district of Ba Vì, has used ballpoint pens to draw nearly 300 stunning lifelike pictures.

He is the first artist in Việt Nam to professionally use this medium, aiming to create a unique style and personal appeal with his creations. His realistic drawings impress with their meticulousness and vivid colours.

Vinh has had a passion for painting from a young age. After graduating from the National University of Arts Education, he returned to his hometown to work as a teacher, with a desire to ignite a love of art among rural children.

Aiming to hone his skills, Vinh decided to further study at the Vietnam University of Fine Arts in 2008. He is now working as an artist, but also as an art teacher in his hometown.

Instead of following traditional painting techniques such as watercolour, oil, and lacquer, the 45-year-old teacher decided to take his own path by drawing with ballpoint pen, a medium that few others bother with.

"When I was still a student, I would sketch and draw anywhere I went in my free time. I just grabbed a pen when I saw something I liked and started to draw,” Vinh said.

“Sometimes I forgot to bring a pencil, so I would use a ballpoint pen. I gradually became more interested in drawing with ballpoint pens, realising that their colour effects create something familiar and intimate, yet incredibly captivating.

“After graduating, I wanted to choose a path different from other artists, and ballpoint pen was a novel material, so I decided to delve deeper with it.”

TALENTED: Artist Lê Vinh draws with ballpoint pen. Photo toquoc.vn

As this was a new medium and no institutions had yet offered training on drawing with ballpoint pen, Vinh faced numerous difficulties.

“Drawing with ballpoint pen is unlike drawing with pencil. It demands a higher precision and focus, as it cannot be erased or corrected. If a mistake is made or the ink smears, the artist has to start over from the beginning," he said.

Another drawback of the material is the limits of the colour palette of ballpoints.

“They are not as diverse as powder paints, primarily consisting of just red, blue, and black. When I started my first artworks, I mainly used blue ink. One of my former students, who was studying in Japan, saw my works and was so impressed he bought me over 1,000 ballpoint pens in various colours," he said.

HYPER-REALIST: One of Vinh's works has gone viral on Facebook.

“This allowed me to then truly explore and develop techniques, colour blending, and creating volume in my artworks, enabling me to produce pieces with a full spectrum of vibrant colours.”

Ballpoint is totally different from other mediums. It has a tiny ball, so it takes the artist an enormous amount of effort and labour to finish a 1.5m long artwork.

However, this adds a unique aspect - the tiny ball allows him to meticulously render the smallest details and create dense, intricate line work. This results in vivid, depth-filled pictures.

Another technique he employs is using a clean cotton cloth to gently rub the surface of the drawing upon finishing it. This causes the ballpoint ink to partially fade and disperse, creating a beautiful gradient effect of varying ink densities across the work.

He aims to convey his love for his hometown and the country in his pictures, and often depicts young women or small children of ethnic minorities in their traditional costumes in the mountainous areas.

“Each ethnic group like the Mông, Red Dao, Dao Khâu, has their own customs and traditions, with unique costume designs and patterns, but they share a commonality - the young women are all stunningly beautiful, pure and natural like the mountains and forests," he said.

"I hope to capture that beauty in my works, promoting the cultural beauty of Việt Nam’s ethnic minorities to the world,” Vinh said.

To get inspiration, the artist has travelled to many mountainous provinces to immerse himself in life and culture of the locals.

“The more I travelled, the more I discovered ‘artistic gaps’ - moments and images that can only be truly brought to life through the strokes of ballpoint pens,” Vinh said.

After more than 10 years of great diligence in art creations, Vinh has achieved a certain success.

His pictures left a strong impression and were highly acclaimed by art specialists when attending the National Fine Arts Exhibition in 2010, and have been sought after by many art enthusiasts ever since.

Vinh hopes drawing with ballpoint pen will gain greater popularity, and the medium will become more widely used.

“As a teacher, I will make efforts to inspire my passion for ball point pen drawing among younger generations,” Vinh said. VNS

ARTISTIC SLUMBER: A picture made with ballpoint pen entitled 'Giấc Mơ Trưa' (Midday Dream) by Lê Vinh